mark o. SeLLentHIn's Interview

Interviewee
mark o. SeLLentHIn, ZWE - Centre for European Economic Research, Germany
Mini CV

Dr Mark O. Sellenthin is a researcher at the Department of Industrial Economics and Management at the Centre for European Economic Research ZEW and ERAWATCH network correspondent for Germany. He is primarily working with innovation research, European research policy, innovation policy and empirical economic research. From September 2000 to May 2006 he was researcher and PhD candidate at the Department of Technology and Social Change, Linköping University (Sweden). In his doctoral dissertation he analysed the impact of patent rights regimes on patenting behaviour of German and Swedish university researchers.

Interview result

Can you envision major wild cards (positive or negative) that may occur in the next 20 years and are particularly relevant to the EU research and/or may dramatically affect the ERA vision? What would be the impacts of these wild cards?

The financial sector still is not as stable as it was before the financial crisis, or as it should be. It could still be months or even years until appropriate regulations and actions to deal with problematic issues are implemented. Until then, a repetition of such a crisis could lever the whole European research policy and have vast impacts on a broad number of areas, such as science and technology.
Another major wild card might be the occurrence of a devastating environmental catastrophe in the area of the European Union, as just happened in the Gulf of Mexico. If such a disaster happened on our shores, this would have dramatic impacts on European societies and economics. A catastrophe similar to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill would even be more dramatic if it happened in the Mediterranean Sea, due to the geographic characteristics of this area. It would lead to extensive financial and economic problems for countries, such as Italy, Spain, etc., to cover the costs resulting from such
an environmental catastrophe. In such a grave case it would probably come to a "European solution", as occurred recently with the European support of Greece and Ireland. This would increase pressure on public budgets and ultimately on social and research policy.
As a last wild card I can mention the development of a medical cure for cancer. This wild card would have significant impacts, not only on health and wellbeing, but also on the economy, in particular on the pharmaceutical industry and companies developing cancer drugs. If this wild card occurred, it would no longer be about developing and providing a single "blockbuster", which is used in 90% of cases. but about focusing on certain niches and cancer types.

What are the weak signals that could hint at a growing likelihood of the wild cards that you mentioned?

There are currently too few transnational actions concerning the regulation of financial markets. Already we can observe that banks are again distributing high bonus payments to their managers, that profits of banks, which had to be supported by the governments, are increasing and that there is a reintroduction of the "casino and anything goes mentality" in the financial sector. All these factors might lead to a recurrence of the problems we had in 2008 and 2009.
Regarding some weak signals concerning the wild card "miracle cure against cancer", there are studies that highlight the importance of personalized medicine. These studies aim at developing diagnostic methods that analyse whether a pharmaceutical is well tolerated by a patient, or that decode and analyse the genome in order to develop an individually fitting pharmaceutical against cancer. Particularly in biotech it is observable that current research actions aim at the development of respective technologies. These actions hint at a probable breakthrough in this field, but not within the next ten years.

How should the wild cards be addressed by future research and in which field?

Concerning the wild card "reoccurrence of a financial crisis", the international financial market supervision has to be improved. It is not sufficient to take appropriate actions on a national level, e.g. by introducing isolated regulations for Germany or other European member states, as certain funds are not established in states with strong regulations of their financial markets. This transnational regulation actually corresponds to the ERA strategies, namely joint programming and transnational cooperation. With regards to the wild card "personalized medicine", there is already sufficient research and public funding in the field of biotechnology and personalised medicine. There is also no lack of appropriate research infrastructures or transnational research in this field. European research is well-placed.

Which of the wild cards you mentioned might have the highest relevance for the European Union and European research?

It is definitely the wild card "personalized medicine". This wild card might seriously enhance health and wellbeing in European societies, if not in the whole world. From an economic point of view, a European breakthrough in personalized medicine would have vast impacts on international competition in the pharmaceutical industry and would result in major competitive advantages for European biotech companies.

Interviewer (Institution)

Z_punkt is a consulting firm focusing on strategic future issues. We are experts in Corporate Foresight, i.e. in translating trend and future research into the real world of strategic management. We have been supporting the business community with Foresight Research and Foresight Consulting Services since 1997.

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