Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
This article is the sixth in the series started by Futuribles in June 2004, in partnership with the Aleph group of the French Commissariat général du Plan. The aim of the series is to enlighten readers about what specialist bodies are doing in other countries in the area of futures studies and strategic thinking geared to public decision-making. The earlier articles looked at what is happening respectively in Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Quebec and South Africa. This sixth article focuses on Japan.
Évelyne Dourille-Feer describes how public futures studies have evolved in Japan since the Second World War. Two periods can be distinguished. The first, from the end of the war until the end of the 1980s, saw a burgeoning of global foresight studies devoted to the economy in general and to the manufacturing sector - mainly dynamic and quite interventionist studies conducted by large public bodies in collaboration with the various actors concerned. Then, confirming a shift first observed during the 1980s, the period after 1990 saw the emergence of a new way of looking at future problems and therefore of conducting public futures studies: against a background of economic crisis and reform, the state narrowed the ambitions of its foresight exercises and opted for a more targeted approach that is more "societal" and more concerned with particular sectors; the aim is to adapt to changes rather than to try to influence them.
Readers of Futuribles are kept abreast of the current debates about the policy (or lack of it) with regard to research and development in France, in part because of the amount of space we have devoted to this matter in the journal.
We publish here the point of view of an eminent researcher, Pierre Piganiol, who was the first head of the Délégation générale à la recherche scientifique et technique (DGRST) which, following the famous meeting in Caen (1956), was the first body to implement the R&D policy of the Gaullist era - which it did, moreover, in magisterial fashion.
Pierre Piganiol expresses his amazement that the alarm calls about the inadequacy of French research efforts have not apparently been either heard or understood. He then reminds us of the ultimate purpose of research (and the various types of research) and the major role that the state should play in co-ordinating efforts, not only with regard to the research that it finances but also to privately funded research.
He stresses that this role of orchestrating research means putting considerable effort into foresight in order to make choices, as far as possible, in the light of the country's future needs. He says here, pithily, what others in the debate put more pompously in terms of the tensions between technology push and social needs (or bottom-up approach).
Finally, Pierre Piganiol offers some judicious thoughts as to the ways that this research policy might ideally be conducted.
Those who have worked with him will not be surprised that he lays so much emphasis on the need to make a "reasoned analysis of the present state of knowledge and research", of what he calls the "scientific climate" (conjoncture scientifique). It is indeed strange that, despite his best efforts, nothing of the sort has ever been implemented...
Small and medium-sized firms are a key element in the European economy: by the EU definition (0-250 employees), they make up 99.8% of all businesses (more than 93% of them employ fewer than 10 people), i.e. 65.8% of all employment. Yet the public authorities offer them little support, largely because the authorities operate on a very different scale to small firms.
André Lebeau argues that it is possible to change this state of affairs, for instance by learning from the American experience. Despite its ultra-free market stance, the United States has in fact put in place a wide range of public support for small businesses, especially via tenders and contracts to supply federal agencies. These measures have existed for over 50 years (Small Business Act, 1953) and are regularly updated.
While identical measures cannot be applied to small firms in the EU, they could serve to inspire support for this key element in the European economy. André Lebeau suggests how this might be done, proposing the launch of pilot projects, starting with ones in the framework of the European space programme, a sector that he knows well.
Ce numéro spécial de la revue Development s'ouvre sur un entretien avec Kees van Heijden et Napier Collyns, deux pionniers de la méthode des scénarios du groupe Royal Dutch Shell, qui relatent le moment où le monde a cessé d'apparaître comme contrôlable et prévisible, et où ils se sont aperçus que la planification stratégique ne pouvait plus reposer uniquement sur des projections économiques. Francisco Sagasti retrace ensuite l'histoire de la diffusion de la pensée prospective en Amérique ...
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Depuis sa proclamation internationale au sommet de la Terre (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), le concept de développement durable s’étend, au-delà des ONG et des organisations internationales, aux cercles de la politique et de l’entre¬prise. Le sommet de Johannesburg a marqué une nette inflexion de l’action vers la sphère économique, avec un appel à sa vocation citoyenne. Mais comment évaluer cette responsabilité sociétale des entreprises (RSE) ? Au mieux, ses premières manifestations concrètes ne remontent qu’aux années ...
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Cet article présente quatre scénarios sur les facteurs d'influence du progrès scientifique et technique et de leurs modes de régulation dans les deux prochaines décennies. Élaborés dans le cadre d'un programme de recherche du Millennium Project, qui a associé plus d'une centaine de participants de tous les pays, ces scénarios ont été construits en considérant des alternatives sur quatre dimensions : - le mode de régulation gouvernementale, - la vitesse d'apparition des innovations scientifiques et techniques, - l'acceptation sociale ...
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The Macroscope by Joël de Rosnay was published in 1975 (in France). It is an unusual book, a mixture of theory, methodology, pedagogy and long-term vision, serious-minded and straightforward, making available to the general reader an approach based on complex thinking. It is neither an essay nor a political treatise. Although it discusses the future, it is not really a work of futurology, because explicit dates are not attached to the scenarios and mostly it is based on extrapolation from studies conducted in the United States.
The Macroscope makes use of a very powerful imaginary tool, the "macroscope", for observing the world and society and thus detecting clues about the future. To make it work, the author adopts the systemic approach, which was little known in France in the mid 1970s; this concentrates, in particular, on interdependencies, flows, and complementarities among individuals and with their environment.
Information is - along with energy and time - one of the three fundamental areas of knowledge that de Rosnay explores in order to illustrate the systemic approach. He makes the most of the fact that information exchange is not a zero-sum game; as a result, the relationships of complementarity and interdependence give rise to a network of concepts and people that is mutually reinforcing, not one that excludes. This is the basic driving force in the future society described in detail in the section of the book devoted to this topic.
What is presented is a new form of social organization, "society in real time". The author outlines the foreseeable technological developments involved and also stresses the need to think about what effects an interactive society might have. This new society in real time - of which he describes many aspects, such as being able to access information and to see the people with whom one is communicating at a distance, cable television and broadband, computer regulation of traffic and other urban flows, and computers that talk to each other - is also a remarkable foretaste of the Internet. Finally, Joël de Rosnay also discusses the substitution of telecommunications for transport, an issue that was highly topical at the time because of the first energy crisis of 1973, and he envisages already tailor-made goods and services on a mass scale. The society he describes seems quite familiar to us now, although it was not yet obvious in 1975.
At the end of 2003 and during 2004 there has been widespread and strongly expressed concern on the part of researchers in France, emphasizing the serious risks of falling behind other countries if the whole system of research is not overhauled. Some months before matters came to a head, the French government asked the Economic and Social Council (Conseil économique et social) to produce a report on French public research and the role of business. The report was published in December 2003. François Ailleret, former head of EDF (Électricité de France) and the "rapporteur" for this evaluation, summarizes its main conclusions.
He stresses above all the relative inefficiency of French public research and the country's low level of privately funded research; he warns that, compared with other countries, research employment is poorly managed and he highlights the potential risks attached to a shortage of research workers or of projects that are not geared to future needs. More generally, he emphasizes the inadequate value placed on research, which is linked above all to the lack of collaboration between universities and firms.
François Ailleret goes on to summarize the Council's main recommendations as to ways of improving this situation. Besides a serious future-oriented assessment of the aims and means of research in France, it recommends a complete overhaul of the key institutions in the system, stepping up public funding for research combined with the creation of private foundations and the encouragement of greater collaboration between universities and businesses; but also greater flexibility in managing human resources, incentives to more job mobility both within individual careers and within Europe, support for innovative business start-ups, etc. Only by doing so will France have any hope of maintaining its international position in the years ahead.
Pierre Gonod has read for Futuribles Edward Cornish's most recent book, Futuring (Bethesda: World Future Society, 2004, 313 pp.), which brings up to date his analysis of the discipline of futures studies. According to Pierre Gonod, it provides a detailed critical examination of the methods and techniques likely to be useful in anticipating the future and developing strategies for action in this area. Above all, it tells of the major event affecting contemporary society: the great social and technological transformation that marks the start of a period of "mega-changes". Cornish's book offers several keys (via monitoring, analysis of major trends, etc.) to help in understanding this new era and the futures that it portends; he also shows what a valuable tool for action the futures studies approach is, even if it is still far from being an exact science - and used too little, especially in France, adds Pierre Gonod.
As we announced last June, Futuribles is continuing the discussion on the future of research in France started by Jean-Jacques Salomon (no. 298). As well as the essay by François Ailleret, elsewhere in this issue, we are publishing this well-documented article by Pierre Papon, who surveys the current state of the French system of R&D and proposes a variety of ways to reform it.
He starts with some historical background, backed up with figures and international comparisons, describing the creation of the French R&D system and its vigour between the 1950s and the 1980s. He goes on to argue that - having failed to take account of the major changes in the international economic and scientific context- this system is doomed to fall behind if it is not overhauled. According to Pierre Papon, what is needed in particular is an awareness of the many different levels of decision-making (regional, national, European) and the creation of more relevant linkages, including cross-disciplinary ones.
Among the various reform options he discusses, the author stresses three points: the need to strengthen the ability of research to respond rapidly to scientific advances; to make it easier for the various bodies involved in research (universities, businesses, research centres) to co-operate with each other and foster the sharing of knowledge; and to devolve responsibilities for research policy more efficiently among the various geographical tiers of decision-making. Nevertheless, he concludes that we are no longer living in 1956, when a meeting in Caen marked the beginning of an ambitious French national policy in this field: the reforms outlined here can be implemented only very gradually, and they need first of all to be started...
Take-off in France (1973) (Futures of Yesteryear)
In the early 1970s the Hudson Institute, which was created by the famous American futurologist Herman Kahn, carried out for the French government a study of "the wealth of France and the future of Europe", which caused a stir when the results were published in 1973 under the title L'Envol de la France dans les années 1980 [Take-off in France in the 1980s], co-authored by Edmund Stillman, James Bellini, William Pfaff, Laurence Schloesing and Jonathan Story. We have selected from Herman Kahn's preface and from the report itself several extracts that seem interesting to read thirty years on.
In 2002, per capita GDP (gross domestic product) in France and the European Union was roughly 25% below that of the United States. Per capita GDP is related to several factors: hourly productivity rates, average working hours and the employment rates. In France, hourly productivity rates are very high, but working hours and the employment rates are low.
This explanation does not hold when the facts are examined, argues Cette, since productivity in general appears to fall as working time increases, hence less is produced in the 36th hour than in the 35th, and this is even more true concerning the employment rates, especially those of young people and workers aged over 50 which are particularly low in Europe, especially in France. Gilbert Cette points up this argument with the help of a comparison between the "observed" and the "structural" hourly productivity rates, with the latter distinctly higher in the United States than in Europe and Japan.
He shows that, ultimately, the improvement in productivity in the United States and the decline in Europe is largely due to the growth and, above all, the spread of information and communications technologies. However, for this to have the greatest multiplier effect, there must be not only an appropriate level of investment but also greater flexibility in the markets for goods and labour.
This article implicitly raises an important question about the balance to be struck between productivity and numbers in work, which is a real issue for society to decide.
European countries have gradually stopped manufacturing less sophisticated goods (clothing, shoes, etc.), which are now produced instead in developing countries, especially in Asia. The latter have shot ahead: total manufacturing output in the Euro zone grew by 13% between 1991 and 2003, whereas it grew by between 50% and 450% in the developing economies of Asia and Central Europe. The countries of Western Europe are therefore seriously threatened by this growth - how are they reacting?
Patrick Artus examines four cases here: Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Spain. The first two specialize mainly in the manufacture of machinery, the other two in nothing in particular. After analysing the trade balance of each country and the structure of employment by sector, Artus argues that Germany has maintained a high level of productivity growth, by contrast with France and Spain, where productivity has declined, unlike the United Kingdom.
This reveals two contrasting approaches, Patrick Artus concludes: one favouring short-term growth (Spain) as against one where the specialization strategy allows improvements in productivity that lead to economic growth over the longer term (Germany, UK).
Although the standard of living of Europeans gradually caught up with that of the Americans in the three decades after World War II, it would appear that the trend has dipped since the 1980s. Economic growth in Europe has stagnated, whereas growth has continued in the United States, despite events such as the bursting of the high-tech bubble, and September 11th. Is the decline of Europe compared with the United States unavoidable? What are the reasons for it?
Alain Villemeur describes the different paths taken by the two major Western blocs. He disentangles the reasons normally given to explain the poor results achieved in Europe (inflation, high interest rates, less flexible markets, industrial decline...) and challenges their validity in the light of the remarkable counter-example provided by the Netherlands.
In his view, the key to economic recovery in Europe lies in the investment countries are prepared to make in innovation and knowledge, and the way that innovations are achieved and implemented. What matters most now is to give priority to innovations in products (which means investing in research aimed at developing new products and services) rather than in processes (i.e. attempting to improve or copy innovations in existing products). It is a European country, Sweden, that provides the model for this approach.
For Alain Villemeur, the only means of reversing the economic decline of Europe over the last 20 years lies in combining strong support for research and development and innovation (on the Swedish model) with close control of wage costs (as in the Netherlands), and ensuring that this strategy applies also to the new members of the European Union.
Michel Godet comments on two recent reports by the Council for Economic Analysis on productivity and employment, and on the gap between France, the rest of Europe and the United States in this regard. This leads him to offer a different explanation of the poor performance of France, which he thinks is due to the small numbers in work, the demographic decline and the excessive emphasis only on those jobs that are judged, rightly or wrongly, to be highly productive.
He stresses first the high demand for personal services, the large numbers of potential jobs in this area, and hence the need to reassess the worth of professions relating to it. He then goes on to offer a critical discussion of the analyses of productivity, emphasizing in essence that, although the hourly productivity rate in France is high, the economic results are in general poor, and this is because there are not enough people in work.
Lastly, he outlines various ways of reviving growth and employment, for instance by encouraging part-time working and replacing welfare payments that are made without any requirement to work with arrangements which would encourage more French people to stay in their jobs or return to employment.
Jean-Jacques Salomon energetically castigates the contempt for scientific research in France; he criticizes the lack of resources and the dangers that this will incur in the medium and long term. But he goes further and proposes a proper plan to give a new impetus to research, development and innovation, emphasizing that it is not enough to allocate more money - the whole structure of research needs fundamental reform, as indeed does the French model of education.
Those in government care little for research, he argues, even though it has become ever more important in planning for the future.
First, research needs a genuine injection of money, and Jean-Jacques Salomon proposes ways in which the necessary funding could be achieved. But it is also essential to tackle the institutional and structural problems that beset a system that is in large part badly designed for today's needs.
The author distinguishes two complementary types of research (i.e. basic and applied), and shows that it is essential to overhaul the organization and the manner of funding and managing research. He argues forcefully in favour of a "national science foundation" and, incidentally, for a closer integration of research and the universities.
In this vein, he would like to see a thorough transformation of the French education system, with a clearer separation of vocational training - which needs to be upgraded - from higher education and research, which should be encouraged... Scattered through his text are recommendations that are particularly welcome in this long troubled period for the French system of research and innovation, and he starts a debate that will be continued in future issues of Futuribles.
Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.