Project: Boosting the exploratory power of open research in Future and Emerging Technologies (EU Project)

The purpose of this project (1/2011-1/2012) is to study current practices in thematically open, bottom-up approaches to funding cross-disciplinary frontier research (such as the Open scheme of the Future and Emerging Technologies challenge within the ICT workprogramme), to provide scenarios for the possible future developments of such schemes, and to formulate recommendations and options to address the opportunities ahead for boosting the exploratory power of bottom-up collaborative frontier research.

Bottom-up research programmes in which scientists are free to set their own research agenda are at the center of this project. In contrast to top-down research support schemes (like EU framework programme projects or other thematically focussed, agenda-driven research), bottom-up support schemes are open for any subject of basic science as long as it promises potential relevance for scientific and technological breakthroughs. Such research policy instruments are also termed „blue-sky research“ because the topic, the aims and methods applied are entirely in the hands of individual researchers or research institutes. One of the blue-sky research funding scheme at the European level is the Commission´s pro-gramme „FET open“. With the FET open programme the European Commission wants to promote research which is foundational, transformative, high-risk, purpose-driven, collaborative and multi-disciplinary.In our study we analyse the FET programme in the context of other European and international approaches of blue-sky research. In order to suggest ways in which the European Commission may further develop and extent its open research funding activities in the future, we structured the analysis in three parts:

– The first part of the analysis is to ask researchers about their assessment of the explanatory power of open research schemes compared to other support schemes. For that matter, we carry out a survey of FET open participants and other researchers. Also, we compile a list of blue-sky research funding schemes in selected countries and we will describe them as best practices in detail in so called mini case-studies.

– In the second part we analyse future development paths of blue-sky research funding in Europe, considering context factors as well as internal mechanisms of granting such research projects. We describe scenarios of the future of blue-sky research in Europe. These will be drafted with the help of reserach planning experts and researchers which will gather in two expert workshops.

– The third part will analyse the policy options based on the assessment of existing programmes and the scenario exercise. The final results of the project will inform the Commission about policy options and action points to strengthen bottom-up research in the context of the deliberations of the 8th Frame-work Programme „Horinzon 2020“

Partner: Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung ISI/Karlsruhe, Austrian Institute of Technology/ Vienna & TNO, Delft

Proect leader at AIT: Petra Schaper-Rinkel (Task: Scenario Development)