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Proactive FET Observatory for early trends, project building and social responsibility

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PREFET (Proactive FET Observatory for early trends, project building and social responsibility)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-10-31

PREFET is a EU funded project within the European Framework Programme for Research, Technology Development and Innovation, Horizon 2020. It is focused on the detection of early-stage technology trends and their analysis. The project combines the most advanced data mining AI engines with human intelligence and crowd/expert perception tools for the implementation of responsible research and innovation and innovation capacity building. PREFET started in November 2018 and continued operating until October 2020. It was performed by a consortium of four organizations in the UK and Spain specialized in technology scouting (Linknovate), integral management of R&I projects (from idea to markets and society) (RTDI), and responsible management of research and innovation (Trilateral Research and De Montfort University).
The PREFET H2020 project implemented a process moving from manually identified “trend seeds” to Intelligence-Augmented desktop research supported with text-mining, data-mining and machine-learning. “Weak signals” were detected, and trends were “informed” (insight generation), resulting in a list of “45 Pre-validated Trends”. These trends were mapped to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to leverage responsible research and innovation (RRI). As a result, research and innovation that are socially desirable and ethically acceptable were identified. In parallel, they were shared, using an on-line consultation process, with more than 2,000 international researchers in ICT, Health Sciences, Biotechnology and Environmental Sciences. Additional input was provided by interviews with artists, architects, and designers. A workshop focused on the exploration and prioritisation of technology trends (Trendington) occurred in November 2019 and resulted in a list of the “Top 20 future and emerging trends”.

Finally, two workshops were organised with a committee of experts, in order to advance this list into a roadmap. The “Windows to the future around Top trends in Emerging Technologies. A Roadmapping exercise” was the main achievement of this exercise. The workshops produced spirited discussion about future and emerging trends among experts from many different fields. The participants assessed the potential evolution of each top trend in the decades and the benefits and challenges that the trends could offer. The main objective was to provide a concise and holistic approach (holistic in the sense of technology-based and RRI-based) to the top 20 future and emerging trends. This approach will make the trends more understandable to policymakers, the research community and society and will use metaphors (“dreams and nightmares”) and futuristic scenarios as education tools.

PREFET then entered into a second stage, aiming at inspiring and supporting the generation of project ideas in order to explore and develop specific technologies within these trends. For this purpose, the project organised a series of ‘creativity online workshops’ during which participants were guided and animated to work jointly on a ‘project idea canvas’ related to a ‘context canvas’ which is prepared using PREFET information about most relevant trends on future and emerging technologies. Afterwards, results were shared with participants and “idea owners” were offered coaching support via a dedicated paltform for project integral building called INNOWIZARD. Finally, a full online training was implemented under the so called IdeAcademy Week (IAWEEK 2020).

As a result of PREFET project, a series of methodologies have been delivered which can provide valuable services to a wide range of organizations active in shaping the future of society, creating new opportunities, and preventing or mitigating the risks of technological advance. These methodologies have been developed and applied in PREFET project to help the European Institutions understand the big picture of most relevant trends for future-oriented technology and research that most likely will determine what the next decades will look like. The PREFET project involves the broadest application of these methodologies, since they have been applied altogether to explore the whole field of research and technologies without restrictions. Additionally, these three methodologies could also be applied separately or bundled to explore more specific and restricted contexts. All the three have proved in PREFET project that they are rigorous and powerful tools to help a wide range of organizations to understand deeply the areas in which they operate by looking into the most likely future according to the seeds we have seen today; to explore creatively and from very different perspectives those seeds to build new ground-breaking projects; and to foresee the implications for our society of each one.
It is a unique way to empower citizens, innovators, scientists and policy makers to take the initiative in what will really be a trend in the future, strengthening the European leadership in these visionary new and emerging technologies thanks to anticipation. PREFET Methodology inetgrates some methods and related platforms that can be considered as parts of the same process, that can be acquired together, bundled, by organizations willing to identify strategic R&D arenas and explore them creatively through the IdeAcademy concept. These tools bundled together may produce a very powerful value proposition for governments, research organizations, companies and universities, NGOs, think tanks, etc. aimed to develop new innovative and strategic areas of R&D in a powerful process that encompasses simultaneously:
• Wide exploration of a specific area in search of promising trends, via Augmented Intelligence detection of early trends in scientific research and technology using LINKNOVATE’s technology and tech foresight platform INNO-SCOUT.
• Participatory workshops aimed at multidisciplinary groups to elicit new creative and interdisciplinary areas R&D or activities of any kind;
• Customized follow-on training to help them define those ideas and design the roadmap to bring them to life, which involves planning, gathering financial support, etc.;
• Rigorous, quantitative methodology to assess their potential negative or positive impact on a future society in terms of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), which we have called PERSUE.

The result is a highly customized, highly educational strategic activity aimed to shake up organizations’ views and discover them new perspectives by bringing new valuable insights about a specific area and using their creative resources.
• Organizations may use early trend identification to identify strategic arenas for R&D as a preliminary step to define a long-term R&D investment plan;
• Organizations may use IdeAcademy for the training of young researchers;
• Organizations can demand the three products together as a means to define long-term R&D plans by generating a wide range of creative project ideas intended to be defined and screened through several stages, so at the end, the most promising from the most committed researchers are selected.
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