The analysis completed in last November identified six fields with increasing weights that will have major impacts on the region until 2030: social polarisation, energy transition, remote and hybrid working, artificial intelligence in healthcare, the threat of cyberattacks and mental problems. Additional three trends were qualified as trends of critical significance. On behalf of Hungary, the researchers of the Corvinus University contributed to the project.
The Czech, Polish, Slovakian and Hungarian authors of the study examined the possibilities of navigating the transformation of the Visegrád countries (V4) toward a desirable sustainable future after the coronavirus epidemic. In the course of the research started in 2021 and completed in last November, a trend database was set up on the basis of the analysis of the literature, then 14 trends of key importance and 28 factors influencing the development of these trends were identified in 7 fields: geopolitics, economy, technology, environment, society, education, healthcare. Following that, the internal stakeholder groups of all four countries, as well as external future research experts of other European countries evaluated the impacts of the identified trends and factors on the sustainability of the V4 region. They used three different scenarios for the future of the EU, in which the strategic objectives of the EU are enforced to various extents. The objective was to work out collective answers and a list of recommendations for political decision-makers so that individual countries – by implementing the recommendations – could adapt to the new conditions, independently of external challenges, in the midst of efforts made for sustainable development.
In the course of the research, it was proved that 6 of the 14 trends would have a major impact on the V4 region until 2030, independently of the scenario considered: increasing polarisation of societies, accelerating energy transition, rising popularity of remote and hybrid working, spread of artificial intelligence in healthcare, increasing threat by cyberattacks, and more mental health issues. Three more trends were classified as trends of critical importance by the researchers: disinformation and the spread of conspiracy theories, persisting gap in quality of education between the V4 countries and better performing countries, and the deterioration of the rule of law.
‘From the aspect of formulating the Hungarian future, very important topics were raised in the research, and it would be advantageous to resort to international cooperation, too, in addition to internal resources in the management of these topics. The Hungarian researchers have already sent the political recommendations formulated as a result of the research to the Government and to the Presidium of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and presented the results at a conference’ – pointed out Éva Hideg, one of the participants of the project, researcher of the Corvinus University of Budapest, President of the Committee on Statistics and Future Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences regarding steps already taken in Hungary to utilise the results.
Recommendation packages to make the most of the trends
Sustainability can be achieved with policies and strategies that are suitable for reducing or stopping negative trends. Actually, the experts considered the negative trends influencing the sustainability of the V4 much stronger than the positive trends. They identified nine measures to fight the negative trends: for instance, improve the relation and the dialogue between policymakers and citizens, provide media delivering unbiased and authentic contents and diverse opinions to a wide range of audiences, and create education systems in which the development of critical thinking, social awareness and future orientation plays a key role..
In the study, separate recommendation packages were compiled for each trend to mitigate the negative aspects and utilise the positive features, but the following concept was emphasised: social, technological, economic and political innovations have to be implemented in an interconnected way, and all categories of stakeholders should be involved, from individuals to international cooperations. In relation to energy transition, the recommendations include, among others, the following: the involvement of households and individual users in the production of solar and wind energy with tax benefits and supports; for the mitigation of the increasing social polarisation, they would support companies offering products and services promoting social well-being; for the utilisation of the possibilities of remote and hybrid working, the regulation of the right to remote working and the elimination of social insurance obstacles within the whole EU.
Researchers propose a joint future creation programme
In addition to recommendations according to the trends, additional proposals were also identified: for instance, it would be useful if the V4 countries set up an inter-portfolio and interdisciplinary team to increase the sustainable development and innovation potential and to strengthen the positive impacts of professional recommendations, and to deal with the recovery after the coronavirus epidemic. In the authors’ opinion, the team could work out regional education policies, too, to promote future-oriented thinking, and could even create a joint future creation education programme, so that the culture of thinking and caring about the future would be present in political decision-making.
The study is the result of the research project titled ‘Emerging innovation pathways towards a post-COVID-19 recovery’. The project was partly financed by the International Visegrád Fund, and was implemented under the leadership of the 4CF strategic research institute in Poland and with the contribution of Czech Slovakian and Hungarian university researchers. On behalf of Hungary, Judit Gáspár, Éva Hideg and András Márton of the Corvinus University of Budapest took part in the research. The scientific publication detailing the results is not issued yet, but the summary and the professional material supporting policy-making is already available under the title of Lessons from the Pandemic: Potentials: Potentials for Radical and Sustainable Change in V4 region on the website of the project in English and in the languages of the V4 countries. Watch the 20-minute conference presentation in Hungarian about the key results of the research here.