Knowledge Sourcing and Foresight: Public and Private Agencies in Health and Life Science
(Theme 4: Managing Knowledge Flows for Innovation in Europe)

Dr Andrew Webster, SATSU, University of York
Brian Rappert

The Project

This stage 3 project will investigate the implementation of some of the recommendations of the Health and Life Science Panel of the Technology Foresight (TF) Programme.

The relationship between the knowledge base and wealth creation is a critical concern of science and technology policy today. The concept of the 'knowledge-based economy' is used to point to a fundamental structural change in the innovation system wherein effective sourcing, filtering and managing of knowledge become crucial for various organisations. TF exercises in the UK and elsewhere seek to address this key issue of identifying capacity and managing knowledge flows, promoting improved networking and collaboration between suppliers and users. TF in the UK is seen as a way of managing capacity and prioritising research. It attempts to identify those areas of strategic research likely to yield the greatest economic and social benefit.

The principal objective of this project is to compare the way in which distinct networks in public and private arenas address the shared problem of sourcing knowledge and managing that knowledge to build what each perceives to be appropriate 'scenarios' for the future, but, crucially, scenarios that rest on different priorities. It asks too how these are articulated with those set by the Foresight programme, specifically those recommendations made by the Health and Life Science Panel in regards to molecular diagnostics and medical information technology. The key questions arise here which underpin this project include:

  • how far does the Technology Foresight programme acknowledge the contemporary dynamics of knowledge-based innovation, which, according to recent theoretical analyses, place new demands on those who source and manage knowledge?

  • how do institutions such as the NHS that perform a research-based public service role manage knowledge sourcing to meet their specific needs?

  • how do major drug companies who play a key role in shaping the pattern of innovation within the health and life sciences respond to both Foresight and the priority areas recently agreed within the NHS, and how do they construct their own 'localised foresight'?

  • The topics will be explored with a number of constituencies including: the TF Health and Life Science Panel, OST, MRC, NHS (e.g. Central R&D; Committee), Local Health Authorities (Cambridge, Suffolk, East Norfolk, North West Anglia), pharmaceutical firms and industry groups, and public interest organisations.

  • With the co-operation of Barend van der Meluen (University of Twente), the project also seeks to compare UK TF with the approach towards TF in the Netherlands, comparing different patterns of constituency building and the meshing of priorities

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