Futurists see opportunities in an ageing society


Lucerne, 12 July 2005. Europe's leading futurists and futures experts gathered for the first time in Lucerne for a symposium. At the European Futurists Conference Lucerne, 200 participants from 19 countries discussed new methods of perceiving and seizing the future as well as new findings in futures studies.

The theme of the conference centred on how Europe can shape its future: indeed, the futurists in Lucerne demonstrated without doubt that Europe's ageing and decreasing population is also concealing opportunities for growth. Due to increased savings, a low interest rate is emerging which is stimulating investment in research and development. A shrinking population also offers the possibility of redefining growth: from quantitative to qualitative growth. Increasingly, companies will also be relying on employees aged over 55.

The futurists proceed on the assumption that Europe is in the middle of a process of fundamental change which will radically alter the political and economic landscape over next 10 to 20 years. According to the Deutsche Bank's predictions, the national economies of India, Malaysia and China will grow by more than 5 percent a year by 2020, whereas growth in Europe - apart from a few exceptions - will achieve noticeably less than half this figure; with 0.7 percent, Switzerland was right at the bottom of all the countries examined.

All of this also leads to more a more considerate relationship with resources and the environment. A survey at the conference also revealed an optimistic picture for Europe's future, principally in respect of the environment and business. However, the futurists were rather sceptical with regard to Europe's role in world politics.
In view of the 20 million unemployed in the EU states, investment in the research and development of futuristic technologies, and investment in the education and further training of individuals will play a decisive role for the future of Europe. "However, we should not be deceived into believing that we can think our way into the future in a linear fashion based on the present", says Georges T. Roos, Managing Director of the conference.

Pero Micic, President of the Advisory Board of the European Futurists Conference Lucerne: "Futures research cannot take the place of business, politics and society in planning the future. However, it can assist in reducing the number of surprises in the future and cutting down the reaction times to changes."

Thanks to its systematic futures research, Siemens has therefore, for example, recognised that "people do not want a futuristic, technology-dominated future. Rather they want technology which is unobtrusively integrated into the environment and supports everyday living", says Heinrich Stuckenschneider, Head of Strategic Marketing at Siemens. For Siemens this is an important pointer for the development of new products.

The European Futurists Conference will be held annually in Lucerne. It is organised by Europe's leading futures institutes and supported by the city and canton of Lucerne, Swisscom Innovation and the Secretary of State for Education and Research.