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Foresight for science and technology priority setting in a small country: the case of Luxembourg

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This paper sets out to review the conduct and immediate impacts of a two-year national technology foresight exercise (2006-2007) conducted in one of Europe's smallest and wealthiest countries, Luxembourg. The country's small size brings into sharp view many of the underlying tensions present in those foresight exercises that explicitly attempt to set national priorities. These tensions include the ability (or otherwise) to underpin the foresight process with sufficient and appropriate 'objectivised' knowledge (including national statistics, international benchmarking data, and future-oriented 'intelligence'), the organisation of dialogic spaces that are not solely 'hijacked' by special interests and setting the 'granularity' of emergent priorities at a level that makes them 'operationalisable' in informing research and development funding programmes. The exercise was organised by the FNR (Fonds national de la recherche or National Research Fund), the only research council in Luxembourg. The paper shows that the position of the FNR in the research landscape had both benefits and drawbacks during the conduct of the exercise as well as for the follow-up implementation. The paper builds upon an earlier paper which described the first phase of the FNR Foresight exercise. The current paper extends this analysis to the second and third phases of the exercise, as well as to the immediate implementation phase after the publication of its results. By doing so, it covers the evolution of the foresight exercise over its two-year life span, highlighting the different meanings given to the exercise by different stakeholder groups as the process unfolded and interim results were made known. The paper draws lessons not only for other small countries and regions hoping to use foresight, but also highlights principles for using foresight for priority-setting more generally.
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Keywords: Luxembourg; foresight; priority-setting; research system

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Fonds national de la recherche, Luxembourg 2: Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (PREST), University of Manchester, UK

Publication date: 2009-11-01

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