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Nine Grand Challenges by the PROSPER Network

As the French Government is appointing a specialized Committee for marine, maritime and coastal research (COMER), whose initial work will focus on the role of research in the national strategy for the sea and the coast -that the Government intends to adopt in 2014-, it seemed useful to PROSPER Network to publicize the results of a foresight analysis, led in 2013, resulting in an original reference work for “renewing the way of thinking future issues related with the sea. “

In autumn 2012, the PROSPER Network attention was drawn to the great fragmentation of approaches to the marine field, poorly suited for the renewal of research topics from the past. Although awareness about the major interest of marine ecosystems for humanity as well as interstate conflicts for more strategic marine spaces, have been accelerating. Territorial conflicts in China Sea, the claim over Arctic seabed by different countries or negotiations on fishing quotas are examples.

This led the PROSPER Network, with the help of  Futuribles and the financial support of Ifremer , to undertake a comprehensive foresight exploratory study, which aims to review all future issues linking oceans and society in the time frame of  2030. The objective was to provide the scientific community, which should help by providing answers, with key global readings, allowing it to review the adequacy of its priorities on the basis of a renewed vision of major marine challenges.


An original approach

There are many studies about the oceans, seas and marine coasts, but they are most often addressed by discipline or challenge: climate change, living resources, mineral resources, biodiversity, pollution, maritime security, technological risks ... Very few of them deal with all these dimensions in a comprehensive and forward-looking vision of this space.

In this context, the PROSPER Network developed a framework for global thinking about marine issues rather than produce a new expert work  (for which it also had no legitimacy) ; enabling that framework to put into perspective all existing specialized work.

Thus, the originality of the PROSPER Network work is not in the production of new contents,  but in providing a container for everyone to put his knowledge about the sea in a systemic framework, giving a new meaning to this knowledge  and making it shareable with all stakeholders involved in marine issues, facilitating the opening of the debate on research priorities.

Download the file describing the working process


Structuring the foresight field

To build this framework of thought on marine issues, the PROSPER Network crossed two approaches: a comprehensive approach of social foresight (ie not linked to the sea), exploring trends, needs and expectations of the Society by 2030 through the compilation of main forward-looking world reports (UN, OECD ...) and an approach by areas of maritime activity, resulting from a segmentation used by “Les Assises de la mer” (National annual meeting, organized by the French Ministry involving all sea stakeholders).

Compiling world forward looking reports allowed to raise a list of global development trends, which have been reported into nine large social functions (to feed, to make safe, to dwell, to heal ...). For each of these social functions, we examined the impact of the identified global trends on the eleven areas of maritime activity retained.  Very detailed worksheets were synthesized into “foresight sheets”.

Download the Forward-looking exploration sheets


To allow an overview of this foresight research, a second stage of synthesis was produced in the form of a summary table. The nine social functions are in columns, the eleven areas of maritime activity are in lines. In each cell, a short wording summarizes what is in the corresponding foresight sheet.

The synoptic view provided by this table was used to explore the neighborhoods there might be between the different cells (or rather their differences), and show, by several trials, nine combinations referring to society Grand Challenges in connection with the sea by 2030.

Download the synthesis chart


PROSPER Network Nine Grand Challenges

The nine Grand Challenges thus defined have nothing innovative or revolutionary in itself all the ideas they contain have been made ​​at one time or another, in different contexts and by different actors.The value provided is based on the traceability of their construction and their readability within a systemic framework. A review of the synthesis chart shows that the nine Grand Challenges cover the entire field of foresight exploration and, at the same time, each one can read the foresight element sourcing the challenge.   This work is a checkable, improvable and usable material.

The goal of the PROSPER Network is also that all stakeholders involved in marine issues (not only researchers) download this study and make good use, each one within its own responsibilities.

In the work led by the PROSPER Network, each of these Grand Challenges was illustrated by two important issues for the future. These issues depict trends raising questions for the future that needs to be addressed today.

... Download the file describing the Grand Challenges and illustrating issues for the future


The Working Group

The work described here has been performed by a specific Working Group within the PROSPER Network.

Co-organizers :
Denis Lacroix (IFREMER), Véronique Lamblin (Futuribles), Bernard David (CEA)

Participants :
Nicolas de Menthière (IRSTEA), Halvard Hervieu (CGDD), Antoine Guigon (ONERA), Gilles Ragain (CNES), Emmanuelle Jannès-Ober (IRSTEA), Marie de Lattre-Gasquet (CIRAD), Françoise Potier (IFSTTAR).