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Trade-offs between policy impacts of future-oriented analysis: experiences from the innovation policy foresight and strategy process of the City of Vienna

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In 2006 the City of Vienna launched a foresight and strategy process to revisit its urban research and innovation policy. This process undoubtedly had a major impact on policy; in fact, several of the recommendations of the process were immediately translated into policy decisions, others are planned to be implemented in the years to come. In spite of this apparent success, a more critical and systematic assessment of the process shows that the apparent short-term success of the process seems to come at the cost of limited medium- to long-term impact, associated with a low degree of novelty and the avoidance of controversy. The impact assessment is based on a framework that focuses on three key functions of foresight in relation to policy making: informing, counselling, and facilitating policy making at short-, medium- and long-term. Obviously, only the short-term impact assessment can rely on empirical observations, but there are also several indications of likely shortcomings with respect to the medium- and long-term impacts. Moreover, evidence can be given of process mechanisms that have been conducive to the generation of rather conservative outcomes. After introducing the impact assessment framework and the general process design, objectives and results of the Viennese innovation policy foresight and strategy process and the different impact dimensions will be analysed and assessed for different time horizons. The reasons for success in terms of short-term policy impacts will be highlighted, but also the factors that seem to hamper medium- and long-term impacts from arising. Finally, some generic lessons learned from the Viennese experience will be discussed.
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Keywords: foresight; innovation policy; policy impact; strategy process

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department Foresight and Policy Development, Austrian Institute of Technology, Vienna, Austria

Publication date: 2009-11-01

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