Concept Symposium 2012: Valuing the future - Public Investments and Social Return

– 20th - 21st September 2012


The Concept Symposium 2012 was held on 20-21 September 2012. The 5th symposium focused on how to assert and assess the social return of public investment projects, and the sustainability of net benefits over time.


All presentations Concept Symposium 2012 now available!


In this Symposium the focus was on the investment and its outcome and long term effects, rather than the more restricted view on the project and its design and implementation. Ex ante estimation and Ex post evaluation of the social return of investment were highlighted this year. The key question however, was still on governance: How can we assure that the most viable investment project is chosen?

There are numerous methodological challenges. On the one hand, the assumption is that Benefit-Cost analysis will give adequate indication at an early stage whether society’s appreciation of the investment is likely to outweigh the costs. On the other hand, many would maintain that long term effects (such as climatic effects on future generations), are not adequately captured by traditional analysis. Economic spill-over effects from transport infrastructure to industries and society is another example of methodological challenge. And finally, economic analysis no doubt needs to be complemented with other types of analyses in order to capture the combined sorts of social return of investments.

The Norwegian Government appointed early 2011 an advisory panel of experts to assist the Ministry of Finance develop and improve the methodological framework for Benefit-Cost Analysis of public investments. It is a fast-track committee with a broad mandate, which will draw on both national and international research and experience. The report will be presented to the Ministry of Finance and was scheduled for 2nd October 2012.

The approach to the symposium topic was threefold: (1) the methodology, (2) appraisal and evaluation practices, and (3) work experience and lessons learned. All speakers were asked to present real case stories and examples to illustrate their points. As a special case, the symposium drew attention to how long term and irreversible investments, and investments which might cause significant changes in society are evaluated up-front. (For example high-speed rail, new energy systems, transport infrastructure in a regional development perspective etc.). 

This event was organized by the Concept Research Program at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Program Committee 2012:

  • Christophe Bredillet, Centre for Advanced Studies & Research in Project, Programme, and Portfolio Management  

  • Tom Christensen, University of Oslo 

  • Hans Georg Gemünden, TU Berlin 

  • Kåre Petter Hagen, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration 

  • Brian Hobbs, University of Quebec at Montreal 

  • Kim Forss, Andante – tools for thinking AB 

  • Mary McKinlay, APM / ICCPM / Mary McKinlay Projects Ltd 

  • Ralf Müller, BI Norwegian Business School

  • Peter Morris, University College of London 

  • Victor Norman, Norwegian School of Economics 

  • Petter Næss, Aalborg University 

  • Steinar Strøm, University of Oslo 

  • Janice Thomas, Athabasca University