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iKnow Project
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About the iKNOW project

iKnow is one of six Blue Sky foresight research projects funded by the European Commissions Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development (FP7) under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH) theme. The project is aimed at interconnecting Knowledge on issues and developments potentially shaking or shaping the future of science, technology and innovation (STI) in Europe and the world.


There is a general consensus that the kinds of issues addressed by iKnow have often remained out of the policy radar and so far have received little attention in forward-looking activities: the identification and analysis of Wild Cards and Weak Signals (WI-WE) and their effects on European and global science, technology and innovation (STI) policy.


  • Wild Cards are the kind of issues that can potentially shake our future.


  • Weak Signals relate to issues that are currently shaping it.


The outer ring of this image shows the 15 specific programmes
of the EC FP7 with the size representing the allocated funding,
e.g. €9,110 million for ICT research and €610 million
for social sciences and humanities (SSH) research.

Wild Cards are high impact and low perceived probability events (e.g. unexpected systems failures or sudden transformations resulting from breakthrough or incremental innovations). Wild Cards are often presented as negative events, such as the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States or the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. However, they can also be positive such as the discovery of penicillin by Fleming and, more recently, the failed treatment for angina that led to unexpected side effects of the now worldwide-commercialised Viagra.


Weak Signals are ambiguous events, often referred to as seeds of change, providing advance intelligence or hints about potentially important futures, including Wild Cards, challenges and opportunities. Weak Signals lie in the eye of the beholder and are generally influenced by the mental frameworks and subjective interpretations of individuals with limited information about emerging trends, developments or issues in a particular time and context. Their weakness is directly proportional to levels of uncertainty about their interpretations, importance and implications in the short-medium-to-long-term. Thus, Weak Signals are unclear observables warning us about the possibility of future game changing events.


Overall, iKnow has two interconnected objectives:

  • To develop and pilot conceptual and methodological frameworks to identify and analyse Wild Cards and Weak Signals (WI-WE); and
  • To assess the implications and impact of selected WI-WE on, science, technology and innovation (STI) and key dimensions of the European Research Area (ERA).


To do so, iKnow has used Foresight and Horizon Scanning (FHS) approaches to support the research and technology development (RTD) agenda associated with each objective.


  • Foresight is a systematic, participatory, prospective and policy-oriented process which, with the support of environmental and horizon scanning approaches, is aimed to actively engage key stakeholders into a wide range of activities anticipating, recommending and transforming (ART) technological, economic, environmental, political, social and ethical (TEEPSE) futures.
  • Horizon Scanning (HS) is a structured and continuous activity aimed to monitor, analyse and position (MAP) frontier issues that are relevant for policy, research and strategic agendas. The types of issues mapped by HS include new/emerging: trends, policies, practices, stakeholders, services, products, technologies, behaviours, attitudes, surprises (Wild Cards) and seeds of change (Weak Signals).


For further information, please contact Dr Rafael Popper


iKNOW Consortium

iKNOW has built an international and multi-disciplinary consortium. For further information about our team click here


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