Pan-European forward-looking activities (e.g. foresight and horizon scanning) are often large in scope since they are aimed to: inspire interdisciplinary European Union research policies; assess STI and RTD initiatives and measures; anticipate potential disruptive events; develop strategies to deal with Grand Challenges; and build shared visions of the future. Thus, in order to support these activities effectively, iKnow has developed four strategies to interconnect knowledge:
The inward-looking top-down (ILTD) strategy – which requires the mapping of WIWE via literature reviews, workshops and the scanning of over 3,000 European Commission funded research projects conducted by dedicated teams from the iKnow Consortium.
The outward-looking top-down (OLTD) strategy – which involves the systematic mapping of WIWE inspired by a wide range of knowledge sources outside the European research space, e.g. websites, blogs, journal articles, official reports, science fiction books, etc. This work was also carried out by the iKnow Consortium.
The inward-looking bottom-up (ILBU) strategy – which involves the mapping of EC funded research activities by iKnow Community members representing government, business, research/education, international organisations, NGOs and other STI actors in Europe.
The outward-looking bottom-up (OLBU) strategy – which promotes the mapping of knowledge sources outside the European research space and relies on scanned activities carried out by worldwide iKnow Community members, on voluntary basis.
From these four horizon scanning approaches the iKnow project has successfully implemented ILTD and OLTD strategies. As a result, 700+ surprising and interesting issues have been mapped and analysed by the iKnow Consortium. As for the bottom-up scanning strategies (ILBU and OLBU), iKnow has developed state-of-the-art web 2.0 tools that should support their implementation in 2011.
Given that it would be unrealistic to assume that iKnow will research the whole wild cards and weak signals (WIWE) space (which includes the vast and immeasurable universe of codified and tacit knowledge), the iKnow team decided to first explore a space that would satisfy the Blue Sky call criteria of:
Indicating where European RTD policy must be pro-active;
Anticipating important changes in the European RTD system;
Revealing issues which are just emerging or not yet visible on the policy radar, but that could have far-reaching implications for European RTD and STI in the long run.
To this end, in 2009 iKnow scanned for WIWE inspired by or related to major thematic areas address by the EC Framework Programme Seven (FP7). Assuming that FP7 projects address issues of concern and relevance for the EU, their systematic scanning can help the elucidation and examination of events and developments potentially shaping or shaking the future of in the European Research Area (ERA). Of course, we should bear in mind that FP7 is one of many elements contributing to the 15% slice of RTD programmes conceived, developed and implemented through intergovernmental organisations.