Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our World in 2025 - EU high-level foresight expert group

After one year of work, the European experts from the high-level foresight expert group on "The World in 2025" will present their results in Brussels on 24 September 2009. They have identified the main trends, tensions and transitions for the world by 2025. This forward-looking exercise has produced two publications: one collecting the expert individual contributions; and another which highlights the conclusions, called "The World in 2025 – Rising Asia and socio-ecological transition".

The report highlights the main trends, tensions and transitions of our world. One of them concerns the rise of Asia. By 2025, the world population will reach 8 billion of which 5 will live in cities and almost one third in slums. Some 97% of world population growth will occur in the developing countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. In 2025, nearly two thirds of the world population will live in Asia while the European Union will account for less than 7%. Without a significant inflow of immigrants, the European population will start to decline from 2012.

In terms of world production, the USA-EU-Japan trio will no longer dominate the world. The emerging and developing countries which accounted for 20% of the world's wealth in 2005 will account for 34% of it in 2025. The centre of gravity of world production will move towards Asia. Before 2025 China could become the second world economic power. The EU is no longer the first world exporter: Asia's share increases from 29% to 35% while EU exports decrease from 39% to 32%.

The reputation of western science and technology is on the wane. By 2025, the United States and Europe could lose their scientific and technological supremacy to Asia in the global innovation networks. India and China could account for approximately 20% of the world's R&D, i.e. more than double their current share. Asia will be the main destination for the location of business R&D.

In many crucial areas to Europe’s future welfare (energy saving technologies, research on sustainable development and climate change, health and the spreading of diseases, food safety, etc), it is the global access to such knowledge, the development of joint global standards and the rapid world-wide diffusion of such new technologies which is at stake.

It may be that we will move from today's 'brain drain' (mainly towards the United States and Western European countries) to a more balanced 'brain circulation' of young researchers between regions of the world. It has been estimated that 645000 Chinese students and 300000 Indian students will study abroad in 2025, a sign that these countries are gaining ground in the global knowledge area.

Towards a socio-ecological transition

Considering the increasing scarcity of natural resources (a potential 'oil peak' and 3 billion people lacking water by 2025) and the vulnerability of the planet (caused by potential Climate Change impacts), there will be increasing tensions between:

* production and consumption patterns;
* production/consumption patterns and natural resources (energy, halieutic, water, agricultural land, raw materials)

From these demographic and resource challenges, a new 'socio-ecological' production and consumption model will have to be reinvented. New technologies (renewable energy sources, capture and storage of CO2, nuclear power and hydrogen and fuel cells) as well as changes in social behaviour, supported by economic incentives can contribute to a drastic reduction in energy consumption (better house insulation, replacement of cars, increased use of public transport).

For an improved use of Forward looking activities

Forward looking approaches help in building shared visions of the future European challenges and evaluating the impacts of alternative policies. A qualitative and participatory method ("Foresight") combined with quantitative and operational method ("Forecast") allows better long-term policies like the post 2010 European strategy and the European research and innovation policies to develop. Through its 7th RTD Framework Programme, Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities theme, the European Union is funding Forward looking activities with around € 30 million.

The final Seminar of the high-level foresight expert group on "The World in 2025" will take place on 24th September 2009 at the Charlemagne building, (Room Sicco Mansholt) from 9:00 a.m. (see programme).
José Manuel Silva Rodríguez, Director-General of DG Research of the European Commission, will open the seminar. The main trends, tensions, transitions and possible next steps will be presented.

The Swedish presidency's interest was arouse by the results of this research work on "The World in 2025" and the presidency has decided to present these results to the Competitiveness Ministers, to Commissioners and to Members of the European Parliament at a special Ministerial seminar .

Find out more about:
- Synthetic document on "The World in 2025"
- Expert's individual contributions on "The World in 2025"