Foresight and roadmapping for innovation policy

Foresight approaches, such as roadmapping, are increasingly used by governments to identify innovation pathways and shape innovation policy toward addressing long-term societal goals. For addressing such Grand Challenges, however, these frameworks need to be refined to account for (1) longer translational timeframes; (2) a broader field of participating organisations, agencies, and public(s); (3) a resulting wider and more complex range of stakeholders; and (5) particular complexities and resulting uncertainties, including scale-up, responsible innovation, and enabling capabilities.


The past decade has seen the rise of innovation foresight initiatives, including roadmapping, toward addressing urgent national and societal needs, from climate change and global health, to national defence and through modernising national economies through advances in digital technologies; these coinciding with efforts to responsibly develop emerging technology applications and capabilities that can potentially enable these aims, such as engineering biology, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. While the focus of such initiatives vary, they all look to facilitate transformative systemic change, change deemed necessary for realising said policy aims. However, such systemic change generally requires radical innovations and new pathways, these often based on technology convergence; an emphasis on cross cutting or platform technologies; incumbent actors to work across disciplines; and include the participation and input of new actors, and these often non-technical, e.g. social scientists, regulators, publics; and involve relatively long development and commercial trajectories – up to several decades if not more.


From a policy perspective, we also suggest that the systemic change sought and the long timeframes involved have the effect of widening the gap between the stated policy goals and the technologies and applications needed to meet them. This gap is comprised of what we call ‘system capabilities’: broadly understood as the intermediary capabilities, functions, and infrastructure required to, over the long term, effectively link technology development and applications to desired policy goals or futures.


Key projects:

Roadmapping Grand Challenges: Diversity, commonalities, and socio-technology transitions


Technology-agnostic system capabilities: Identifying taxonomy and national priorities: A UK policy experiment


Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Grand Challenges: A roadmapping experiment for the University of Cambridge


Network models for technological emergence foresight

This project examines whether it is possible to predict technological emergence.


Evolving social network of innovation communities

This project is concerned with examining how and why communities of innovation form and evolve.


Long-term patterns in technological emergence

This project aims to address the questions around how and why technologies emerge in the long term.

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