Applied research makes utopias possible

Fridays for future and Thursdays for research? The contributions of applied research to “The great Transformation”.
Breakout Session #01 at the Technology Talks at Forum Alpbach 2021, sponsored by Forschung Austria

Fridays clearly belong to “Fridays for Future”, a movement that very well represents the urgency and global perspective for “the great transformation” especially in the field of climate change. If Fridays are dedicated to discussion on the climate future, Thursdays are reserved for research: A high-calibre panel with 40 participants on site and more than 200 digitally connected participants discussed objectives and approaches in applied research.

The experts confirmed the urgency and complexity of the topic: “We have to act now and quickly,” said moderator Siegfried Reich from Salzburg Research.

Research compass and disruptive innovation for resilient systems

There was unanimity on the goals: people with their needs must be in the foreground, technological research must not be an end in itself. It is also essential that research projects be interdisciplinary and scalable in order to lead to resilient states. This is not least because we are constantly learning and thus the target systems are also constantly changing. In this context, the importance of a common understanding of the goals was emphasised: a “normative compass” is needed so that everyone contributes to the same goals as far as possible.

In order to achieve the transformation quickly and with the necessary breadth, the call for disruptive innovations was voiced. “Leapfrogging”, i.e. skipping certain technology stages, was mentioned as a possible approach. Or also sharing instead of ownership, e.g. in relation to mobility. Opening organisational boundaries and innovation processes provides another important building block to quickly develop cross-cutting solutions and implement them in society. Finally, adequate financing is also important, especially for companies that need to be successful in the market.
Transformation only works if people are on board

In all of these questions, it was emphasised again and again that research on behaviour change is essential. We need more understanding of why people behave in a certain way and how this can be influenced if necessary, e.g. through nudging, through certain incentives and the like. The transformation will only work if we take people with us.

The current, positive momentum should be maintained! Applied research can help to make utopias possible. “We need the current optimism to support implementation,” summarised moderator Siegfried Reich.

The discussants

  • Moderator Siegfried Reich (Salzburg Research and Forschung Austria)
  • Gabriele Ambros (President of Forschung Austria)
  • Leonore Gewessler (Federal Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology)
  • Johannes Stangl (Fridays for Future Austria)
  • Stefan Lechtenböhmer (Professor at the Wuppertal Institute)
  • Alexander Ronacher (Head of Innovation Rosenbauer AG)
  • Brigitte Bach (COO Salzburg AG)
  • Katja Schechtner (MIT Research fellow)
  • Klaus Pseiner (Managing Director FFG)

v.l.n.r.: Alexander Ronacher, Johannes Stangl, Gabriele Ambros, Stefan Lechtenböhmer, Brigitte Bach, Katja Schechtner, Siegfried Reich, Klaus Pseiner (c) Andrei Pungovschi

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