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Small seeds for grand challenges - Exploring disregarded seeds of change in a foresight process for RTI policy

: Warnke, Philine; Schirrmeister, Elna


Futures 77 (2016), S.1-10
ISSN: 0016-3287
Fraunhofer ISI ()
weak signals; seeds of change; perception filters; cognitive biases; innovation policy; demand oriented RTI policy; lead user theory

The recent turn in research, technology and innovation (RTI) policy towards challenge-led strategies is posing new demands to Foresight methodology. RTI Foresight practitioners need to complement their well developed set of technology oriented methods with equally sophisticated approaches tackling societal aspects of innovation. In this paper we aim to make a contribution to this requirement. Building on user innovation theory we argue that demand oriented RTI Foresight needs to systematically integrate voices and hypotheses from the fringes of the innovation system. In order to develop a sound approach for this we set out from well established Foresight theory on “weak signals” and “cognitive biases”. Adopting a constructivist stance towards such signals leads us to the need to set up a socially robust, diverse discourse on “seeds of change hypotheses”. We then outline a practical implementation of such a discourse in the context of the recent Foresight process of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany. We describe and discuss the experience of this Foresight process and suggest avenues for further development of the approach.