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Forsight as a tool for the management of knowledge flows and innovation


In recent years the processes of discovery and innovation express the dynamics and uncertainties of a 'knowledge-based economy'. Both processes rely upon effective and sustained interaction between distinct knowledge constituencies - such as firms, academic laboratories, and government. Innovation is therefore a collective achievement which requires the management of knowledge as a strategic asset.Government has increasingly sought to manage and align differing knowledge constituencies through a range of innovation policies and programmes, such as the 'Foresight' initiatives that have appeared across Europe in recent years.

This project, which falls within Area 1.3 of TSER, seeks to develop a new approach for strategic analysis in relation to foresight by exploring the ways in which technology foresight translates across a range of different, discrete yet linked constituencies in public and private arenas. It asks how the core networks that make up these constituencies cope, first, with the problem of knowledge sourcing and secondly, with the management of that knowledge to build their localised agendas for the future; it asks how they handle both of these in the context of responding to foresight recommendations. In this way the project will develop a new way of understanding how social and user needs are integrated with and mediated by science and technology policy agendas.
Its principal empirical focus is the medical sector, chosen because it comprises very different constituencies (public and private, lay and expert) linked within a well-defined organisational sector that must address a range of issues associated with managing knowledge. Two areas will be examined in detail - medical information technology and molecular diagnostics, chosen to reflect distinct knowledge-based needs.
Comparison will be made of how these two areas are managed by distinct constituencies in the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. These three countries reflect very different ways of structuring and deploying foresight-type results.At a theoretical level the project takes a new approach by considering foresight as a site at which several distinct interests and different forms of knowledge meet, and where the articulation, translation and alignment of interests indicate the rea1 use to which foresight is put by socio-economic actors.

Through understanding these dynamics we will be in a much stronger position to improve on the use of foresight as a management tool for science and technology policy in the future, not only within the medical sector, but more generally too.

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