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March 2009

A Survey on Technology Foresight for Taiwan 2020

A Quantitative & Statistical Analysis of Experts' Opinions on Technology Foresight and Socioeconomic Needs

In the era of fierce global competitions, a nation's competitiveness primarily depends on technology-based innovation. Advanced nations generally promote economic growth by strengthening their technological capabilities. However, as industrial and economic developments, social structures, and technologies change by the day, we cannot but ponder on issues concerning the formation of a nation's technology-based development direction. Advanced nations have adopted the so-called technology foresight. It is a systematic scientific method through which experts' divided opinions are converged and cohered through extensive discussion and communication. The consensus reached will help formulate targets for national technology-based developments. However, the disadvantages of technology foresight program events include: 'scientists are the only participants', 'the execution process is long', 'consumption/mobilization costs are too high', 'negligence over economic and social development needs', 'unable to list order of development priorities', and 'inadequate assessments on impacts or effects at department level.' A concise execution method was proposed and a questionnaire survey was designed. Experts in technology, economy, and management were asked to give their opinions on the 56 technology items defined by RAND regarding interdepartmental and technology-based fields such as biotechnology, information communication technology, nanotechnology, material science, etc. A quantitative analysis was conducted to find important technology items for Taiwan 2020.
Julie Chih-Li Sun
Importance of Technology Foresight
In the era of fierce global competitions, a nation's competitiveness primarily depends on technology-based innovation. Advanced nations generally promote economic growth by strengthening their technological capabilities. However, as industrial and economic developments, social structures, and technologies change by the day, we cannot but ponder on issues concerning the formation of a nation's technology-based development direction. Advanced nations have adopted the so-called technology foresight. It is a systematic scientific method through which experts' divided opinions are converged and cohered through extensive discussion and communication (Delphi Method). The consensus reached will help formulate targets for national technology-based developments. This method originated from technical predications developed by RAND Corp, a think tank for the American military, (i.e. The U.S. Department of Defense) in the 50s. Later, over 40 nations around the world had executed the technology foresight program (U.S.A. (60s), Japan (70s), France, Sweden, Australia, the U.K. (80s), The Netherlands, and Germany (90s)). In time, after repeated corrections on the systematic methods (e.g. addition of Scenario Analysis), it gradually became a decision-making tool that keeps up with the standards in the era of the knowledge-based economy. (Martin, 2008)

Technology Foresight in Japan is considered the largest in scale and most comprehensive in research method. Transformations also took place to consolidate action plans and policy goals. Over 2,000 experts participated in the technology foresight program events. Through repeated corrections of the research method and convergence of experts' opinions, a decision-making mechanism from top to bottom was formed. Concentrated development strategies also helped prevent resource wastes caused by scattered and repeated research and development. Japan commenced technology foresight for the first time in 1970. At the time, to boost the post-war Japanese economy, emphasis was given to predicting technology-based developments in the next 30 years. Various response strategies were also proposed. As we examine the results at this point in time, 64% of the technology items were realized after 20 years. An inspection will be conducted every 5 years thereafter. Now, the 8th technology foresight program events have been completed. Note that following the 7th technology program events conducted in 2001, the results were applied in the Technology-based Fundamental Plan that determined the success of the national technology-based research and development planning. In 2005, Socioeconomic Needs Analysis, Bibliometric Analysis, etc., were incorporated in the 8th technology foresight program events, making technology foresight a decision-making tool targeting both the socioeconomic needs and scientific technology-based developments. It served as reference for The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in setting up the 'important research and development issues' of the technology-based fundamental plan and allocating 25% of the national science research funds based on this setup. Meanwhile, MITI also adopted the technology foresight results in setting up important development items in conjunction with industrial development blueprints sketched through technology mapping and other methods. All Zone Professional Technology, Co. LTD, the predominant decision-maker in technology based agendas in Japan even set up long-term strategic guidelines known as 'Innovation 25' targeting 2025 as the scheduled development period. (Science & Technology Policy Research and Information Center National Applied Research Laboratories, 2008)

However, The Technology Foresight Program is not the answer to everything when it comes to technology-based policy related decision-makings. According to research findings of Ben Martin (2008), the technology foresight program events have disadvantages where 'science are the only participants' (the program turned into a social function where scientists strive for technology-based development funds), 'the execution process is long', 'consumption/mobilization costs are too high', 'negligence over economic and social development needs', 'unable to list order development priorities', and 'inadequate assessments on impacts or effects at departmental level.' Therefore, the execution results of technology foresight program events are often 'unusable' in policy planning.

This research was undertaken by Taiwan Institute of Economic Research Biotechnology Industry Study Center for Biotechnology as commissioned by Science and Technology Advisory Group of Executive Yuan. The undertakings cover the proposal of a concise execution method and questionnaire survey design. The opinions of 20 experts in technology (40%), economics (30%), and management (30%) regarding the 56 technology items in interdepartmental technology aspects, such as biotechnology, information communication technology, material science, etc., are defined by RAND. Considerations from technology aspect (Taiwan 2020 Technical Feasibility), socioeconomic aspect ('Demands in Taiwan area', 'global demands', 'development controversy') as well as impacts and effects on 'agriculture' 'industry' 'commerce', 'health', 'energy', 'environment', 'defense' 'consumer', etc. at departmental level are also included.

'Technology Foresight and Socioeconomic Needs' Research Methods and Execution Results

In view of the corrections on the inadequacies of the technology foresight program events, this research was undertaken by Taiwan Institute of Economic Research Biotechnology Industry Study Center as commissioned by Science and Technology Advisory Group of Executive Yuan. (Note 1) The undertakings cover the proposal of a concise execution method and questionnaire survey design. (Note 2) The opinions of 20 experts in technology (40%), economics (30%), and management (30%) regarding the 56 technology items in interdepartmental technology aspects such as biotechnology, information communication technology, material science, etc., are defined by RAND. (Note 3) (Silberglitt, Anton, Howell, Wong, Gassman, Jackson, Landree, Pfleeger, Newton, & Wu, 2006) Considerations from technology aspect (Taiwan 2020 Technical Feasibility), socioeconomic aspect ('Demands in Taiwan area', 'global demands', 'development controversy') as well as impacts and effects on 'agriculture' 'industry', 'commerce', 'health', 'energy', 'environment', 'defense' 'consumer', etc. at departmental level are also included.
The Non-linear Model was used to convert the experts' opinions into figures (see attachment). Statistics of the above aspects (consideration factors) and impacts at department level are ranked in order of priority based on the experts' quantitative results. The 'Important' (Note 4) technology item will be explained accordingly below:

(1) Feasible Technology Items for Taiwan 2020

Include 'Electronic Transactions', 'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Ubiquitous RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Tagging', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Genetically Modified Crops', 'Secure Video Monitoring' 'Biometrics as sole ID', 'Resistant Textiles', 'Green Manufacturing', etc.

(2) Technology Items in Demand in Taiwan Area

Include 'Electronic Transactions', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Green Manufacturing', 'Biometrics as sole ID', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Hydrogen Vehicles', 'Hospital Robotics', 'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Improved Diagnostic and Surgical Methods', 'Filters and Catalysts', 'Resistant Textiles' , etc.

(3) Technology Items in Demand Globally

Include 'Electronic Transactions', 'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Green Manufacturing', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Resistant Textiles', 'Biometrics as sole ID', 'Genetic Screening', 'Genetically Modified Crops', 'Hybrid Vehicles', 'Hydrogen Vehicles', etc.

(4) Less Controversial Technology Items

Include 'Quantum Computers', 'Wearable Computers', 'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Cheap Autonomous Housing', 'Filters and Catalysts', 'Green Manufacturing', 'Hybrid Vehicles', 'Resistant Textiles', 'Smart Textiles', 'Smart Systems', etc. However, more controversial technology items such as 'Implants for Tracking and Identification', 'Genetically Modified Crops', 'Genetically Modified Insects', 'Genetic Selection of Offspring', 'Genetically Modified Animals for R&D', 'Xenotransplantation', 'Pervasive Sensors', 'Super Soldiers', 'Biometrics as sole ID', 'Gene Therapy', 'High-Tech Terrorism', etc., may require further management in setting up guidelines governing related regulations.

(5) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Agriculture' Based Departments

'Genetically Modified Crops', 'Genetically Modified Insects', 'Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Green Manufacturing', 'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Rapid Bioassays', etc.

(6) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Industry' Based Departments or Form New Industrial Fields

'Green Manufacturing', 'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Hybrid Vehicles', 'Unconventional Transport', 'Resistant Textiles', 'Smart Systems', 'Hands-free Computer Interface', 'Hydrogen Vehicles', 'Quantum Computers', 'Smart Textiles' , etc.

(7) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Commerce' Based Departments or Form New Commercial Fields

'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Electronic Transactions', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Secure Video Monitoring', 'Biometrics as sole ID', 'Secure Data Transfer', 'Hands-free Computer Interface', 'Print-to-Order-Books', 'Quantum Computers', etc.

(8) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Health' or 'Medical Care' Based Departments

'Hospital Robotics', 'Improved Treatments from Data Analysis', 'Drug Development from Screening', 'Drugs Tailored to Genetics', 'Enhanced Medical Recovery', 'Gene Therapy', 'Improved Diagnostic and Surgical Methods', 'In-silico Drug R&D', 'Monitoring and Control for Disease Management', 'Therapies based on Stem Cell R&D', 'Chip Implants for Brain', 'Genetic Screening', 'Genetic Selection of Offspring', 'Immunotherapy', 'Memory-Enhancing Drugs', 'Targeted Drug Delivery', 'Tissue Engineering', 'Xenotransplantation', etc.

(9) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Energy' Based Departments

'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Hybrid Vehicles', 'Hydrogen Vehicles', 'Unconventional Transport', 'Cheap Autonomous Housing', 'Green Manufacturing', etc.

(10) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Environment' Based Departments

'Hybrid Vehicles', 'Green Manufacturing', 'Hydrogen Vehicles', 'Unconventional Transport', 'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Cheap Autonomous Housing', 'Filters and Catalysts', 'Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles', 'CBRN Sensor Network Construction', etc.

(11) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Defense' Based Departments

'Military Robotics', 'Military Nanotechnologies', 'Super Soldiers', 'Biometrics as sole ID', 'CBRN Sensor Network in Cities', 'Secure Video Monitoring', 'Implants for Tracking and Identification', 'High-Tech Terrorism', 'Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles', 'Robotic Scientist', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Pervasive Sensors', 'Quantum Computers', 'Quantum Cryptography', 'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Secure Data Transfer', 'CBRN SENSORS ON EMERGENCY RESPONSE', etc.

(12) Technology Items Posing Greater Effects for 'Consumers' or in Greater Consumer Demand

'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Electronic Transactions', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Print-to-Order-Books', 'Secure Data Transfer', 'Hands-free Computer Interface', 'Wearable Computers', 'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Hybrid Vehicles', etc.

Through the non-linear model adopted in this research, the experts' opinions were converted into figures. The technology items of technology foresight for Taiwan 2020 in order of importance are as follows:
'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Green Manufacturing', 'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Resistant Textiles', 'Filters and Catalysts', 'Hybrid Vehicles', 'Hydrogen Vehicles', 'Electronic Transactions', etc.

A Survey on Technology Foresight for Taiwan 2020
The inadequacies of technology foresight program event executions such as 'Scientists are the only participants', 'the execution process is long', 'consumption/mobilization costs are too high', negligence over economic and social development needs', 'unable to list order of development priorities', 'inadequate assessments on impact or effects at departmental level' have been improved in this researcher. A concise execution method was proposed and a questionnaire survey was designed. Experts in technology, economy, and management were asked to give their opinions on the 56 technology items defined by RAND regarding interdepartmental and technology-based fields such as biotechnology, information communication technology, nanotechnology, material science, etc. A quantitative analysis was conducted to find important technology items for Taiwan 2020. The study findings took into consideration the 'technology aspect' such as 'Technical Feasibility for Taiwan 2020', the 'economic aspect' such as market scale factors including 'Demand in Taiwan Area', 'Global Demand', etc., the impacts and effects of the social aspects such as 'agriculture', 'industry', 'commerce', 'health', 'energy', 'environment', 'defense', 'consumer', etc., and whether 'development controversies' exist. A non-linear model was adopted in this research to convert the data into figures (note5) to derive at the technology items for Taiwan 2020 in order of importance: 'Rural Wireless Communications', 'Ubiquitous Information Access', 'Green Manufacturing', 'Cheap Solar Energy', 'Ubiquitous RFID Tagging', 'Resistant Textiles', 'Filters and Catalysts', 'Hybrid Vehicles', 'Hydrogen Vehicles', 'Electronic Transactions', etc.
(Author: Director of Biotechnology Industry Study Center, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research)
■ Annotations

1. Taiwan Institute of Economic Research's 'Foresight and Strategy Planning for Taiwan's Biotechnology Industry' undertakings as commissioned by Industrial Technology Research Institute began on May 1st, 2008 and ended on December 31st, 2008. NT$4,000,000 was allocated for the program. Work items pertaining to 'technology foresight and socioeconomic needs' in this research took up only 5% of the overall program undertakings.

2. Regarding the experts' opinion questionnaire survey design, the first question is related to Technical Feasibility for Taiwan 2020. The scorings are: '0' impossible; '1' possible; '2' definitely. The scorings for the remaining questions are: '1' 'Yes (or there are effects)' and '0' 'No (or there are no effects)'. Since it is virtually impossible for the experts to be familiar with all the 56 technology items of different fields or grasp sufficient information to make judgments', the author has designed a concise and simplified way to fill out the questionnaire. Even if that's the case, it took 3 hours for the experts to complete the questionnaire. Therefore, basing on the author's past experiences in execution undertakings, it was simply impossible to expect these experts to provide absolutely accurate information on the future technology items. For instance, although the Likert 5-point Scale helped obtain data of higher analytic values, the questions were difficult to answer. Similarly, when asked to assess the impact scope of the future technology items at departmental level, since there were both positive and negative effects and that the extent of the impacts varied, the experts also had a hard time answering this type of questions.

3. Since advancements in technological developments continue to take place, many new techniques are derived from knowledge integrations or fusions from different fields. The most difficult part of executing technology foresight program events lies in the production, identification, and classification of technical R&D items (or important R&D agendas) that suit the needs of nations of different customs and practices. With limited resources and time restraints, this research has quoted the English names, definitions, and descriptions of the 56 technology items (RAND, 2006) from fields of biotechnology, information telecommunication technology, nanotechnology, material science, etc., in accordance with the Report of The Global Technology Revolution 2020, In-Depth Analysis. Since RNAD Corp. is a think tank for the American military (i.e. The U.S. Department of Defense), some of the items are for military uses. In addition, in order to ensure 'consistency' in the experts' definitions of the 56 technology items, the names and definitions of the technology items are in Chinese and English for the experts as reference and basis when making judgments.

4. The 'important technology items' defined herein refer to the quantified opinions of the 56 technology item s. The technology items with 'the average plus a standard deviation' (approximate value: first 85%) are listed under the factoror department categories. Since the distributions of the experts' quantitative opinions in figures vary (i.e. the average and standard deviation vary), the figures for the first 85% under the factor or department categories also vary.

5. In terms of 'assessment in order of sequence', the weighted values of the factors including 'Technical Feasibility for Taiwan 2020', 'Demand in Taiwan Area', and 'Global Demand' are positive with higher weightings. On the other hand, the impacts and effects on 'agriculture', 'industry', 'commerce', 'health', 'energy', 'environment', 'defense', 'consumer', etc. also show positive weighted values but with lower weightings. As for considerations for 'Development Controversy', due to unfavorable developments in the technology items, the weighted value is negative and the weighting is relatively high.

■ References

1. Martin, B. (2008). Technology foresight – Some lessons from the UK and elsewhere. A Speech Delivery on the Trend of Technology Foresight & Conference on Technology Management International Journal Publication Strategies, Taipei City: Science & Technology Policy Research and Information Center National Applied Research Laboratories.

2. Silberglitt, R., Anton, P. S., Howell, D. R., Wong, A., Gassman, N., Jackson, B. A., Landree, E., Pfleeger, S. L., Newton, E., Wu, M. F. (2006), The global technology revolution 2020, In-depth analyses. CA: RAND.

3. Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (2008), Foresight and Strategy Planning for Taiwan's Biotechnology Industry, Taipei: Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

Appendix A Quantitative & Statistical Analysis of Experts' Opinions on Technology Foresight and Socioeconomic Needs
 

 
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