Key Technologies Shaping the Future: Foresight and strategic recommendations

Our association together with the Royal Academy of Engineering has today published our joint conference statement with foresight and strategic recommendations on key technologies.
17th January 2022
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The conference and the resulting conference statement published today jointly with the Royal Academy of Engineering explore trends in key technologies for the next 30 years, and their implications for today.

In these rapidly changing times, foresight is an important tool for universities and decision-makers to adapt their strategic positioning. The focus is on foresight - imagining a desired future for science and technology, and learning and teaching in 2050 - combined with strategic recommendations - how should we act now to ensure this desired future comes true?

Professor G.Q. Max Lu AO DL FREng FAA FTSE (Chair of joint Task Force Key Technologies and President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey) said of the conference statement:

“The thirtieth anniversary of CESAER and the forty-fifth anniversary of the Royal Academy of Engineering provides a great opportunity to imagine what the world of tomorrow will need, to guide our actions today.

“In 2020, the two organisations launched a joint task force consisting of Fellows from the Academy and representatives from CESAER Members, which I had the honour of Chairing. The objective of the joint task force was twofold, i.e. to (i) imagine a desired future in 30 years (foresight) and (ii) explore how we should act now to mitigate risks towards ensuring a desired future comes true (strategic recommendations).

“The efforts of the joint task force culminated in the international conference ‘Key technologies shaping the future’ from 1 to 2 July 2021 (video recordings from the conference are freely available online). In addition, interviews were conducted with invited experts. This conference statement summarises key conclusions and provides a synthesis of findings from the conference and the interviews.

“Thirty years may sound like a distant future, but if we hope to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow, we must start today to imagine what’s ahead. As leaders in solving problems and innovation, we must look over the immediate horizon, be visionaries, as well as practical, guiding governments and funders in shaping policy for a desired future.”

The conference statement includes five take-away messages:

  1. Live values. To guide the development of key technologies, reaffirming and adhering to values is foundational.
  2. Meaningful leadership must be backed by sustainable funding and long-term commitment. The disruptive potential of key technologies can only be effectively guided with long-term commitments through systems-based and socially inclusive approaches.
  3. Big data is an unstable foundation. Availability and integration of large-scale data sets and interconnectedness of digital assets are the foundations on which many key technologies (such as artificial intelligence) are based, and today this foundation is fragmented.
  4. Empower researchers to assume their role. Key technologies are shaped by and will shape the global environment, and researchers, learners, and teachers must be empowered to engage globally with their peers. Key technologies cross disciplinary boundaries and old-fashioned ‘disciplinary siloed, lone-wolf competition’-based approaches must be fully replaced by team-based collaboration at the interface of technology and society and enable effective collaboration to address whole system challenges.
  5. Equality, diversity and inclusion as the foundation for key technologies. To serve society’s diverse needs, equality, diversity and inclusion must be an integral part of our work on key technologies, and included in any ethical frameworks.

The conference statement is available here (PDF) for distribution.

For more information please contact our Deputy Secretary General Mattias Björnmalm.

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