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Foresight - A look at the future

TNO builds knowledge that adds economic and social value to companies and governments. Certainly in a field in which developments come thick and fast, like ICT, good strategic information about those developments is vital. Within TNO, a separate group is devoted to systematically surveying the future, in consultation with governments and companies. The outcome of their work is an overview of the activities that ought to be carried out.

'Foresight' is the systematic surveying of the future. It involves three approaches:

  • Surveying the connection between technological, social, economic and legal aspects of new developments;
  • Organising a network of stakeholders;
  • Developing a shared vision.
When Foresights are brief, the emphasis is placed on the first point. In more expansive Foresights all three elements are addressed. As well as the creation of awareness (first focus of attention), a Foresight addresses the organisation in the field (second focus) and strategic planning (third focus).

Surveying emerging techniques

The dynamism in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) is strong. Technologies appear in rapid succession. What is standard today, might be historic tomorrow. Success factors are difficult to predict. Some technologies catch on quickly (mobile telephones, internet), while others takes years to do so (fax). An interplay between technological, social, economic and legal factors is evident. The technological basis of ICT keeps on changing and new services emerge. At present a development is underway in which users are playing an increasingly important role in the development, production and purchase of new services. Likewise, the large-scale roll-out of new ICT services in large and complex organisations also requires a strategic consideration of how it should be handled. Foresight offers the techniques and methods with which to do this. TNO has extensive in-house experience of managing the routes and timelines of complex surveys.

Methods and techniques

A wide range of methods and techniques are available with which a Foresight can be performed. The nature of the question will tend to make a certain combination of methods and techniques desirable. By cooperating with other knowledge institutions, TNO is able to offer the right combination of expertise for every question. Below, we present a - not exhaustive - list of the available tools that we have used in various projects: Technological survey:

  • technological roadmap
  • trend analysis
  • technology radar
  • bibliometric survey
  • patent analysis
  • desk research
Strategic planning:
  • forecasting
  • backcasting
  • scenario studies
  • Delphi research
  • Focus groups
  • policy assessment

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