Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Foresight as a governance tool to help shape the next production revolution

Havas, Attila and Weber, Matthias (2018): Foresight as a governance tool to help shape the next production revolution. Published in: Nováky, E. and Gubik, A. (eds) (2018): A múltból átívelő jövő, Győr: Palatia Nyomda és Kiadó Kft (December 2018): pp. 207-216.

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The next production revolution (NPR; also called Industry 4.0 elsewhere) is likely to trigger complex changes via the interactions of new technologies, materials, processes, and business models. These changes would affect R&D and innovation activities; the labour market; income distribution and well-being; skill requirements; as well as several fields of regulation. Furthermore, digitalisation can be a major enabler of the circular economy. The policy implications of the NPR are so wide-ranging that it is difficult to mention a major policy domain, which would remain untouched by these sweeping changes. The need for policy orchestration is, therefore, rather strong. Foresight, a specific type of forward-looking activities (FLA), can assist policy-makers in dealing with these complex changes. First, it facilitates a systemic approach, considers multiple futures and draws on the diverse set of knowledge of participants. Second, a shared vision, developed – and thus ‘owned’ – by the participants, can reduce the uncertainties generated by NPR, and it helps building commitment among participants as an additional factor to keep up the momentum of orchestrated policy design and implementation. Third, a transformative foresight process, considering and assisting systemic changes triggered by NPR, can contribute to reshaping the prevailing power structures and invigorating policy rationales, decision-making processes, and thus improving the efficacy of policies. FLA projects dealing with NPR issues vary in their thematic coverage and their breadth of participation. Combining these distinctions, four different archetypes of FLA are identified – and illustrated by actual cases – in the paper. The expected impacts on policy-making vary by the type of prospective analyses. Participatory processes mobilise a wider set of knowledge, aspirations, and worldviews compared to an expert-based project. Hence, more novel ideas can be expected, contested from various angles, hence tested more thoroughly, given the diversity of participants. FLA projects focusing on innovation and manufacturing systems consider a broader set of issues than S&T-centred projects. Given the complex issues brought about by the NPR, such a systemic approach seems to be more appropriate as a foundation for devising effective policies. In certain contexts, S&T-centred FLA can also be useful, but different and only more limited benefits and impacts can arise from this approach. Foresight benefits are far from being automatic: the paper considers eight critical factors to achieve those. An astute embedding of foresight into policy-making enhances the likelihood of impact, but foresight recommendations are no substitute for policy decisions and actions.

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