BMBF Foresight is a strategic instrument of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) that provides technology foresight and the determination of future societal needs in terms of research and development. With a time horizon of 15 years, BMBF Foresight casts a long-range look into the future in order to provide guidance for early agenda setting and prioritization in German research and innovation policy. The process is carried out cyclically and in several phases: search and analysis, transfer, and preparation of the next cycle.
The persistent dynamics of technological development and global change create permanent challenges for Germany's innovation system. BMBF Foresight is tasked with recognizing relevant early developments, interpreting them, and anticipatorily passing the findings on to be used in current research policy. Knowledge of where to go from here will be provided in order to prepare politics, industry, academia, and society for the future of important technologies and technology needs. BMBF Foresight is not a trend analysis derived from forecasts but rather a set of differentiated methods that mirror the complexity of innovation processes in an international competitive environment and help make the uncertainty of assumptions about future developments more manageable. BMBF Foresight highlights spaces of potential developments and design options, promises knowledge about science and technology, uncovers other potential research areas, supports the economic development of Germany, contributes to quality of life, builds on German competencies in industry and academia, and contributes to resource preservation as well as climate and environmental protection. Thus the BMBF Foresight Process provides information- and knowledge-based decision-making support for long-term and farsighted action in research and innovation policy.
After the successful completion of BMBF Foresight Cycle 1 (search phase: 2007-2009), the BMBF started Cycle 2 in May 2012 with a new two-year search phase.
In May 2012 the second BMBF Foresight Cycle was started with a new two-year search and analysis phase. While the first cycle put emphasis on possible future technological developments ("technology push"), the focus will now be on a demand perspective ("demand pull"). For this purpose, societal trends, challenges, and needs will be noted and evaluated as constraints on research and technology in order to gather information for a demand-driven research and innovation policy. The integration of national and international expertise ensures the validity of the results. (URL: http://www.bmbf.de/en/18380.php)
The search phase of the first cycle of the BMBF Foresight Process was conducted from 2007 to 2009 by the two Fraunhofer Institutes for Systems and Innovation Research (FhG ISI) and for Industrial Engineering (FhG IAO) on behalf of the BMBF. With a set of advanced future research methods in mind, new priorities in research and technology were investigated in 14 selected, already "established future fields." In a multi-step process, 7 "new future fields" that influence a large number of long-term research topics were identified. This provides important contributions to the further development of the High-Tech Strategy and to the development of Germany as a location for science and innovation. (URL: http://www.bmbf.de/en/18384.php)
The objective of long-term and demand-orientated strategy development is shared between the BMBF and many other governmental as well as private organizations. There are foresight processes in many countries, at a European level, at the United Nations, or in large private companies. For more than 20 years the BMBF has practiced in-house technology foresight processes. During this time the methodology has become increasingly sophisticated. With its cyclical approach, which regularly alternates between "technology push" and "demand pull" perspectives, the BMBF has now developed its own foresight approach. A BMBF Foresight cycle consists of a two-year search and analysis phase as well as the transfer and the preparation of a new search. (URL: http://www.bmbf.de/en/18388.php)