Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

EFP Brief No. 239: Corporate Foresight – A Delphi Study

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The purpose of this paper is to provide new impetus to the design of strategy and innovation processes in companies. Its intention is to contribute to the discussion of methods of future studies and thereby to increase the practical relevance of future research in businesses. To this end, the specific requirements that these methods have to meet in order to be applicable in companies are presented and recommendations given both for companies and the profession of future research.


Looking into the Future: Methods of Future Studies

In every business, there is the need to gain insight into future trends to be able to respond to forthcoming challenges, but it is impossible to identify such trends without attempting to look into the future. As fantastic as it may seem, the application of the methods of future studies actually makes this look into the future possible. However, the use of the methods is often perceived as incompatible with the current workflow. Therefore, this study is primarily concerned with the question of how the methods of future studies can be best applied in business environments.


Making Strategy Processes More Profitable

The paper intends to give impetus to the discussion about methods both in the discipline of future studies and in businesses considering the specifics of future studies when applied to the business context. The main goal is to set the stage for improvements of the methodological quality of future studies when applied to businesses and to increase the relevance of future studies to businesses. It aims to supplement the discussion of methods in future research and thereby increase the practical relevance of future research in business. These requirements can serve decision-makers in companies and research to plan and evaluate the methods used to make strategy processes more profitable and efficient.


Methodological Background of Delphi

The methodology of this study consisted of a literature analysis, an empirical study and the deduction of theoretical and practical implications. The first step to answer the research questions was to examine the theoretical and conceptual background by means of a literature review. Subsequently, an empirical survey in the form of a preliminary and a main study was carried out. The preliminary study consisted of 15 expert interviews. Then a Delphi study was conducted in two rounds. The results of the empirical survey served to derive the requirements that the methods of future studies would have to meet in companies. Recommendations, both for the discipline of future studies and for companies, on how the methods can be modified so as to meet those requirements were described. The research project was based on the mixed-methods approach with an emphasis on qualitative research. In the preliminary and the main study, different qualitative methods were used. In the main study, quantitative data and qualitative data were triangulated.


Participants of the Study

A total of 204 experts were invited to participate in the study. Of those invitees, 58 took part in the first round of the consultation and 35 in the second round; 32 participants completed the entire survey. The experts chosen to participate in the survey were required to have wide experience in the use of methods of future studies in businesses. The goal was to involve experts with diverse professional backgrounds. Some experts had an academic background in areas of future studies and innovation management, some came from strategy and innovation departments of both SMEs and global corporations, and others from a background in management consulting and research and development departments.

Problems and Requirements in Applying Methods

The empirical results show that there are specific challenges in applying the methods of future studies in businesses. The methodological design and the implementation of the methods often prove to be difficult. Among the reasons for these problems are lack of knowledge, processes that take too long, limited human and financial resources as well as difficulties in communicating the results. The identification of these problem areas made it possible to derive a set of requirements that the methods of future studies have to meet so as to be applicable to businesses: they have to be easily learnable, transparent, motivational and easily communicable. Further, measurability, the capability to tie in with other methods, the scalability of the method and possibilities for collaboration are important.

Learnability, Transparency and Transferability

The methods have to be learnable with reasonable effort at different skill levels because there is often a lack of methodological knowledge in business settings and a knowledge gap between different hierarchical levels. The results of this study also show that there is not only a lack of knowledge about the necessary methodological steps but also uncertainty about the potential insight to be gained by applying the methods. Therefore, both the concepts of the methods applied and the ways in which they can be implemented have to be transparent. It is further necessary that the methods can be transferred both to and from other fields of application. This need arises from the ever-expanding range of methods, from limited human resources and from the diverse intentions that can motivate the use of the methods.

Motivational Potential, Communicability and Evaluation

The empirical data point to difficulties in motivating the people involved. Since it is crucial to produce and maintain motivation, the methods should satisfy the criteria of being motivational. The communicability of methods is also central in the corporate context. The study shows that there is scepticism about the discipline of future studies and its methods that needs to be addressed. Successful communication can also help to avoid false expectations, which otherwise are often perceived as serious obstacles. Another requirement is the measurability of the process and the outcome. The need arises because many experts believe that it is impossible to verify the outcome of the methods based on “hard data”. The results of the study show that many experts for this reason emphasise the value of the process itself.

Scalability, Flexibility and Collaboration

The empirical data show that the period for the implementation and evaluation of the methods is often perceived as being too long. This suggests that there is a need for temporal scalability. The length of the implementation period, and thus the costs, must be adaptable to the actual situation of the companies. Further, the methods should allow for joint implementation since knowledge from within the company has to be extracted and made explicit. The study reveals hurdles in this process; the involvement of all stakeholders is perceived to be difficult. An essential point of concern is the complexity of the research object, which requires that the chosen methods can be combined. The empirical evidence suggests that stakeholder participation is already used by many, but the potential is not yet exhausted in some places.


Overcoming Hurdles through a Joint Process of Methods Development

The study revealed a number of problem areas in the use of the methods. These problems can only be solved through a joint effort on part of the profession of future research and the companies. Focusing on methods only may prevent us from perceiving the limitations but also the opportunities in applying them in certain settings or situations. Therefore, the use of the methods can only be improved if we consider the specific requirements of the companies in question. On the other hand, looking at the operational procedures in a company only may in turn prevent the emergence of new perspectives. Concentration on daily routines may lead to ignorance of the world outside the company and therefore to missing new opportunities.

A joint process of developing and adapting methodology could result in devising methods capable of transferring and integrating knowledge and research results about the future instead of creating an abstract “methodology of future research”. The study allowed to derive suggestions for a potentially successful joint working process.


How Can the Hurdles Be Overcome?

The members of the profession need both strong methodological and excellent teaching skills to facilitate the learning of the methods. The methods of future research should be taught in different contexts: in higher education as well as in vocational training and further education programs at various skill levels. Companies should identify the knowledge gaps of their employees in order to address these specifically. In order to achieve transparency, it is necessary to disclose the processes involved and the criteria used for choosing a particular method. To satisfy this requirement in a company, it is possible to focus on internal transparency so that internal company knowledge does not have to be exposed to outsiders.

Practitioners of future studies need to be proficient in interdisciplinary and interface skills to promote the transfer of methods both from and to other fields of application. In addition, an intensive exchange between future studies, related disciplines and companies is very important. Expert knowledge about motivation is needed to motivate those involved in the use of future studies methods. Both the profession of future studies and the companies have to recognise the importance of motivation for the methodological process. Further, companies should enhance social and career-enhancing incentives to motivate employees involved in foresight processes.

The basis for the successful communication of the methods is a high level of expertise and communication skills of the practitioners of future studies. This includes both verbal communication itself and communication about communication formats. In addition, the professional management of expectations and individual communication concepts are important in dealing with stakeholders in the company.

Knowledge about evaluation concepts as used in the profession of future studies is necessary to be able to assess and measure the outcome. Reviewing the steps taken should be a natural part of every project. To be able to do so, businesses need to make structural adjustments such as define responsibilities and plan a budget for foresight processes. To make sure that methods can tie in with each other, it is necessary to be open to experimentation, extend the combination of methods and also to evaluate systematically.

For the profession of future studies this means that methodological approaches have to be extended with a focus on both internal and external methods of triangulation to create meaningful combinations of methods. In order to make sure that the methods can be implemented collaboratively, existing methodological concepts have to be expanded. Possibilities to collaborate
should be integrated in methods that have been unsuitable for collaboration so far.

Solid knowledge of project management is essential to be able to assure the temporal scalability of the methods. Therefore, practitioners of future studies need to be able to acquire such knowledge during their training. The profession should also actively participate in the discussion of how to adapt the time scale of the methods. A key aspect to improve the handling of methods could be the application of appropriate software solutions.


Limits and Areas in Need of Further Research

Whether such a thing as methods of future studies even exists is an issue that is still discussed controversially within the discipline of future studies. The lack of a scientific consensus both on the methodological canon and the classification of methods is responsible for the fact that this study could only provide a limited view on the application of methods of future studies in companies. It is impossible to presume that all participants of the preliminary and the main study would share a common understanding of the term “methods of future research”. Therefore, the range of existing methods is only inadequately presented and quantified.

The sample of this study is subject to restrictions: the fact that the participating experts were selected with a focus on their experience in strategy and foresight processes may potentially distort the picture. The reality of those companies that do not deal with strategy at all is not represented in this study either; hence the need for further research. The companies’ reasons for having only little contact with future studies or no contact at all have to be understood. This would be an addition to the results of the present study and might reflect even better on the individual perspectives of different protagonists.

Download EFP Brief No. 239_Corporate Foresight – A Delphi Study.


Sources and References

Ambacher, N. (2012): “Corporate Foresight – A Delphi study on the use of methods of future research, taking into account the needs of industry and research”, Master’s thesis at the Free University of Berlin, Berlin

For more information about the study and its results, please visit the project website:

EFP Brief No. 233: A Foresight Approach to Reshape Bogota’s Food Supply and Security Master Plan

Friday, December 21st, 2012

This forward looking exercise suggests a new approach to better structure Bogota’s fruit, vegetable and tuber supply chain by reviewing and reinforcing certain strategies stated in the Food Supply and Security Master Plan (FSSMP) in order to promote actions by the public sector and the stakeholders involved in this supply chain.

Food Supply at Affordable Prices

Bogota’s fruit, vegetable and tuber supply chain involves multiple actors, business models and interests, which are not yet aligned and can hardly be coordinated without both public and private involvement. In 2003, the City of Bogotá commissioned the CPTCIPEC Consortium to conduct a diagnostic study of the food supply chain system and the nutrition of the city’s inhabitants. This study served as input to the Food Supply and Security Master Plan (FSSMP) in 2006. From a nutritional perspective, it identified significant gaps in the intake of some foods, in particular fruits and vegetables, compared to an ideal diet. Concerning the operation of the supply system, it suggested eliminating massive product loss along the supply chain to increase the offer of these foods and reduce the number of middlemen in food markets as a means of lowering prices and making the products more affordable to the general public.

Logistics and Virtual Trade Platforms to Increase Food Supply

The FSSMP suggested the creation of a new food supply system that facilitates direct exchange among producers and retailers. The new organisation would be bolstered by introducing a virtual trade platform for products, a regional network of food consolidation centres and five logistics platforms in Bogota whose main role would be to facilitate cross-docking operations rather than product storage. Therefore, the FSSMP suggested to undertake efforts to establish groups of producers (supply) and retailers (demand) and advance the design and construction (or implementation) of a logistics and e-commerce platform. Despite all efforts, it has been difficult to convince producers and retailers to shift from traditional supply chains to the new scheme proposed in the FSSMP.

A Foresight Approach to Review FSSMP Strategies

New advances in logistics strategy and the first results of implementing the FSSMP show a lack of effectiveness of the strategies originally stated. Therefore, the current study reviewed the initial statements in the FSSMP based on a foresight approach. The foresight methodology used in this study consisted of five stages: pre-foresight, recruiting, generation, action and renewal (Miles, 2002; Popper, 2008b). First, the Master Plan served as input to define the objectives and scope of the exercise. Then, stakeholders and their relationships were identified. Later, system dynamics (SD) was used to model product, information and money flows along the fruit, vegetable and tuber supply chain.

As a result, two scenarios, for five products, are presented that discuss actions by the public sector and reactions to be expected throughout the whole food supply system. Finally, these outcomes are compared to the Master Plan’s objectives and some recommendations are made to improve its implementation. For this exercise, we consulted 247 market storekeepers, 15 experts in the production and trade of fresh products and urban logistics, 5 industry experts, personnel from the Corporación Colombia Internacional (CCI – the trade association of tomato, banana and plantain farmers), 5 managers from the Secretaria de Desarrollo Económico (SDDE) and researchers from MIT-CTL. More specifically, the stakeholders identified in the fruit, vegetable and tuber supply chain are represented in Figure 1:

System Dynamics Inputs: Material, Financial & Information Flows

The metrics of the SD model, such as flows, costs and prices, were defined from secondary sources such as regional and national studies, statistics, polls and governmental reports. Initially, the FSSMP included only material flows and nine scenarios that focused on identifying capacity problems in production, transport, distribution and inflows to Bogota. However, the new SD model developed in this study went further by including, to some extent, the flow of products, money and information of the five most important products (bananas, oranges, potatoes, plantains and tomatoes) in the fruit, vegetable and tuber supply chain.

Material Flow

The actors, represented in boxes, exchange food products. They will send – or ask for – a greater quantity of products through a certain channel depending on supply, demand, prices and costs (Figure 2). Every actor’s purchase and sales prices are determined by adding the previous actor’s costs per unit sold, fixed costs, variable costs, waste costs and expected monthly profit.

Financial Flow

The cash flows represented are costs of transportation, costs of distribution, costs of selection and prices. In addition, delays are depicted as money flows from purchases of middlemen, stores, wholesalers and supermarkets, which are paid in cash (Figure 3). Half of the money from wholesalers’ purchases is given at the moment of product delivery while the remaining half is due one month later. Supermarkets apply a 90-days payment policy to their suppliers, which means that total payment is completed three months after receiving the product.

Information Flow

We observed an exchange of information among stakeholders before the pricing point (represented by a dotted line in Figure 4). There is an exchange of information about purchase prices with the producers, on the one hand, while sales price information flows to the actors forward in the supply chain, on the other. The interaction of actors after price formation produces flows in two senses: information on demand that goes to wholesalers and logistics platforms and information on sales prices that goes to stores and customers.

Scenarios of Producers’ and Storekeepers’ Associations

After identifying these three flows that affect the supply chain under study and including them in the new SD model, eleven new scenarios were defined, but only four were elaborated in the SD model. However, in this work we present only two scenarios for the top five products in order to show the impact of storekeepers’ and producers’ associations. A set of variables in the SD model (tables 1 and 2) was grouped in the following categories: flow changes in distribution channels and variations in product volume, profits and prices. Thus, the model was run to observe the behaviour of these variables for the five selected products.

The first scenario measured the impact of producers’ associations on the supply system (Table 1). It revealed a reduction of transportation costs due to better use of transportation capacity, a wider distribution of products’ consolidation costs since they are divided among all producers and an increase in productivity because producers’ orders are centralised. The producers’ association scenario presents favourable results for the various variables along the supply chain for bananas, oranges and potatoes. However, the variables for plantains and tomatoes show no changes, which is explained by the fact that producers of these products generate enough profits to organise transportation to forward actors in the chain on their own.

The second scenario measured the impact of storekeepers’ associations on the supply chain (Table 2). In this scenario, there are cost reductions in the selection and distribution of products and reductions in sales prices across all five products sold by storekeepers to customers. The main obstacle to achieving an association of storekeepers is the creation of a scheme for stores that allows an agent to delegate the process of sorting fruits and vegetables to the storekeepers selling the products to the final consumers.

Reshaping FSSMP Strategy to Anticipate the Future

This forward looking exercise allowed the SSDE to better understand and implement the FSSMP. The two main scenarios depicted here as well as the SD model for the five products show, to some extent, the relationship between the actors, their interaction, and the structure and performance of Bogotá’s food supply system. The limitations of the model suggest that the food supply in Bogota cannot be studied without considering demand in the rest of the country or the economic feasibility of production. The following conclusions were drawn from the outcomes of this exercise:

1) The priority for products such as bananas and plantains should be to increase production to supply the city instead of reducing prices. The models reveal that the production of these two foods is quite low compared to demand. Nevertheless, food supply of the city should not be considered isolated from demand in the rest of the country.

2) Middlemen and wholesalers do produce value especially in case of products and trade channels with low trade volumes. The study showed that direct supply from producers to stores is more expensive than when other actors are involved. Higher costs arise because of the additional work involved in selecting the products required to replenish the stores. A detailed analysis showed that the cost gap between direct channels and other channels results from the selection costs incurred by stores when
buying directly from producers and from the size of the purchase order to be managed by the seller in-house.

3) Prices tend to even out between different channels. A balance of prices sets in because producers, looking for higher profits, will attempt to supply the channel that represents the highest profit, increasing the products offered through the respective channel. As a result, we can expect this not only to encourage a reduction in prices in this channel but also to reduce or increase existing shortages of products and costs in the other channels accordingly.

In order to reinforce the strategies and recommendations stated in the initial FSSMP and respond to the reality of food supply in Bogota, it is highly recommended

1) to acknowledge the diversity of stakeholders along the supply chain and develop operational or contractual schemes that allow to align efforts and deal with risks;

2) to tackle problems in the fruits and vegetables supply chain by individual product since each product responds to different dynamics of supply and demand;

3) to further develop and improve the SD model as a tool to collect and analyse information regarding the food supply system and further pursue the different research initiatives to accomplish the objectives stated in the Food Supply and Security Master Plan (FSSMP).

Download EFP Brief No. 233_Reshaping Bogota’s Food Supply and Security Master Plan.

Sources and References

Alimenta Bogota Program (2009a): Plan Maestro de Abastecimiento – SDDE. Recuperado el 17 de Febrero de 2011, de Plan Maestro de Abastecimiento – SDDE:

Bogota Program (2009b); Biblioteca | Caracterizaciones. Recuperado el 18 de Febrero de 2011, de Plan Maestro de Abastecimiento:

Miles, I. (2002): Appraisal of Alternative Methods and Procedures for Producing Regional Foresight.

Popper, R. (2008b): How are foresight methods selected? Foresight 10 (6): 62-89.

EFP Brief No. 224: Technology Radar: Early Recognition of New Business Fields in Future Markets

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

New technologies are changing the market. All the more important it is for a company not to miss any relevant future technology. In the years 2009 and 2010, a global German high technology company used the support of the FutureManagementGroup AG to identify the ten most important emerging technologies in each of its four business units. The technologies should lie outside the current core technologies. The goal of the project was the early recognition of future markets in these technologies. For this purpose, we used a broad toolset in accordance with the Eltville Model of future management.

Future Management

The FutureManagementGroup AG (FMG), founded in 1991, is an international group of experts specialised in future management and the early recognition of opportunities in future markets. Using the “Eltville Model” and various future management methods and tools, we built a methodological bridge from management practice to futures research and back to daily business. Future management comprises the entirety of all systems, processes, methods and tools for early perception and analysis of future developments and their inclusion in strategy.


Figure 1: Future management as a bridge

Future management makes it easier, and in many cases possible at all, to use the results of futures research as a resource for orientation and inspiration in a business context.

The Five Futures Glasses

We use the “Eltville Model”, which offers a set of five distinctive and clear views on the future. We call them “the five futures glasses”. Each of the five futures glasses has its own specific characteristics, principles and modes of thinking:

  • The blue futures glasses look at the probable future → assumption analysis.

The guiding question is: How will our market(s), work and living environments change in the next five to ten years?

  • The red futures glasses look at possible surprises in the future → surprise analysis.

The guiding question is: How should we prepare for possible surprising events and developments in the future?

  • The green futures glasses look at the creatable future → opportunity development.

The guiding question is: Which opportunities for new markets, products, strategies, processes and structures will arise from these changes?

  • The yellow futures glasses look at the desired future → vision development.

The guiding question is: What does our company need to look like in five to ten years time in the sense of a strategic vision?

  • The violet futures glasses look at the planned future → strategy development.

The guiding question is: How do we need to design our strategy to realise the strategic vision?

The five futures glasses form the process model of the Eltville  Model. You cannot wear all five futures glasses at the same time or the future will remain unclear and confusing. You need to put your different futures glasses on one after the other to form a effective working process.

The second essential component of the Eltville Model is the results model, a semantic network of objects of thought that are used (future factors, assumptions, surprises, opportunities etc.)

The Eltville Model has been developed through research and in more than a thousand workshops and projects with leading corporations as well as with non-profit organisations around the world. It is a unique model that consistently resolves the confusion concerning the future, creates clarity and provides a productive way of working with sound insights and results.

Looking for Amazing Technologies

The most important goal of the project was to identify “amazing technologies” outside a client’s current capabilities but with a potentially high impact on the existing business of the client. We were asked to evaluate the exact relevance of these technologies for the client’s business to deduce new market opportunities of these technologies and evaluate their potential.

Our solution to accommodate these needs was a “future business radar”. The focus was on the blue futures glasses (assessment of technologies) and the green futures glasses (development of opportunities). Less focus had been given to the yellow futures glasses (assessment of opportunities and decision, which opportunities should be pursued). Not included were the violet futures glasses: With the completion of the project, the business units have individually taken responsibility for developing the strategy to enter the future markets that were identified as relevant to their business.

Technology Radar: the Project Process

Function Maps

After the definition of the project goals and the project timeline, the first step was the analysis of functions delivered by the four business units. In contrast to a product or a solution, a function describes the effects that a product is actually bought for. Questions to think about to identify the functions of a product are:

  • What is it that your customers actually pay for when they purchase your product?
  • What is the actual use that your customers would like to obtain from your product?

Concentrating on the functions opens up completely new business opportunities even for the combination of products with other products from outside the current portfolio. Functions can be described at three levels:

  1. Super-functions: Functions that are indirectly fulfilled by a product or service, for example through integration into other products (e.g. personal mobility in case of all automotive parts)
  2. Primary functions: Core functions of a product or service for which it was invented. The main reason for its existence (e.g. sealing).
  3. Secondary functions: Additional functions the product or service fulfils beyond its core use. They often are the decision criteria of customers if several products can fulfil the primary functions reasonably well (e.g. convenience, cost saving).


Figure 2: Levels of functions

The relevant functions were developed in a workshop with the project team consisting of representatives of all business units and enhanced through independent analysis by FMG. The functions were then transferred to visual maps, reviewed by the business units and jointly further developed by FMG and the project team.

Long List of Technologies:
Which Ones Are Potentially Relevant?

The long list of technologies was developed from extensive secondary research. All technologies that are described in current literature as emerging and/or as gaining importance in the future where considered for the long list. The single selection criterion for inclusion in the long list was the existence of a conceivable relation to a single function of one of the business units. The connection of a technology to a function is a valid indicator for its potential relevance. It shows that the technology can change the way in which the function is performed in the future. It can provide new solutions and products as well as change business models, thus changing value creation in the market. A total of 180 potentially relevant technologies have been identified.

An important source in the desk research was the FMG-FutureNet, a semantic database of futures knowledge. It is a knowledge network, modelled on the human brain, in which items of future information are saved and linked. We structure the available future knowledge and evaluate, summarise, substantiate and meaningfully link the individual items of futures information. In addition, we add information gained in our projects. As a result, the FMG-FutureNet has become a unique database of future markets.

For the technology radar project, we additionally evaluated websites, studies, books and magazines.

Short Lists of Technologies:
Evaluation of Technologies

The technologies from the long list were evaluated along two criteria: “impact on industry” and “reasonable time horizon”. The initial evaluation was done by representatives from the business units on a 9-point scale. A second evaluation was performed by FMG leading to some technologies with low rankings to be reconsidered. After a structured discussion process, each business unit selected ten technologies for deeper analysis. In total 32 different technologies were analysed and the results summarised in technology briefings.

Identification of Future Market Opportunities

A future market is a solution for important future problems or desires of certain people that develops or will generate significantly more revenue in the future. Examples of future markets include augmented reality glasses for smartphone users, robots that carry luggage and equipment for the military, or affordable space tourism for adventure travellers. The difference between a future market and a future trend or future technology is that one can additionally imagine which concrete solution people would actually be prepared to pay for and how you can make a profit out of it.

Future market opportunities were developed through analytical and creative thinking, including input like future factors and methods like meta-opportunities, which we would like to introduce here briefly.

Future factors are trends, issues and technologies that act as the driving forces of future change and allow us to collect knowledge about the future. They are based on existing knowledge of experts and futurists on possible and probable future developments. Future factors give indications on what, why and how the future is changing. Two types of future factors are important for the early recognition of future markets:

  1. Future factors in nature, society, business and politics that change the needs of end consumers. Examples are climate change, feminisation, entrepreneurisation, flexibilisation or globalisation
  2. Future factors in technology and science that will change processes and methods as well as products, services and solutions. Examples are nanotechnologies, dematerialisation, informatisation, micro-system technology, robotics or neurotechnologies.

Future factors primarily represent the view through the blue futures glasses but can also be used as a technique to support creative thinking. This is especially fruitful when future factors have no direct relation to the client’s industry.

Meta-opportunities are repetitive patterns that are recognisable in many future opportunities. These patterns are recipes and shortcuts for opportunity recognition. They illustrate models of best-practice thinking and stimulate the search for opportunities. Through the use of meta-opportunities, productivity and the value of opportunity development can be increased considerably.

Subsequently, the identified and developed future market opportunities were set in relation to the business units and to the functions fulfilled by the business units in particular. In addition, the technologies were analysed for the interrelations among each other. From 98 raw future market opportunities, ten were selected for each business unit to be described in a short portrait. The criterion of choice was the estimated market potential. The selected future markets were described following four main questions:

  1. Which problem is solved? Which desire is fulfilled?
  2. What is the solution?
  3. Whom is the solution delivered to?
  4. How is the solution special?

Finally, the time horizon of the future markets was evaluated from a technical and a demand perspective; the markets were classified in terms of their distance from current capabilities.

A Strong Case for Function-based Technology Assessment

An important goal of the project was not to miss any relevant technology. This was ensured by an overview scan and the analysis of the results of futures research concerning the emergence and further development of new technologies. Simultaneously, the technology radar served as a future business radar, as it identified the most promising future markets that lie in the most important technologies. Out of 180 technology candidates that were included in the long list, we created 41 differentiated and in-depth future market portraits.

The project has shown how function-based technology assessment can contribute to identify relevant technologies outside current competencies and businesses – an essential requirement to recognise potentially profitable future markets.

The most promising of the recognised future markets needed to be explored in more detail. Future markets can only be considered as realistic if there are enough arguments for their future market potential. Therefore, the next step for each business unit was to do detailed future markets research for selected markets. The future


Figure 3: Map of results

markets research provides a solid analysis of market prospects, key challenges and possible business models. It thus allows sound investment decisions for the development of a future market.

Authors: Enno Däneke   

Stefan Schnack

Sponsors: A German high technology company
Type: Sectoral forward-looking analysis
Organizer: FutureManagementGroup AG, Eltville, Germany
Enno Däneke,
Duration: 2009 – 2010
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2020
Date of Brief: July 2012

Download: EFP Brief No. 224_Technology Radar Eltville

Sources and References

Mićić, Pero (2010): The Five Futures Glasses: How to See and Understand More of the Future with the Eltville Model. Houndsmill, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave McMillan.

Mićić, Pero (2007): Phenomenology of Future Management in Top Management Teams. Leeds: Metropolitan University.

Mićić, Pero (2006): Das ZukunftsRadar. Die wichtigsten Trends, Technologien und Themen für die Zukunft, Offenbach: GABAL-Verlag.

For further information on future management, the Eltville Model and the Five Futures Glasses, please visit:


EFP Brief No.196: Agrimonde

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

The brief describes the methodology and conclusions of a foresight project called Agrimonde. Between 2006 and 2008, this project gathered a panel of French experts who built two contrasting scenarios of the world’s food and agricultural systems by 2050: Agrimonde GO, a business-as-usual scenario used as a reference point, and Agrimonde 1, a rupture scenario exploring a world that has been able to implement sustainable food production and consumption.

Food Security Issues Back at the Forefront

The future of global agricultural and food systems is today at the heart of numerous intertwining debates. They stem from the increasingly widespread certainty that the continuation of current trends in food consumption and production is unsustainable and that radical changes in behaviour, policies and technologies are necessary (MA 2005, World Bank 2008, IAASTD 2009). Three trends now appear inevitable: 1) the (still) fast growth of the world’s population, 2) climate change, and 3) the increasing scarcity and rising prices of fossil fuels. In view of these trends, several studies have warned of a possible stagnation of yields in various crops (IAASTD 2009), and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) has highlighted the deterioration of ecosystems and the consequent threats to the multiple services that they render to humanity (MA 2005). Besides structural trends, the threat of food riots, re-occurring as a result of the current price volatility and the possible impacts of competition between food and biofuel production, have brought food security issues to the forefront.

Undernourishment figures confirm the seriousness of the situation. Indeed, after declining at the end of the 1970s, the number of undernourished people started to rise again in the mid-1990s and has now reached approximately 1 billion (FAO 2010).

The issue being raised again is that of a possible structural tension between the potential growth of food production and the increase in the demand for agricultural products, driven by economic and demographic growth, changing diets and the growing need for alternative sources of energy.

The Agrimonde Project

Between 2006 and 2008, responding to an initiative of CIRAD and INRA, the two main French agricultural research institutions, a panel of French experts developed a project called Agrimonde with the goal to build and analyse contrasting scenarios of the world’s food and agricultural systems by 2050. The project’s objectives were threefold: 1) to anticipate the key issues research will have to address; 2) to initiate a process of debates and appropriation of the topics on a national scale; 3) to promote the participation of French experts in international debates on food security issues.

Qualitative Storylines and Quantitative Modelling Used in an Interactive Way

Drivers for the evolution of food and agriculture are extremely diverse and numerous. To cope with this complexity, we based scenario building on comple­mentary quantitative modelling and qualitative anal­yses. Storylines about the main drivers of change guided us in making sets of quantitative assumptions. These assumptions were used to simulate resource-use balances of food biomass at global and regional levels, which in turn enriched the content of each storyline through efforts to enhance coherence. This iterative process eventually enabled us to develop comprehensive quantitative and qualitative scenarios.

Quantification was performed using the quantitative tool Agribiom, thanks to which all agricultural food productions, consumptions and trade can be evaluated using one single measuring unit, the kilocalorie. Calories are distinguished according to their origin: plant, animal (grazing and non-grazing) and aquatic. Agribiom comprises data covering four decades (1961-2003), enabling us to analyse past trends in the whole range of plant and animal productions and utilizations worldwide.

Quantitative assumptions on future biomass resources and uses were made at the regional level (Asia (ASIA), the Former Soviet Union (FSU), Latin America (LAM), Middle East/ North Africa (MENA), OECD, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)). The coherence of each set of quantitative assumptions was checked by assessing the balances between food biomass resources and their uses. There might be deficits in some regions, but resources should cover uses at global level.

Assumptions on regional biomass use in 2050 combines assumptions on human population and their diets. As for resources, assumptions were made at regional level concerning mainly: 1) land use, 2) cultivated land productivity measured in calorie per hectare, and 3) conversion of plant calories into animal calories.

To establish the values that these variables could take in 2050, we analysed 1) past trends, 2) the scientific literature dealing with each variable’s determinants, and 3) scenarios built in the various studies dealing with food and agriculture. Only the conversion of plant into animal calories was simulated. The magnitude of the increase in animal food consumption is a clue to the planets’ future capacity to feed its population since husbandry accounts for a substantial share of the use of plant calories. It was therefore important to precisely grasp calorie conversion. Thus, unlike other scenario-building studies based on economic models, Agrimonde uses a simple quantitative model processing physical, not economic, data. It does not simulate the functioning of the main commodity markets. This shortcoming, however, is partly offset since Agribiom avoids the “black box” feature of complex modelling with a multitude of parameters and causality relationships.

The Agrimonde Scenarios

We chose to build two scenarios: a business-as-usual scenario called Agrimonde GO (AGO), inspired from the MA Global Orchestration scenario, and a rupture scenario called Agrimonde 1 (AG1). This scenario explores a world in 2050 that has been able to implement sustainable development through a drastic reduction of both undernourishment and excessive food intake, and a change of the technological paradigm towards ecological intensification. In keeping with the definition proposed by Conway (1998) or Griffon (2006), ecological intensifi­­cation was defined as the diffusion of practices and technologies enabling agriculture to meet growing needs, to be a driving force of economic development and to preserve natural resources.

Two general principles were applied to the construction of the scenarios so as to facilitate their comparison. Firstly, in order to assess the capacity of each region to satisfy its own food needs in 2050, interregional trade was considered only as a way of clearing regional surpluses in some regions and of filling deficits in others. Secondly, we wanted each region to experience the same demographic pressure in both scenarios and to analyse the effects of demographic trends without them being masked by large migratory flows. Consequently, we chose for both scenarios the United Nations (UN) median projections of population growth (around 9 billion people worldwide in 2050 with a “normal” level of international migration).

For AGO and except for the demographic assumptions mentioned above, we used the quantitative assumptions made in the framework applied by the MA. A normative choice, based on an understanding of what a sustainable diet might be, prevailed in the elaboration of assumptions on food consumption in AG1. In AGO, economic growth boosts consumption in all regions whereas in AG1, the income-food consumption nexus is not the most determining one due to concerns for health, equity and the environment. Food availability in 2050 is assumed to equal 3,000 kcal/cap/day (500 of which of animal and aquatic origins) in all regions, which corresponds to the global average in 2000. An average availability of 3,000 kcal is also the figure that FAO considers sufficient to maintain the proportion of undernourished people at a relatively low level. This assumption nevertheless contrasts sharply with past trends, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where food consumption is supposed to increase by 30% over 50 years and in the OECD countries where it is supposed to decrease by 25%.

AG1’s assumptions pertaining to land areas were made on the basis of physical factors of soil availability and quality and compared with sustainability criteria (in particular the preservation of forest areas). Finally, the assumptions on yields were formulated by considering past trends and technological change that would make it possible to increase yield while preserving the ecosystems. Among factors taken into consideration, the anticipated impacts of climate change on land availability and yields were considered major determinants of the future production potentials. As a result, at the global level between 2000 and 2050, cultivated land increases much faster in AG1 with 12 million hectares of new cultivated land per year (taken for the most part on current pasture areas) against 7 million in AGO, and 4 million in the last four decades of the 20th century. In AGO, yields are the driving factor; they increase by 1.14% per year over 50 years, against 0.14% in AG1, and 2% per year between 1961 and 2000.

Feeding the Global Population in 2050 a Matter of Access Not Food Shortage

Five main lessons can be drawn from the Agrimonde’s global-level scenario analysis (see Paillard et al. 2011 for further details, in particular at regional level).

Firstly, the global food production levels assumed in each scenario for 2050 satisfy the assumed levels of global food consumption. The planet’s natural resources are sufficient to properly feed the global population in 2050, which is approximately the year when the maximum global population is anticipated. Thus, just like today, the main challenge in terms of food security will not be a lack of production but will remain a problem of access to food by the poorest populations.

Secondly, the scenarios underline the crucial role of diets in the realisation of resource-use balances. On the one hand, in AGO, per capita total food availability increases by 20% between 2000 and 2050 and the share of animal products increases from 16 to 23%. On the other hand, in AG1, these indicators remain stable at global level. As a result, while the global need in plant calories (including plant food, feed, seeds, loss etc.) increases by 90% in AGO, it only increases by 35% in AG1. The convergence of diets and of consumption habits (growing consumption outside the home and of processed food, generating growing waste) towards the Western model would then have serious consequences not only from a health viewpoint (obesity and related diseases) but also for the preservation of ecosystems.

Thirdly, in both scenarios, the volume of net trade in food between regions necessary to meet regional food needs is much higher in 2050 than that observed in 2000. Three regions show structural shortages in both scenarios. Two of them, ASIA and MENA face a shortage in natural resources (water and land). In the third, SSA, the increase in food production is lower than population growth and the corresponding increase in food consumption. Thus trade regulations appear essential in order to 1) prevent net exporting countries from taking advantage of the structural food dependence that some regions face, 2) avoid competition that would be unsustainable for small local producers, and 3) guarantee that trade does not lead to an increase in the impacts of agriculture on the environment.

Fourthly, in AG1, yield gains, while fast in regions such as LAM or FSU, are very moderate at global level. Thus, even under the assumption that yields will increase relatively slowly, the planet can properly feed nine billion people in 2050. Consequently, ecological intensification, through the scaling up of local agro-ecology experiments, appears to be an alternative option to the classical model of agricultural intensification, as recently pointed out by Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (de Schutter 2011).

As he emphasized, the main benefits of agro-ecology lie in the fact that it preserves natural resources and is accessible to smallholders (low input and capital intensity). This brings us to our fifth conclusion: the contribution of trade to the food security of regions with food shortages will only be possible if access to food in those regions is drastically enhanced through the development of local opportunities for wealth creation. And because in the most food insecure countries, these opportunities are mostly to be found in agriculture, investments in this sector in developing countries is the key to end undernourishment.

Agrimonde: a Landmark Study Provoking Controversies

Agrimonde has become a landmark foresight study (mostly among French experts and stakeholders). The AG1 and AGO scenarios are references, whether adop­ted or rejected, that contribute to structuring the debate on food security and more generally on the future of food and agricultural systems. This can be stressed through some of the main controversies provoked by the scenarios, which concern their sustainability and plausibility.

Tackling Environmental Issues

Environmental sustainability is not a feature of the AGO storyline since in this scenario economic growth is given priority over the preservation of the environment. Never­theless, AG1 and AGO can be considered as two differ-rent strategies to meet the challenge of feeding a gro­wing population in a sustainable way. On the one hand, AGO bets on substantial yield gains that would make it possible to spare land areas – reserves, corridors, fo­rests, etc. – which then can be devoted to the preserva­tion of ecosystems. On the other hand, AG1 chooses to expand cultivated areas and to use environment-friendly technologies to cultivate them at the accepted cost of lower yield gains. The conversion of land into cultivated areas accelerates compared to past trends, particularly in regions with a large unexploited cultivation potential, such as SSA, LAM and FSU. Even though forests are spared, accelerated land conversion is not without impact on biodiversity and carbon storage. However, the sustainability assessment of AG1 cannot end here. For instance, it would be meaningless to measure its carbon footprint by simply multiplying converted land areas by the quantity of carbon that is currently emitted when pastures are converted into cultivated land. Ecological intensification actually strives toward a higher carbon storage capacity through innovations in farming systems and lower emissions through a reduction in nitrogen fertilizer use.

In AG1, ecological and productive functions of ecosys­tems are combined on the same territory (agroforestry is a good example of such a combination), which tends to blur the traditional frontier between productive areas and preserved nature areas. Thus, technological choi­ces appear strongly linked to our choices of spatial organisation and complementary to the performance criteria that are applied to farming systems. In AG1, these criteria have to be designed to measure not only their food production performance but also their ability to maintain ecosystem services, which is not central to what is expected of agriculture in AGO.

Legacy of the Growth Paradigm

The plausibility of the Agrimonde scenarios and the feasibility of the transitions that they propose provide another interesting area of debate. AGO is a plausible scenario if trade liberalisation and technological pro­gress are sufficient drivers of economic development. Moreover, it requires that we will be able to further increase yields through radical innovations, such as drought-resistant GM crops. The scale of the challenge is huge if we consider the very high level of yield already attained in regions such as ASIA and the OECD as well as the current health of many ecosystems and the consequences, over next decades, of climate change and fossil fuel rarefaction. AG1 rests heavily on the availability of arable land. Even though existing data tends to show large amounts of uncultivated arable land, more reliable data on land use, soil fertility and possible future impacts of climate change and urbanisation are needed to check the plausibility of land use assumptions in AG1. Moreover, the existence of large unexploited arable land areas does not necessarily imply that they will be available for food production. For instance, in regions where land tenure is customary, land conversion would have dramatic impacts on pastoralists whose food security depends heavily on their having access to rangeland. The competition between food and biofuel production is also likely to affect the amount of land that will be devoted to food production.

Diet Change in Rich Countries?

The radical shift in diets is certainly the most challenging feature of AG1. This scenario assumes a 25% drop in food consumption in OECD over 50 years, mainly through a decrease in animal product consumption. Likewise, it assumes that emerging countries will manage to rapidly curb the current trend towards diets higher in fat and meat. These very strong assumptions do not challenge the interest of this scenario since foresighting is not forecasting, and exploring ruptures in trends is one of the main purposes of scenario building. Besides, health and environmental concerns are prompting an increasing number of rich countries’ consumers to modify their diets and limit food waste. It is therefore plausible, and in any case interesting, to consider the implications of a progression of such behavioural changes in rich countries. The question calls for a radically different answer when considering developing countries in which a significant share of people do not have access to sufficient food and lack proteins. The assumption that in coming decades, consumers will become concerned about the ecological footprint of their consumption behaviour does not seem plausible. However, nutrition transition in emerging countries is far more rapid than it was in Northern countries. It is therefore probable that the populations’ awareness of the harmful effects of excessive calorie and fat intakes will also spread faster.

Authors: Sandrine Paillard (     ), Bruno Dorin (,Tristan Le Cotty (, Tevecia Ronzon (, Sébastien Treyer (
Sponsors: CIRAD (Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement) INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agriculture)
Type: Foresight exercise
Organizer: CIRAD, INRA
Duration: 2006-2008 Budget: n/a Time Horizon: 2050 Date of Brief: Sep 2011  


Download EFP Brief No. 196_Agrimonde

Sources and References

Conway, G., 1998, The Doubly Green Revolution: Food for All in the Twenty-first Century. London, Penguin Books.

De Schutter, O., 2011, Agroecology and the Right to Food, Report presented at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, 8 March 2011.

Griffon, M., 2006, Nourrir la planète. Pour une révolution doublement verte. Paris, Odile Jacob.

IAASTD, 2009, Agriculture at a Crossroad, Global Report. Washington, DC, Island Press.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), 2005, Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Scenarios. Washington, DC, Island Press.

Paillard, S., Treyer, S., Dorin, B., 2011, Agrimonde: Scenarios and Challenges for Feeding the World in 2050. Versailles, Quae.

World Bank, 2008, Agriculture for Development, World Development Report 2008. Washington, DC, The World Bank.

EFP Brief No. 191: Transportation & Logistics 2030

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

The following foresight brief presents the findings of the innovative real-time Delphi study “Transportation and Logistics 2030 Vol. 2” prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ transportation unit and the Supply Chain Management Institute (SMI) at the EBS Business School, Germany. Overall, 104 experts assessed 16 projected futures in terms of probability of occurrence, impact on the transportation and logistics (T&L) industry, and desirability of occurrence. By deriving conclusions organised around four general themes, possible scenarios for the future of logistics were drawn. The purpose was to identify key developments in the T&L industry by the year 2030. In addition, the effects on the transport infrastructure environment from a governmental and an engineering and construction industry perspective were assessed and opportunities for governments were derived.

The Need for Planning in T&L

The development of transport infrastructure requires a long-term planning horizon. Ports, airports, roads and railroads all share a commonality: their life cycle spans are fairly long. Thus, long-term foresight is needed to estimate the demand for transport infrastructure and assess its impact on the economy and the environment. Long-term thinking is a requirement to finance construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure.

Scenario techniques are an essential addition to traditional forecasting methods. Trusting solely on trend extrapolations and single-point forecasts does not account for the paradoxes in transport. For example, who could have predicted that the amount of transports would decrease between 1995 and 2005 in a Western European country while politicians were talking about investing in infrastructure to meet the increase in freight transportation? What actually increased is the transport service provided for goods. Less goods were transported but over longer distances and/or in smaller batches. Governments and everyone in T&L industry faced the need to respond, and lucky were those with a contingency plan on hand.

In pursuit of such a long-term perspective, the study aims to develop a comprehensive view of the T&L industry in 2030. The outlook is developed by interpreting scenario evaluations, identifying opportunities, applying a cross-industry perspective and deriving extreme scenarios. The next sections will focus on the results of the first two issues (i.e. scenarios and opportunities).

Innovative Real-time Delphi Study

The study employs an innovative version of the Delphi survey method. The Delphi is designed as an Internet-based, almost real-time survey that increases the validity of results by streamlining the classical procedure (see Gnatzy et al., 2011; Gordon & Pease, 2006).

Overall, 16 key future projections were organised around the four general themes “Supply & Demand”, “Finance”, “Competitiveness” and “Sustainability” of transport infrastructure. The projections were assessed by 104 invited experts in terms of probability of occurrence (0-100%), impact on T&L if they occurred (5-point Likert scale) and desirability (5-point Likert scale). Furthermore, experts could optionally provide qualitative arguments and reasons for their answers.

Once an expert evaluated a projection, the statistical group opinion of all experts was calculated and visualised immediately. The group opinion was presented in a box-and-whisker plot. In addition, the qualitative arguments given by the other experts were also shown. In the light of this new information, the experts were able to revise their initial assessment.

Upon completing the survey, a consensus portal was activated showing an overview of all answers given and how the answers related to average group opinion at that point in time. During the survey period, experts were able to access the consensus portal at any given time in order to check whether they were in line with group opinion or deviated from it. The experts could also adjust their assessments at any time if they wished to do so.

The expert panel included a large number of designated experts from business, mainly C-level executives and decision-makers from global companies. The selection criteria for potential experts based on industry, educational background, experience and function led to the following distribution:

  • 28% transport infrastructure operators/ developers
  • 27% transport infrastructure users
  • 24% academics
  • 11% associations
  • 10% politicians

Participants were based in 29 countries around the world ensuring a balanced and global view: the emerging countries accounted for a significant share of 38% and the developed countries for the remaining 62%.

Results of the Delphi

Unlikely to Close the Gap between Emerging and Developed Countries

Figure 1 summarizes the results for the area “Supply & Demand”. The resulting demand for transport infrastructure is unlikely to be met by 2030. Although emerging countries are investing heavily in transport infrastructure, it is unlikely that the infrastructure provision gap to developed countries will be closed completely within this period. Megacities are likely to attract more projects since investors “follow the money”. Road tolls and congestion charges are likely to have become an instrument to match supply and demand of transport infrastructure in 2030.

Fiscal Constraints Impede Public Funding of Transportation Infrastructure

The second major theme relates to financing transport infrastructure. The results are shown in Figure 2. Governments, although aware of the need for major investments in transport infrastructure, are likely to face strong financial constraints over the next 20 years. For many governments, the task of maintaining the current infrastructure will leave little scope for funding investments in new transportation infrastructure. While governments are likely to remain responsible for local and national transportation infrastructure, private investors seek economies from focusing on national and international large scale transportation systems.

Transportation Infrastructure Tailored to Fit Represents a Competitive Advantage

The evaluated scenarios for “Competitiveness” in T&L in 2030 are shown in Figure 3.

Getting transport infrastructure right remains a competitive advantage as efficient supply chains are a major investment factor. To enhance a competitive advantage, fully integrated infrastructure systems with modern information and communication technology (ICT) present a major enabler for cutting-edge transport developments. Thus, transport infrastructure development can strongly benefit from advancements in digital infrastructure. Moreover, forming clusters based on close collaboration of industry, academia and government will benefit regions by activating new potentials in transportation infrastructure development.

Sustainability Poses the Greatest Challenge

Ensuring the sustainability of transportation infrastructure is probably the most significant challenge to be faced over the next 20 years. The opinion of the experts is shown in Figure 4.

Clearly, transport infrastructure and its networks have a strong effect on the environment. In addition to its ability to stimulate economic growth, transport infrastructure will increasingly be assessed in terms of its environmental compatibility. Increased regulations in the form of emission trading systems or other systems are likely to enhance this compatibility.

Environmental costs of transport infrastructure will become an integral part of assessing the full costs of a T&L project. These costs will need to be calculated into the business case of any of these projects.

Innovation Will Be Critical

Flexible planning will be key to logistics service providers, supply chain players, transport infrastructure operators, users and owners since transport infrastructure systems will remain imperfect. Especially in emerging countries, innovative supply methods based on local adaptability and simplicity have to compensate the lack of transport infrastructure.

Governments need to target the implications of the trends in “Supply & Demand” as well. As shown in Figure 5, access to rural transport infrastructure is not a matter of course.

The RAI index estimates the proportion of the rural population that has adequate access to transport systems. Governments need to offer investment incentives to ensure that less investment-attractive rural areas will stay connected to regional conurbations. Governments play an important role in managing supply and demand for transport infrastructure. The surveyed experts believe that road tolls and congestion charges could be a powerful lever to reduce traffic and raise capital to invest in more sustainable modes of transportation.

The financial boundaries clearly impact T&L. Logistics service providers need to assess the availability of capital and the willingness of a government to invest in transport infrastructure when entering a new market.

Governments need to find a balance between investments in new transport infrastructure and ongoing maintenance of existing facilities. It will be essential to incorporate future maintenance needs in all new projects as well. In addition, a shift in focus from upfront costs towards lifetime costs is needed to ensure whole life funding. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to finance these activities, public authorities need to find strategies to share risk and responsibility with private investors for individual projects.

In order to stay competitive, logistics service providers should join clusters to actively collaborate with governments, academia and operators of transport infrastructure. Knowledge exchange and management across company borders will be a key success factor over the next 20 years.

In 2030, it is even more essential for governments to maintain, upgrade and expand transport infrastructure in order to ensure and attract foreign direct investments. To achieve this, information and communication technology must be incorporated as the path to be taken towards developing a cutting-edge transportation infrastructure.

In order to ensure eco-friendliness of transport infrastructure by 2030, independent bodies could be established that rate transport solutions in terms of their environmental compatibility. In addition, efforts should be made to reduce demand and optimise capacity.

Innovation will be critical in finding these new eco-friendly transport solutions for T&L. More than ever, companies in T&L will need to collaborate to better manage transport emissions in order to cope with the expansion of emission trading systems.

Transport infrastructure developers should be aware of the long-term environmental costs. They will need to assess the entire life cycle of construction, operation and deconstruction to consider harmful environmental effects as well as environmental benefits.

Opportunities for Governments

To close this overview of the Delphi study, we will focus on some promising future opportunities related to transport infrastructure from a governmental perspective over the next 20 years. Figure 6 summarizes these for the four areas identified. The radar depicts the (generic) outcome of several future workshops based on the described scenarios.

Figure 6: Opportunity radar

In Supply & Demand, governments may actively counter the trend of a “rural exodus” by setting up basic transport infrastructure, offering public-private partnerships and implementing other financing mechanisms. In order to reduce congestion in city centres and its side effects, governments may abolish parking spaces at public institutions while ensuring good connections to public transport. Governments might use innovative infrastructure constructions such as sky walks and sky trains or underground distribution systems to lessen the burden on existing transportation infrastructure on the ground. A full automatic continuous conveyor could reduce transport bottlenecks at ports and other hubs by moving containers away from the point of handling to their desired destination quickly. For governments to deal with changing demand, re-usable transport infrastructure comparable to unit assembly systems could be developed.

Governments need to think of ways of how to finance the increasing demand for transport infrastructure. One idea relates to private sponsoring. For example, sponsoring stadiums, such as “Signal Iduna Park” or “Gilette Stadium”, could involve financing parts of the necessary transport infrastructure. Tax benefits and other incentives could be used to encourage companies to drive less while individual charges for the use of small parts of infrastructure (e.g., bridges) represent opportunities for reducing demand.

Future CO2 absorbing materials could be used in new road constructions and could possibly make a big contribution to environmental protection. Self-healing roads through the use of bio-concrete or nanotechnology could reduce maintenance costs. In the same vein, the idea of bacteria-produced roads might be an innovative way for governments to build transport infrastructure in rural areas in the very long-term.

Lastly, governments could use the idea of self-sufficient eco-cities to address the need for a sustainable future infrastructure.

Authors: Dr. Heiko von der Gracht

Tobias Gnatzy               

Philipp Ecken                

Prof. Dr. Inga-Lena Darkow

Sponsors: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Germany
Type: Single issue brief – European/international
Organizer: EBS Business School, Supply Chain Management Institute, Dr. Heiko von der Gracht
Duration: 12/09-05/10 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2030 Date of Brief: July 2010  


Download EFP Brief No. 191_Transportation and Logistics 2030

Sources and References

Gnatzy, T., Warth, J. & von der Gracht, H. A. (2011): Validating an Innovative Real-Time Delphi Approach -– A methodological comparison between real-time and conventional Delphi studies. In: Technological Forecasting & Social Change, corrected proof, in press.

Gordon, T. & Pease, A. (2006): RT Delphi: an efficient, “round-less” almost real time Delphi method. In: Technological Forecasting & Social Change 73, (2006) 321–333.

Ruske, K-D; Kauschke, P; Reuter, J; Montgomery, E; von der Gracht, H; Gnatzy, T; Darkow, I-L. (2010): Transportation & Logistics 2030. Volume 2: Transport infrastructure – Engine or hand brake for global supply chains? PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) & Supply Chain Management Institute (SMI).

World Bank (2009): Retrieved February 22, 2010 from

EFP Brief No. 188: Improving Foresight through Methodological Innovation

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

We present insights into the design and execution of an international large-scale project on the future of logistics by the year 2025. The basis of our research was an innovative real-time Delphi application. We applied a multi-methodology framework including a real-time Delphi, a futures conference and participatory expert workshops. This allowed for cross-validation and a strong participatory inclusion of policy makers. An example shows how a multi-stakeholder environment can be approached using innovative foresight tools. We illustrate a research case study that aligns foresight activities with a rigorous scientific procedure.

Sound Planning Basis for Long-term Decisions in Logistics and Mobility

We present insights into the design and execution of a large-scale international project on the Future of Logistics 2025 (von der Gracht et al., 2008). We contribute to the foresight community with an innovative and profound research design: First, the research included one of the few and early real-time Delphi applications worldwide (see Gnatzy et al., 2011; Gordon & Pease, 2006) for which a web-based survey software was specifically developed. Second, the research employed a multi-methodology framework, including the real-time Delphi mentioned above, a futures conference and participatory expert workshops. This allowed for significant cross-validation and a strong participatory inclusion of policy makers. Third, it is shown exemplarily how a multi-stakeholder environment can be approached using such tools. Fourth, we illustrate a research case study that aligns foresight activities with a rigorous scientific procedure.

The project Future of Logistics 2025 was initiated in the course of CeMAT 2008, the world’s largest in-house logistics fair with approximately 60,000 attendants from 40 countries. This large-scale foresight project was organised with strong support from the German government, several research institutions, industry and Deutsche Messe (Hannover).

The research particularly focused on the linkage between the transportation and logistics industry and its expected socio-economic contributions in the future in the fields of sustainability, health care and social responsibility among others.

The aim of the project was to support companies to best prepare themselves for the future as well as weigh the risks of product innovations and entering new markets. Our approach includes projections of future trends based on extensive conversations amongst and evaluations by experts. Scenarios for different future options were developed and the consequences for the logistics market described.

We aimed to encourage experts from industry, academia and politics to discuss the future of the transportation and logistics markets, of the companies operating therein as well as of the economy in general. We demonstrate that long-term analyses of the logistics environment are highly meaningful since they help companies to orient themselves in complex and dynamic environments and therefore reduce perceived uncertainty. The analyses allow gaining a clearer picture of the future and identifying opportunities and threats. Our global scenario study has illuminated how top-level executives from business, academia and politics see the probable future and what major discontinuities could look like. It provides a sound planning basis for long-term decisions in logistics and mobility, demonstrates the value of scenarios as a management and planning tool, and exemplifies a systematic scenario development and communication process.

Innovative Real-time Delphi

The methodology consisted of several research phases that were interlinked and can be divided into a pre-, main-, and post-conference phase as described in Figure 1. The research initiative lasted for a total of approximately nine months.

The pre-phase included the development of the study concept, the programming of the real-time Delphi tool, a software pre-test, the recruitment of an international expert panel and the first part of the real-time Delphi survey itself among 300 internationally renowned experts (Part I). The project was launched in January 2008 when the study was designed and the online portal for the web-based Delphi survey was developed. After a pilot test, the Delphi-Internet portal opened on March 1, 2008. Everyone registered for the Future of Logistics International CeMAT Conference was sent a personal invitation link, giving them exclusive access to the Delphi portal. The experts from business, politics and academia were confronted with 20 projections in the following four subject areas: (1) economic developments, (2) political challenges, (3) socio-cultural trends and (4) technological innovations. The survey was conducted online with the help of a web-based application, which makes real-time evaluation possible. The participants were asked to assess the projections in terms of their expected probability, impact on the global economy and desirability using the ratings scale provided. They were also given the opportunity to justify their responses by providing comments.

The interim results of the survey were presented at the Future of Logistics Conference as part of the CeMAT trade fair in May 2008. Therefore, the main-conference phase with 216 attendants comprised an initial trend briefing with the Delphi survey results and their joint reflection in presentations and moderated rounds of discussions (2+1 keynotes), open discussions as well as discussions in small groups, “coffee worlds”, which is an innovative form of participatory workshop.

The post-conference phase, in turn, included a follow-up real-time Delphi (Part II). The online tool was available to the participants until the end of June 2008 so that they could modify their responses. Once the portal was closed, the final analysis and aggregation of all data, scenario development, discontinuity analysis and dissemination were conducted. Possible global future scenarios were drawn based on the Delphi data collected from the experts questioned. Conceivable opportunities and surprises were sketched out in detail. The opportunities represented future scenarios that can be actively shaped.

Figure 1: Process of the Future of Logistics 2025

We included extreme scenarios and wildcard scenarios in our analysis. Two projections (“Energy Sources” and “Global Water Crisis”) were selected for the former, both of which display a very high probability and impact. Four scenarios were developed out of these two projections (scenario axes), each of which describes a world that could come about. Furthermore, the wildcard scenarios described single events or developments that may seem improbable from today’s standpoint but ultimately cannot be ruled out. It is not about the probability of such events but the potential impact that they or similar occurrences could have. They could be the result of technological breakthroughs, social tension or political overthrows.

Opportunities and Discontinuities Key to Identifying Future Lines of Action

Our methodological design proves to be a profound foresight approach to research a complex and dynamic environment, such as the international transportation and logistics industry. The different research formats, several linkages and cross-validations as well as intense participatory reflections with policy makers enhanced the scope of the content and its penetration. Especially, the use of innovative approaches, such as the real-time Delphi and coffee worlds, stimulated the discourse significantly. The real-time Delphi alone generated 826 comments on 20 future projections, which were assessed by 65 participants. Overall, the situation in 16 countries from all continents was considered in the scenarios. Moreover, the web-based, real-time Delphi study was able to significantly streamline the process since all group opinion calculations were provided in real-time during the survey. Our contribution to the FTA debate is thus a methodological one by integrating multiple methodologies and designing and applying a real-time Delphi in a multi-stakeholder environment.

An analysis of the responses produced three clusters, each of which must be viewed very differently: (1) potential surprises (low-probability, high-impact cluster), (2) eventualities (medium-probability, high-impact cluster), and (3) expectations (high-probability, high-impact cluster). First, potential surprises are often neglected by companies because they are considered improbable, but they have a moderate to high impact if they do occur. The projections in this cluster all involve some kind of revolution – be it an educational revolution in developing countries, a health revolution brought about by global business coalitions, technical revolutions due to automation and digitisation or even terrorist attacks. Second, the occurrence of high-impact eventualities is not considered to be very likely, but they involve serious impacts. When they become the object of debate, a wide range of very controversial opinions usually emerges. In this study, the projections grouped under this cluster can be combined under the heading of “competition”. They revolve around the best access to resources, protectionism between spheres of interests and competing megacities. Finally, high-impact expectations are characterised by a high expected probability and high impact. They are of huge strategic importance to companies. Projections in this cluster included the availability of resources on all levels, from trained staff to energy and water. The respondents believe that the formation of industrial clusters and technical innovations will offer solutions to these urgent problems.

If we analyse the driving forces in the market environment and the developments we can expect to see on the market, we find opportunities in the form of possible ways for the logistics sector to innovate and invest in business development. These opportunities present future scenarios that can be actively shaped. Developing these opportunities broadens companies’ horizons for what may happen in the future in terms of products and services, strategies, processes and solutions. We analysed a selection of the most promising opportunities arising from the Future of Logistics Conference 2008. These are business areas that are either brand new and may at first seem rather unusual, on the one hand, or simply represent possible extensions of existing business areas, on the other. The course we take to equip ourselves for the future can be set today by developing such opportunities. Each company must decide individually which of these opportunities to pursue. The formulation of opportunities is a very creative process. Based on the results of the real-time Delphi and the material discussed at the Future of Logistics Conference 2008, 120 possible courses of action were identified for logistics in several creative workshops. Numerous areas were covered, including products and services, cooperations and networks, controlling and finance, people and culture, marketing and public relations.

Unlike many scenario studies, we also included discontinuities, which can take the form of surprising events or developments, such as natural disasters, innovations and their consequences, or societal changes. The financial crisis 2008/2009 can be classified as such a discontinuity. By excluding discontinuities, scenario planners run the risk of missing major additional opportunities.

Figure 2: Extreme Scenarios Future of Logistics 2025

By including discontinuities, companies can identify further alternatives and increase their ability to adapt to surprises. They help to broaden the perspective and to test the robustness of strategies and decisions. There are two common ways for companies to systematically consider discontinuities: extreme scenarios and wildcard scenarios. Both approaches have been included in the Future of Logistics project. Discontinuities have been considered based on the results of the Delphi and the debates at the conference.

Scenario axes are a widely recognised tool for constructing extreme scenarios in a coherent and systematic way. According to this instrument, scenario planners select two driving forces or key factors that are considered to be of particular interest for scenario considerations. These factors are then plotted on two axes, resulting in four different scenario quadrants. In the scope of this study, the projection about energy sources and a global water crisis were selected due to their high probability and impact rating as well as their topicality and momentousness – an assessment shared by many conference participants (Figure 2). The scenario writing process, i.e. the definition of scenario premises and the description of the scenarios, was supported by extensive desk research.

Wildcard scenarios describe single events or developments that may seem improbable from today’s standpoint but ultimately cannot be ruled out. The wildcards outlined in this study involved the fabbing society, terrorist attacks, the spread of a pandemic, and space logistics. For example, the disruption of logistical networks could have detrimental effects on the economy of a country. Such networks are therefore an attractive target for terrorists. Attacks on political, ideological or religious targets are possible at different points. Important hubs, such as seaports and airports, could be disabled by physical aggression. The same applies to bridges or tunnels that span narrow passages between geographical boundaries. Attacks on these targets could bring traffic to a complete standstill or greatly hinder transportation along the route affected.

Proves Useful Tool in Foresight

In our research, we aimed at closing a research gap with respect to future developments in the transportation and logistics industry. More specifically, two research questions guided our research: (1) How will the macro environment (political/legal, economic, socio-cultural and technological structure) of the logistics services industry change by 2025? (2) How will the micro environment (industrial structure) of the logistics services industry change by 2025? Based on empirical research, we examined possible events and developments, identified major factors and aggregated expert knowledge on the long-term future. We developed and applied a novel real-time Delphi application. We discussed the results in participatory workshops and a conference with experts from politics, academia and industry. We derived scenarios as well as recommendations for managers and governments.

Future foresight exercises should include an even broader range of participants. The real-time Delphi tool could be used to further encourage the discussion and dissemination process including application during the conference and participatory workshop sessions. The research, and especially scenario development, is mainly based on qualitative research, even though we provide statistical data to support our qualitative findings. Further quantitative data (e.g., with respect to cost implications and industry growth rates) may be included in the analyses to provide a more tangible basis for strategic planning.

The overall feedback of the participants in the research process was very positive. The experts welcomed the opportunity to share opinions and insights with the expert group assembled for this purpose and encouraged us to proceed with the approach. This led us to publish a study in 2008 to present the foresight process and its results to a broader public.

Authors: Dr. Heiko A. von der Gracht

Dr. Inga-Lena Darkow    

Sponsors: Center for Futures Studies (CEFU), EBS Business School

Note: The research was supported by Deutsche Messe Hannover and organised around the world’s largest intralogistics fair CeMAT in 2008 –

Type: Global scenario study, methodological innovation and case application, single issue
Organizer: EBS Business School, Center of Futures Studies, Dr. Heiko von der Gracht,
Duration: Jan-Dec 2008 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2025 Date of Brief: March 2011


Download EFP Brief No. 188_Improving Foresight through Methodological Innovation

Sources and References

von der Gracht, H. A., Darkow, I.-L., Walter, S., Jahns, C. & Thomsen, E. (2008): Future of Logistics 2025: Global Scenarios. BrainNet Science Edition, St. Gallen.

Gnatzy, T., Warth, J. & von der Gracht, H. A. (2011): Validating an Innovative Real-Time Delphi Approach – A methodological comparison between real-time and conventional Delphi studies. In: Technological Forecasting & Social Change, corrected proof, in press.

Gordon, T. & Pease, A. (2006): RT Delphi: an efficient, “round-less” almost real time Delphi method. In: Technological Forecasting & Social Change 73, 321–333.

EFP Brief No. 181: Technologies for EU Minerals Supply

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

This exercise was part of an EU FP7 Blue Skies Project aimed at piloting, developing and testing in real situations a foresight methodology designed to bring together key stakeholders for the purpose of exploring longer term challenges and building a shared vision that could guide the development of the relevant European research agenda. This approach was applied to the theme of “Breakthrough technologies for the security of supply of critical minerals and metals in the EU economy”.

The Minerals Challenge

Minerals and metals are essential to almost every aspect of modern life and every economic sector. Aerospace, agriculture, culture, defence, energy, environmental protection, health, housing, transport and water supply are all highly dependent upon them. Plans for economic recovery and the development of new industries also depend on their availability – for example “green” energy production from solar cells and wind turbines, the green car of tomorrow and many more all require a range of rare minerals and metals for their production.

Although essential to our economies, development of this sector has been neglected in Western Europe during the past 25 years. This was mainly because of the very low price of these commodities – a consequence of abundant reserves discovered in the 1970s. As a result, the mining and metallurgical industry as well as related research and education almost disappeared from the present European Union, making our economies totally dependent upon imports.

Demand for these minerals and metals is likely to increase dramatically. Much of this new demand will come from rapidly growing, highly populated emerging countries, such as China, which have attracted large parts of the world industrial production due to cheap labour, regardless of raw minerals and energy issues. Already strong competition for access to natural resources, including mineral resources vital to any economy, is likely to accelerate further in the coming years with possible severe environmental and social impacts. The EU economy is more than any other exposed to these developments, as it produces very little of the minerals it consumes and almost none of the critical minerals it needs to develop its green technologies.

Against this background, the creation of a new research and innovation context in Europe has become essential, not only to reduce the EU’s dependence on imported minerals and metals but also to chart the road ahead, to develop a win-win cooperation with developing countries and to stimulate the competitiveness of EU technology, products and service providers to the global economy.

However, these solutions can take a long time to be implemented, and it is important to identify today’s priorities for knowledge generation and innovation so that action can begin. This in turn creates a need for a foresight approach that brings together the knowledge and interests of the main stakeholders. It is in this context that the FarHorizon project invited leading experts in the area from government agencies, industry and academia to take part in a success scenario workshop. The aims of the exercise were

  • to identify the key challenges for raw materials supply in Europe;
  • to identify breakthrough technologies or other innovations that could transform the picture, including substitution, new sources, ways to change demand and new applications; and
  • to define in broad terms the research and innovation strategies needed to develop and make use of such technologies.

Success Scenario Approach

The “Success Scenario Approach” is an action-based approach where senior stakeholders develop a shared vision of what success in the area would look like, together with appropriate goals and indicators, which provide the starting point for developing a roadmap to get there. The purpose of having such a vision of success is to set a ‘stretch target’ for all the stakeholders. The discussion and debate forming an integral part of the process leads to developing a mutual understanding and a common platform of knowledge that helps to align the actors for action.

Important outcomes of these workshops are the insights they provide in terms of the level of maturity in policy design and development and the viability and robustness of long-term policy scenarios to guide policy-making. The workshops also provide indications on whether there is a need for further discussion to refine thinking and policy design and/or to bring additional stakeholders into the discussion.

The theme was developed in partnership with the French geosciences institution BRGM. The workshop brought together twenty representatives of scientific organisations, industry and government agencies to identify the role of technology in addressing the socioeconomic and political challenges facing Europe in this sector. Briefs on key issues were prepared before the workshop, and participants took part in an exercise to identify key drivers using the STEEPV framework (social, technological, environmental, economic, political and values). Common themes were increasing demand and growing sustainability requirements. Geopolitical themes were also touched upon.

The basic structure was to identify the key challenges facing the sector and then to explore the potential role of breakthrough technologies in addressing those challenges. A third main session examined the key elements needed for a sectoral strategy for innovation.

The figure below gives an outline of the methodology:

Challenges in Three Dimensions

Informed by the drivers, participants were tasked to identify the key challenges for raw materials supply in Europe and to prioritise these. If these challenges can be met, we can expect to achieve a situation as defined by the successful vision for the sector in 2030 and realise its benefits to Europe. Three dimensions of the challenge were addressed:

Geology and Minerals Intelligence

  1. Access to data on mining, production and geology
  2. Knowledge of deeper resources
  3. Better knowledge due to improved models of how deposits are produced
  4. Better exploration
  5. Systematic data sharing
  6. Exploitation of ‘exhausted’ mines

Mining, Ore Processing and Metallurgy

  1. Exploiting deeper deposits
  2. Accessing seabed deposits
  3. Better health and safety; prediction of seismic events and natural or man-made hazards
  4. Using less water and energy
  5. Reducing CO2 footprint
  6. By-product handling
  7. Social and business organisation

Sustainable Use, Efficiency, Recycling and Re-use

  1. Downstream resource efficiency
  2. Better citizens’ understanding/attitude
  3. Building capabilities and providing training
  4. Transforming waste into mines/urban mining
  5. More systemic view of different critical minerals
  6. Better use of other resources, e.g. water and energy
  7. Global governance of new extractive activities

Against these challenges, breakthroughs were sought in four areas: new applications, substitution, new sources of materials and rare metals, and changes in demand.

Four Key Actions toward a Comprehensive Policy for Securing Raw Materials Supply

Policy recommendations geared toward securing the supply of raw materials in Europe were summarised in terms of four necessary key actions:

Key Action 1: Establish an integrated strategy for raw materials supply and support it by providing continuous funding.

Research in the area of raw materials supply needs to be clearly linked to creating the right conditions for successful innovation. There is some concern that the European Commission has no competence in minerals as such but rather in matters of environmental protection, trade or economic competitiveness. This limits the development of a holistic, complementary approach needed to tackle the various issues related to securing Europe’s mineral resources supply within the sustainable development context. The sector needs a more horizontal approach – otherwise we may do research, but there is no innovation behind it. An innovation-friendly market can be created by developing stringent environmental and recycling regulations. Europe is at the forefront of a number of technologies in these areas. Regulators need to understand that part of their job is to stimulate innovation if not for today at least for tomorrow. Engaging them in foresight, along with technologists and users, is important for developing this horizon. There is a 7-8 year challenge to develop a new lead market.

Key Action 2: Move from stop and go to a lasting approach with three central aspects for a research, technology and innovation programme.

Support up to now has been project-based and provided only to a limited extent on a stop and go basis while continuous policies and knowledge development would be necessary.

2.1 There are three broad research priorities:

  • Research dealing with mineral resources intelligence. This is research of a totally different kind, i.e. mainly interdisciplinary. It is needed to keep up with a dynamic situation where even what minerals and metals are critical changes over time.
  • Research leading to new or better technologies with a focus upon whatever is needed by industry. The large scale South Korean national initiatives provide a good example of speed, scale and pragmatism and also represent the competition that Europe has to face. The US investment on rare earths in the Ames laboratory is another example.
  • Research on mitigation and understanding of environmental impacts.

2.2 Adopt a holistic approach to the innovation cycle. Support for research should be long-term and structured so that most publicly funded research is open and shared internationally. The full range of mechanisms is needed: basic R&D, integrated projects or their equivalent and joint technology initiatives. However, 80% of the effort should be in large applied projects and the rest focused on longer term work. Partnership with the US, Japan and possibly South Korea could be meaningful in a number of areas.

2.3 Adopt a joint programming approach. Currently there is little or no coordination between European-level and national research. Some governments are in a position to take the initiative in this area – notably Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Finland and Poland.

Key Action 3: Increase the flow of trained people.

A supply of trained people is a significant constraint. The lack of investment in research and teaching in this area over the past 20 years has depleted the availability of expertise to undertake the necessary research and teaching. Training initiatives are needed and within the European framework a pool of excellence should be developed – a platform that coordinates the supply and demand for education and training in the area with some elements being in competition and some complementary. There is also a need to attract interest from researchers outside the area; many of those doing research in this field have a background in the minerals sector, but breakthroughs may be more likely to come from people currently working in other fields.

Key Action 4: Governance issues are critical.

Securing raw materials is a task that goes beyond the competence and capability of the individual member states and is inherently European. Even current European initiatives in other fields are dependent on action in this sector – rare metals are behind all the EU’s proposed Innovation Partnerships. Collaboration beyond Europe is also necessary, but a collective voice for Europe is more likely to be heard in the international arena. There are also opportunities to exert a positive influence to halt environmentally damaging or politically dangerous approaches in other parts of the world, notably in Africa and parts of the CIS. The momentum from the current EU Raw Materials Initiative, aiming to foster and secure supplies and to promote resource efficiency and recycling, needs to be carried forward into the EU’s Eighth Framework Programme, its innovation policies and also its wider policies including those concerning interaction with the African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Authors: Luke Georghiou, Jacques Varet, Philippe Larédo
Sponsors: EU Commission
Type: EU-level single issue foresight exercise
Organizer: FP7 FarHorizon Project Coordinator: MIOIR, Luke Georghiou
Duration: Sept 08-Feb11 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2030 Date of Brief: Apr 2011


Download EFP Brief No. 181_Technologies for EU Minerals Supply

Sources and References

Georghiou, L., Varet, J. and Larédo P. (2011), Breakthrough technologies: For the security of supply of critical minerals and metals in the EU, March 2011,

European Commission (2010), “Critical Raw Materials for the EU”, Report of the RMSG Ad Hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials, June 2010

European Commission (2011), Tackling the Challenges in Commodity Markets and on Raw Materials, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 02/02/2011 COM(2011) 0025 final

EFP Brief No. 179: Facing the Future: Time for the EU to Meet Global Challenges

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The aim of this project is to provide a comprehensive picture of the main trends ahead and possible disruptive global challenges in the future and to examine how the EU could position itself to take an active role in shaping a response to them. The work described in the final report contributes a fresh perspective on the future, linking widely accepted quantified trends through 2025 and beyond with the opinions of experts and policy makers on the likely consequences of these trends and wild cards. This work has been undertaken in cooperation with the Bureau of European Policy Advisors of the European Commission.

The World in 2025

What will the world look like in 2025 and beyond? What are possible future disruptive global challenges? And how can the EU position itself to take an active role in shaping a response to them? There is a clear and growing need for the ability to anticipate change to be embedded in policy. This is critical not only for being able to respond and adapt to new situations before they occur but also to shape the future, building upon mutual understanding and common vi-sions to be jointly pursued.

For policy responses to address all the pressing current global challenges, especially when seen in isolation, is clearly a demanding task. Institutions face greater com-plexity and difficulty in providing solutions in due time. This is particularly true when the policy focus extends beyond the challenges that societies face today, seeking to anticipate future challenges and transform them into opportunities.

This is the rationale for the study “Facing the future: time for the EU to meet global challenges” carried out by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS) for the Bureau of European Policy Advisors of the (BEPA).

From Analytical Review to Robust Portfolio Modelling

The methodology used combines an extensive analytical review of more than 120 recent future-oriented studies, followed by a broad online consultation of almost 400 identified issues in six policy-relevant areas and use of multi-criteria quantitative analysis (Robust Portfolio Modelling) to prioritise the resulting issues. Key issues were then presented and discussed in a workshop with selected experts and policy makers. The main objective of the expert workshop was to organise the findings of the literature review and the analysis of the online survey into novel cross-cutting challenges, which the EU needs to tackle now in order to secure a better future for all and to translate them into policy messages. As a wide variety of challenges emerged related to the future of the world in 2025, the criteria of urgency, tractability and impact were used to prioritise and select the most relevant ones.

Main Challenges for the EU

Following the methodological approach above, three key challenges with a global scope were identified at the end of the expert workshop. Their multiple dimensions are articulated below.

Need to Change the Current Ways of Using Essential Natural Resources

This global challenge relates to the human over-exploitation of basic natural resources, which are essen-tial for societies to function and evolve in a sustainable manner. Current conditions and patterns of behaviour need to be reflected, and policy actions supporting the shift towards sustainable ways of living should be fostered and strengthened. The long-term sustainability is key to ensure not only economic growth but also a better quality of life for all current and future generations. This depends on the intelligent use, conservation and renewal of natural resources and ecological systems.

All human activities both depend and have an impact on natural resources. Food production, for example, is highly dependent on water and land and its processing and distribution depends on energy. All industrial activity starts by extracting natural resources and then assem-bles them in different ways to add economic value, while using energy and generating waste along the chain. The chain ends with the disposal of final goods at the end of their product life. The provision of services also impacts on natural resources.

Economic growth has largely relied on the overexploita-tion of essential natural resources and hence ulti-mately caused the disruption of natural cycles. Techno-institutional lock-in may be an important factor that com-pounds and intensifies human impacts on nature since it creates barriers to the search for sustainable alternatives to existing processes and infrastructures as well as to behavioural change. The most well known effects are:

  • Climate change and its manifold effects on water and other natural resources, agriculture and food se-curity, ecosystems and biodiversity, human health and migration patterns (IPCC, 2007; UNEP, 2007).
  • A dramatic increase in water scarcity in many parts of the world partly due to climate change and partly due to excessive withdrawals and contamination of surface and ground water, with profound implications for ecosystems health, food production and human well being (WEF, 2009; WWF, 2008).
  • The decline in the geographical distribution and abundance of arable land, freshwater and marine biodiversity is progressing more rapidly than at any other time in human history, with humanity moving in the direction of crossing tipping points since changes in the biophysical and social systems may continue even if the forces of change are removed (WWF, 2008).
  • A possible global energy shortage due to increas-ing demand and consumption, which will lead to a rise in global competition for energy resources as well as a greater dependency between nations, with energy in general and oil in particular playing a key role in future power relations and defence policies (European Commission, 2008; OECD, 2008).
  • Increased demand for food due to a growing world population, rising affluence, and the shift to Western dietary preferences (World Bank, 2007); this will place more pressure on water for agriculture and have a strong effect of high food prices.
  • Climate change, water scarcity and lack of food at affordable prices will be important factors in the in-crease of illness and death rates in developing countries (IPCC, 2007), which will lead to a deepen-ing in poverty and exclusion linked to the unsustain-able exploitation of the natural resources still avail-able, mass migration as well as threats in the form of radicalisation and terrorism (United Nations, 2008).

Need to Anticipate and Adapt to Societal Changes

For the EU to fully become a knowledge society there is a need to anticipate and adapt to political, cultural, demographic and economic transformations. Business, demography, migration and societies are generally changing at a much higher rate than public institutions and related decision-making processes. Legal frame-works, social security systems, education and the mod-els of healthcare have difficulties in keeping up with the pace of these transformations. This hampers innovation and economic growth and puts high pressure on natural resources and on the ability of institutions to cope with societal transformations. Beyond the consequences already mentioned in challenge one, there are now in-creasing concerns on how to provide equal access to healthcare and how to become a so-called knowledge society. The multiple dimensions of this challenge are:

  • Rising employment rates will no longer be sufficient to compensate for the decline in the EU working population due to ageing and a change in skills needed to function in knowledge societies, leading to economic growth being mainly dependent on in-creases in productivity.
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  • Ageing societies are placing increasing pressure on pension systems, social security and healthcare sys-tems (European Communities, 2008).
  • Increase in continuing flows of migrants from de-veloping to developed countries due to environmental hazards and armed conflicts as well as aspirations to a better quality of life.
  • Education and information and communication tech-nology (ICT) innovations could lead to a shift towards citizen empowerment and e-governance with citizens holding governments accountable due to an increase in transparency, but this is at risk of failing to become reality since the majority of the world population is still excluded from having access to the knowledge society.
  • Innovations limited by social acceptance due to a lack of education, transparency and societal un-derstanding of technological possibilities.
  • New converging technologies that emerge from multidisciplinary collaboration are expected to drasti-cally change all dimensions of life (RAND, 2001).
  • In relation to globalisation, it is expected by 2025 that the world will comprise many more large economic powers. China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and In-donesia will take on greater significance in the global economy (EIN, 2007) and their huge consumer-driven domestic markets can be expected to become a major focus for global business and technology.

Need for Effective and Transparent Governance for the EU and the World

This challenge comprises the need for the EU to create more transparent and accountable governance struc-tures and processes that can adapt to and anticipate the future, and to use this capacity to do likewise at the global level in order to address global and common chal-lenges and to spread democracy and transparency all over the world. Addressing the multiple effects of both challenges mentioned above requires new forms of governance and that as many nations and stakeholders as possible join forces. The multiple dimensions of this challenge are:

  • Single policy governance approaches can no longer cope with global issues, leading to fragmented responses to common challenges that are complex and interconnected. This is linked to the lack of a single nation’s ability to keep up with the pace of socio-economic change and the reliance on reactive, individual, unaligned and inflexible strategies (Florini, 2005).
  • The problems faced by developing countries also increasingly become the problems of developed economies, such as the EU member states, as a consequence of increasingly fading borders between nations due to terrorism and conflicts (i.e. over natural resources) and migrations caused by pandemics and poverty.
  • Mainly thanks to ICT-related innovations there is an increasing shift towards empowerment in govern-ance. The use of the Internet is now moving towards the use of Web 2.0, with applications such as social networking, blogs, wikis, tagging, etc., and this supports a trend towards networked computing and e-governance systems (Accenture, 2009).
  • Many rising superpowers, such as Russia, China, the Middle-East and some Latin American countries, have widely differing traditions in democratic gov-ernance, which may cause pressures on democracy also elsewhere. Western norms and values, as the foundation of the global system, could also be challenged by radical religious identity politics that might emerge as a powerful counter-ideology with wide-spread appeal.
  • The growing strength of emerging economies in-creases pressure to integrate them more closely into international coordination processes. Unbalanced representation of nations in global fora, such as the UN, WTO and IMF, makes it impossible for many developing countries to participate in global decision-making processes and to implement or adopt strategies that are decided only by the economically powerful countries (Amanatidou, 2008).

Reduction of Resource Dependence, Equal Access to Knowledge Institutions and Social Care

Based on the above challenges, the main policy issues to be considered at EU level are:

  • Policy alignment towards sustainability – includ-ing the need to align all relevant policy domains to achieve reform in the agri-system; a reduction in the EU’s dependency on resources; an increase in levels of education and social awareness; appropriate and effective management of migration flows resulting from climate change, aspirations to a better quality of
    life, and the labour market needs of especially ageing societies; and a change in the policy paradigm based on GDP to an updated system that also considers ecological flows and stocks.
  • Social diversity and ICTs towards citizen empow-erment – including the need to build new incentives to facilitate and strengthen relationships between dif-ferent social systems; develop the necessary means to enhance education on the use of ICTs in conjunc-tion with other technologies; improve the quality of education by, for instance, fostering competition within and between EU national education systems; regulate the healthcare system, tapping into new technologies to provide equal access for all; develop radically new and far more efficient forms of social protection; and enhance regional specialisation through the formation of regional RTDI clusters.
  • Anticipation of future challenges to turn these into new opportunities – including the need to em-bed forward looking techniques in EU policy making; foster mutual understanding through ongoing and in-clusive dialogue both within the EU and worldwide to build shared values, common visions, actions, and smart regulations, and enable effective and adaptive international organisations to become a reality; estab-lish partnerships between industry, government and society; clarify at global fora the role and status of the EU and balance its representation in international or-ganisations; and foster (e)participation and (e)democracy through the use of web 2.0.

The foresight approach employed in this study contrib-utes to policy making by supporting a continuous and shared approach to understand the present in all its complexity, to look at different future possibilities and to shape a joint direction to follow while considering differ-ent stakeholders’ points of view. This can be coupled with a periodic evaluation of what has or has not been achieved to enable policy to correct deviations and to continually adapt to and re-shape upcoming new situa-tions. It is believed that such an approach, linked to other forward-looking techniques and tapping into evi-dence-based research and quantitative elements, would be critical to enable EU policy making to become more adaptive and able to anticipate and address change.

Download EFP Brief No. 179_Facing the future

Selected References

The full bibliography is available in the final report on

Accenture. 2009. Web 2.0 and the Next Generation of Public Service. Accenture.

Amanatidou E. 2008. The Role of the EU in the World. EFMN Brief 133,

European Communities. 2008. The 2009 Ageing Report. European Economy 7/2008.

EIN. 2007. The world in 2025 – how the European Union will need to respond. Discussion Document. European Ideas Network: Brussels.

Florini A. 2005. The Coming Democracy – New Rules for Running a New World. Brookings Institution Press: Washington DC.

IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007 – Synthesis Report. An Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Geneva.

OECD. 2008. World Energy Outlook 2008. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Paris.

RAND. 2001. The Global Technology Revolution – Bio / Nano / Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015. RAND: Santa Monica.

UNEP. 2007. Global Environmental Outlook (GEO4) – Environment for Development. United Nations Environment Pro-gramme: Nairobi.

United Nations. 2008. Trends in Sustainable Development: Agriculture, Rural Development, Land, Desertification and Drought. United Nations: New York.

WEF. 2009. World Economic Forum Initiative: Managing Our Future Water Needs for Agriculture, Industry, Human Health and the Environment – The Bubble is Close to Bursting: A Forecast of the Main Economic and Geopolitical Water Issues Likely to Arise in the World during the Next Two Decades. World Economic Forum.

World Bank. 2007. World Development Report 2008 – Agriculture for Development. The World Bank: Washington DC.

WWF. 2008. Living Planet Report 2008. World Wide Fund for Nature.

EFP Brief No. 176: Foresighting the Agri-climate Ecology

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

This exercise was part of an EU FP7 Blue Skies Project aimed at piloting, developing and testing in real situations a foresight methodology designed to bring together key stakeholders to explore the longer term challenges that face their sector (or cut across sectors) and to build a shared vision that could guide the development of the relevant European research agenda. This approach was applied to the first theme selected, namely “Application of Breakthrough Technologies to Adaptation to Climate Change in Agriculture”. This met the criteria for a sectorally driven topic, was research-driven and involved a clear and vital European policy challenge. Moreover, from an early stage, there was strong stakeholder engagement from the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research and the Directorate-General for Research in Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Aquaculture.

Urgency of Agri-climate Challenge

There is a general consensus that agriculture in Europe will confront major challenges related to rising global temperatures, an increasing number of extreme climatic events and a series of consequences which may occa-sionally be positive but the sum total of which threaten food security, health and well-being, particularly but not exclusively in rural regions. The urgency of mitigation measures should not be minimised, not least because of the substantial contribution agriculture itself makes to greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, the reality is that such measures at this stage are only likely to offset what is to come. In consequence, thinking is already focusing on strategies for adaptation. The exercise built on the foresight work of the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) and the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Aquaculture, which had generated two important reports. A strategic link was also established with the group working on the Joint Programming Initiative developing in this area. Sev-eral meetings were held with DG RTD to improve the mapping of the research and ‘innovation ecology’ or ‘eco-system’ (an underpinning concept of the project which emphasises flows and interdependencies in the innova-tions system) and to discuss the appropriate tactics for interfacing with this community. An initial description of the ecology was prepared as background for the workshop, and the event was held in Brussels on 14 December, 2009 with the participation of 26 senior experts in agriculture and related technologies, policy and foresight.


The purpose of the workshop was to bring together these experts from the domain of agricultural research and associated policy and user areas with thinkers and specialists from outside to explore a foresight vision of the contributions that breakthrough technologies could make. Since such technologies could have profound socioeconomic consequences or even demand major socioeconomic change as preconditions, the socio-economic dimension must also be prominent. To open up scope for innovative thinking, the first part of the workshop focused on articulating the challenges of ad-aptation in the form of a “functional specification”, for example the level of salinity tolerance that a major crop would have to achieve or the need to increase cloud precipitation in a cost-effective way. A second session considered the potential of breakthrough technologies for adaptation, whether in isolation or through convergence. Workshop participants were then asked to co-construct a success scenario for the year 2050 in which European agriculture (or its functions) will have made the best use of potential breakthroughs to adapt to climate change scenarios. On the basis of the success scenario, attention then focused on the steps needed now and in the coming years to achieve the desired outcome.
In this case, the tailored structure was based upon identi-fication and prioritisation of challenges in the domains of pests and diseases, water and land, and socio-economic dimensions. With an intervening wild-card exercise, the second main step involved identifying potential solutions to the challenges resulting from breakthrough technolo-gies in bio and non-bio domains. The timescale was 2050 in recognition of the rate of change of drivers and effects.

Linking Success Scenario and Ecosystem Mapping

The aim of the exercise was to pilot and test in real situations a foresight methodology designed to bring together key stakeholders to explore the longer term challenges that face their sector (or cut across sectors) and to build a shared vision that could guide the devel-opment of the relevant European research agenda. This includes identifying the changes in the European research and innovation ecosystem that would be needed to take forward that agenda. The target is not the Eighth Framework Programme in isolation or the specific case of the Joint Programming Initiatives but rather embedding them as core elements of wider cooperation and coordination mechanisms and proc-esses around the challenges facing the sectors exam-ined. The project combines the core approach of the “Success Scenario Workshop” with the mapping of the research and innovation ecosystem to address differ-ent types of research and innovation challenges.

The “Success Scenario Approach” is an action-based approach, which helps to generate a shared vision among senior stakeholders of what success in the area would look like, specified in terms of goals and indicators, which provide the starting point for developing a road-map to get there. The purpose of having such a vision of success is to set a ‘stretch target’ for all the stakeholders. The discussion and debate involved develops mutual understanding and a common platform of knowledge that helps to align the actors for action. In practice, the struc-ture of a workshop begins with a consideration of key drivers or challenges, builds a vision of success, and then focuses on actions to make the vision a reality. The work-shop helps to flag hidden bottlenecks and constraints pre-venting progress as well as windows of opportunity for joint policy coordination and action. Important outcomes of these workshops are the insights they provide in terms of the level of maturity in policy design and development and the viability and robustness of long-term policy scenarios to guide policy-making. The workshops also provide indi-cations on whether there is a need for further discussion to refine thinking and policy design and/or to bring additional stakeholders into the discussion.

The workshop approach is supported by a mapping of the research and innovation ecosystem, a concept that stresses the interdependencies between actors in re-search and innovation – here understood broadly to include policy as well as industrial innovation. The map articulates the identities and roles of key actors, the networks in place and the flows of money and knowl-edge. It also provides an overview of existing initiatives and the level of maturity of the system, how well it is working and whether networks need to be re-aligned or re-configured. Towards the end of the process, road-maps or implementation plans are developed identifying the key steps to be taken to put European research in the area on the appropriate footing.

Challenges in Three Key Areas

The Farhorizon Agri-climate Workshop working group discussions were structured on the challenges arising from climate change impacts on agriculture in three key areas, namely pests and diseases, water and land, and socio-economic aspects (including events outside Europe). Each cluster of challenges is explored in more detail below.

Cluster 1: Pests and Diseases

Early warning systems: Among the key impacts identi-fied in the first cluster were the migration of pests from hot countries and the need to detect and control the spread of invasive species. This requires action on a number of levels, including efforts to improve detection of invasive plant species or crops bringing new pests and diseases into Europe. Accuracy and timeliness of detec-tion systems is key for effective responses, hence the need for robust monitoring and early warning systems for picking up signs in initial phases. Sophisticated ICT-based expert systems together with smart technologies can detect weeds (and hidden pests) in imported plants.

Genetic engineering and genomics: In Europe monocul-tures represent a major problem due to additional risks relating to pests. There is a need to plan a shift to polycul-ture for a more diverse set of animals and plants. Genetic engineering has focused on one particular challenge while it also needs to address other challenges, such as adapt-ing existing crops quickly, genetic traits for animal health and the potential of genomics for enhancing plants’ ca-pacity for survival in stressful environments, requiring a focus on a broader genetic strain.

Territorial diversity and local, traditional knowledge: Re-search challenges range from experimentation with di-versified cropping to research on viroids and the spread of pests and human allergies. Despite territorial diversity in climate impacts, regions do not operate in silos result-ing in cross-impacts on bordering regions. This highlights the need for closer cooperation between disciplines in-cluding ICT, GIS, ‘omics’ (refers to disciplines that have the omics syllable in common, e.g. genomics) and taxon-omy. There are concerns about a shortfall of plant spe-cialists and taxonomists and the loss of traditional knowl-edge due to the growing attraction of genomics.

Cluster 2: Climate change impacts on water and land

The second cluster relating to climate change impacts on water and land can be divided into (i) ‘general impacts’, i.e. changes in temperature, solar radiation, rainfall, changes or increases in toxic air(borne) pollutant levels, water shortages, changes in plant types, changes in carbon dioxide levels and impacts on ecosystem(s). The speed of change in systems and their (and our) ability to respond is a key issue now (i.e. from traditional national systems and cultures to new global set-ups). (ii) ‘Water quality impacts’ – i.e. groundwater being affected by changing quantities of rainfall, potentially allowing the concentration of pollutants etc. to increase; changes in the relative priorities for water use compared to the cur-rent priority of drinking water quality over agriculture water quality. Increased biological activity is proportional to temperature increases, which could reduce water quality. (iii) ‘Water quantity impacts’ – i.e. droughts, floods and the generally shifting availability of water in space and time. Climate change could generally decrease the resis-tance and resilience of species (plant and other). (iv) ‘Impacts on land’ – i.e. mineral transport processes will be affected; soil dynamics will change (change of soil fertil-ity); desertification will alter land use; there will be a modi-fication in soil flora and fauna; where people live (have to live) may change; ‘ecosystem’ goods and services supported by the land will change; there is a changing sus-ceptibility of a variety of these things due to temperature.

Cluster 3: Socio-economic impacts

The foreseen impacts range from the urgency to de-velop new economic and agriculture models to invest-ments in technologies that are cost-effective, reliable and acceptable to society. These impacts can lead to ten-sions, insecurity, instability, especially in developing countries, due to scarce resources to address these con-cerns. This poses a general challenge of how to detect the tipping point in these situations and take action to reduce these tensions. Free trade discussions are ne-glecting climate change due to potential conflicts with the objectives of WTO negotiations. This calls for cli-mate change issues to be given a higher profile on the WTO agenda. Europe needs to develop an integrated response to economic growth, free trade and climate change based on improved communication between institutions and policy sectors, and ultimately new mod-els of economic growth decoupled from fossil carbon.

A potential impact with socio-economic effects is the emergence of local threats to agricultural systems lead-ing to the abandonment of sectors. Sectors of activity are in this scenario threatened by diseases, lack of water and other effects caused by extreme weather events. The challenges involve adapting to novel situations by new breeds and/or new technologies, investing in new tech-nologies, supplying information, educating and training people to adapt to necessary changes in lifestyle, and improving communication on climate change issues. In such situations, an increase in climate change refugees is envisaged, creating a dual challenge of prevention and integration. The means identified were international co-operation, technology transfer and education. Another key challenge is to identify effective means for keeping the environmental impact of intensification to a minimum through a new model of sustainably competitive agricul-ture based on: 1) profitability at farm level, 2) marketabil-ity of food products, 3) environmental sustainability, 4) coping with climate change, 5) energy efficiency and 6) coping with competing land uses. Developing and imple-menting this new model will require a very high level of policy coordination at the national, EU and global level. This model would address land management through transparent, effective processes for mediating conflicting uses, the introduction of new climate and agri-technologies based on public acceptance and the adaptation of educa-tion systems to promote change in lifestyle.

Agri-climate Success Scenario for 2050

Drawing on the insights gained from the analysis of challenges and suggested responses, a success sce-nario was constructed to illustrate an aspirational path by which these could shape the future:
The scene for the success scenario was set with refer-ence to future historical events including a Second Great World Food Crisis in the early 2040s, in which Europeans will have been forced to change their diet but where prescient actions taken to prepare the agricul-tural system from 2015 onwards will have insulated the Continent from the worst effects of climate change. A review written from the perspective of 2040 of the past 40 years illustrated how two generations of researchers were able to engage with a series of challenges and bring with them Europe’s timely actions to provide impor-tant insights on how proactive, forward-looking ap-proaches can be realised through joint transnational re-search initiatives. It referred to how farmers will have become increasingly used to facing the impacts of climate change reflecting the risks identified in the work-shop.

Elements of the foreseen policy approach included:

• European early warning and response strategy and facility
• Capitalising on existing knowledge
• Networked specialisation (a trans-European network of institutions synthesizing a large pool of knowledge).
A research agenda for agriculture included:
• Energy adaptation based on a mix of approaches including reduction of transport in production and dis-tribution, design of greenhouses that capture energy rather than use it, and breakthroughs in bio-energy from trees alleviating stresses on land use.
• Fertilisers that use less material input (potassium and phosphate) and less energy in their production.
• New varieties of plants with a reduced need for fertilisers and new varieties of fertilisers from manure and nitrogen fixing in grasses. Opposition to geneti-cally modified crops was dissipated by creating plants designed to be low risk (for example without the ability to spread pollen).
• Water use and drought resistance are critical factors particularly for Mediterranean regions. A multifaceted strategy includes the selection of plant varieties to con-serve water and breeding of drought resistant varieties.
• Soil fertility and dynamics provide an important re-search theme. The network supported a more robust and sustainable agriculture model and locally adapted systems. Its links to local farming communities and
researchers placed it in a strong position to spearhead change at the European level.

In summary, as a result of an early investment in capacity-building to cope with the climate impacts on agriculture from a range of perspectives (policy design, implementa-tion, knowledge capture and transfer), the success sce-nario describes an agricultural landscape in Europe 2050 that is highly diversified and yet robust to climate change effects. The success scenario also includes a retrospective on policy describing a situation where societal challenges dominate the bulk of effort and resources in the European research and innovation ecosystem. Reference was made to a situation in the early part of the century where the research and innovation constituencies is largely separate and the public viewed researchers as an isolated elite interested mainly in securing a continuous flow of funding. In this scenario, the financial crisis causes researchers to be much more explicit about how their work will contribute to economic recovery and major societal challenges. At the same time political, business and social leaders will have reassured the scientific community that substantial funding will be reserved for investigator-driven research but that much more effort will be made to ensure success-ful translation of the results of that work. Building the con-stituency to address the grand challenge of adaptation to climate change in agriculture will have been aided by or-ganisational innovations, including policy platforms that bring together a range of stakeholders responsible for policies relating to agriculture, climate change, research, and innovation, as well as the players in the field (re-searchers, farmers, business and intermediaries), who will have been sensitised to the challenges at a very early stage. Foresight actions will also have been used to help build a common vision and mobilise the participants.

Foresight Helps Adapt to Climate Change

This approach was intended to provide a practical dem-onstration of ways in which foresight involving key stake-holders can help develop new initiatives at European level. In practice, the Farhorizon workshop was placed in the context of a sequence of foresight activities, and it is fair to say that the net effect of all of these activities helped the agriculture and climate change research com-munities to become one of the first to engage realistically with the Joint Programming Initiative and to position itself for further opportunities within the Innovation Union framework. In terms of content, the workshop reinforced and extended certain conclusions of its predecessors and made a distinctive contribution by demonstrating the po-tential of breakthrough for non-bio-based technologies to contribute to the adaptive response to climate change in European agriculture. Within the bio-based list some more controversial issues were also made explicit.

Download EFP Brief No. 176_Foresighting the AgriClimate Ecology

Sources and References

European Commission [EC] (2009), ‘New challenges for agricultural research: Climate change, food security, rural devel-opment, agricultural knowledge systems’, 2nd SCAR Foresight exercise, DG Research, Brussels: EC.

EFP Brief No. 175: Innovation Futures: A Foresight Exercise on Emerging Patterns of Innovation

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The Innovation Futures (INFU) project deals with the emergence of new innovation patterns, such as open innovation, user innovation, community innovation, social innovation and design innovation. Based on a foresight exercise, the project examines different patterns of how innovation is organised and studies implications for business and policy making. For the first time, a foresight project is conducted for analysing and discussing systematically the emergence and diffusion of new innovation patterns and their implications for European policy.

Emerging Patterns: How Innovation May be Organised in the Future

There a number of indications that the way economic actors interact in order to transform knowledge into new products and services is currently undergoing substantial changes. The emergence of new innovation patterns with new actors, different roles and new modes of interaction implies re-configurations in European innovation systems with far reaching implications for European S&T in the long run.

While a few radical visions have been taking up these signals and are predicting disruptive change for economy and society there is little systematic exploration of possible future innovation landscapes and their implications for economy and society. However, in order for research and other policies to be prepared for challenges arising from these changes and to be able to benefit from them, a more solid understanding of possible innovation futures and their implications for society is needed. At the same time there is a need for debate among innovation actors creating awareness, shared visions and momentum for change.

Despite growing debates in academia, industry and policy, many questions remain to be addressed such as:

  • implications of new innovation schemes for production patterns (distribution and location of production),
  • environmental impact of new innovation patterns in particular user innovation,
  • implications of new innovation forms for regulatory framework conditions (both enabling and controlling these innovations),
  • the role of current innovation agents (companies, researchers, engineers, designers, architects… the so called “creative class” etc.) within new innovation patterns,
  • people’s attitudes towards innovation activities and their dependence on cultural context (e.g. Innovation fatigue and passive consumer mentality versus individualisation and experience economy).
  • the relation of new innovation models towards well-known global megatrends such as demographic change, environmental threats, urbanisation …

Within this context, the INFU project has defined the following objectives:

  • scanning of weak signals indicating changing innovation patterns with a potentially disruptive impact for European S&T in the long run,
  • systematic exploration of relevant and plausible future innovation landscapes through participative scenario building,
  • assessment of scenario implications for the content of academic and industrial research, and key policy goals such as sustainability,
  • deriving strategic options and guidelines for European research policy and relevant multipliers,
  • initiation of an interdisciplinary, boundary-spanning stakeholder and expert debate on new innovation patterns.

The project combines various foresight methods and builds on the existing academic literature on new innovation patterns. The INFU dialogue starts by identifying emerging signals of change in current innovation patterns and then progresses by increasingly integrating diverse perspectives and knowledge sources towards consolidated innovation futures scripts. These bottom-up visions are then confronted with different possible socio-economic framework conditions and global mega-trends to finally synthesize consistent scenarios which integrate micro, meso and macro elements of possible innovation futures with particular emphasis on changes in the nature and content of research. Finally, policy strategy options are developed to prepare for the identified changes in innovation patterns.

In the different stages a wide range of experts and stakeholders are involved, e.g. within panel discussions, interviews, scenario workshops and online-debates.

63 ‘Signals of Change’

Based on an analysis of various sources such as the academic literature, internet, newspapers and magazines signals for arising innovation patterns have been identified in the first year of the project. In total, 63 ‘signals of change’ were identified and structured information was collected for every signal of change. In our context, a weak signal indicates a change in an innovation pattern with a potential of disruptive impact, which is not established as a common way of doing innovation (in a sector).

The identified examples and cases often combine existing ideas, concepts and strategies (which are also described in the academic literature) in innovative ways, show new applications and thus expand our thinking about possible innovation futures.

New Innovation Pattern

Describing “new innovation patterns” requires a definition or at least an understanding of what is new. With “new innovation patterns” we mean novel emerging concepts, ideas and strategies of how innovation is organised, but also well-known trends such as open source software development, which are already of importance in specific industries or areas, but may have a larger impact or potential for other areas in the future. In this sense, specific concepts and strategies may be “new” for specific industries.

20 Innovation Visions

The set of identified weak signals served as base for the development of 20 innovation visions, which, in a creative way, amplify and combine some signals in order to develop coherent, plausible and sometimes provocative pictures of possible future forms of innovation. Thereby the team transferred an idea already applied to other sectors or generalised a signal considered to become a mainstream practice The visions have also been visualized by a video which can be seen on the project web page: In the next stage of the INFU project the various impacts, likelihood, opportunities and threats of selected innovation futures will be discussed and elaborated in more detail.

We will pick out seven of these visions which may have a potentially strong impact on socio-economic development to illustrate the possible future development and briefly introduce them:

The Open Source Society

This innovation vision assumes that open source development is no longer limited to software development but becomes an all compassing innovation pattern. Many products and services are provided by people contributing bits and pieces to various technological and social innovation projects. Open source business models and coordination mechanisms abound.

What are possible socio-economic impacts? Competition on the market could slowly be replaced by ‘strategic co-opetition’ between companies. The critical question of a balanced ‘co-opetition’ is to regulate that a certain level of competitiveness ensures constructive improvement between monopolistic inertia and market competition. In the long term, we may also see a stagnation of innovation activities within firms as everyone is waiting for the others to move, hence, companies might more evolve towards closed innovation, and open source may finally stimulate also closed innovation. From a social perspective, the democratisation of product knowledge might give benefit to poorer societal groups and societies, and the increase of ‘copy and paste’ might lead to less safe products and thus higher societal costs.


Imagine that innovation camps, where people gather for a few days to innovate together, become widely established as a means of problem solving. Innovation camps are used by companies, the public sector and civil society to solve problems ranging from high-tech challenges to innovative neighbourhood facilities. Certain groups of people regularly join innovation camps.

What are possible socio-economic effects? Innovation camps are an established format to collect ideas of young talented people. They are systematically integrated in the education system as a new means to foster innovation culture and to increase interest in science and research in order to meet the demand from knowledge-based industry. The participation is organised as a reward for young people that have participating in contests before. The camps also give way to future perspectives and personal development (careers, grants, jobs, education, etc.) chances.

Innovation marketplace

What if companies no longer innovated themselves but fully externalised innovation to an open innovation marketplace? Nomadic innovators bid on innovation tenders and contests in constantly changing teams. They gather in co-working spaces some of which are top-favourite employers for creative people.

What are possible socio-economic impacts? Companies may be able to draw on a much broader range of ideas and perspectives. They can manage their innovation processes more flexibly and efficiently. Co-working spaces provide an interesting alternative to nomadic isolated worklives of self-employed knowledge workers. They may also become seeds of social entrepreneurship and help integrate marginalised groups.

Relocated Innovation

This innovation vision can be sketched by asking the following question: What if the bulk of successful and disruptive innovations came from today’s emerging markets? Thus, in this vision, the West adopts the role of a follower and has to face products primarily designed for a different cultural context. Western companies wishfully look to Asia, often with the help of industrial espionage. Creative people migrate to the new innovation hot spots in Asia and send back their money home to the US and Europe.

What are possible socio-economic impacts? Western companies would lose market shares and significance in international markets. There is a need for restructuring of Western markets: economies focus on local needs and local products with a high quality standard and no longer on front running products. The current tendencies of “globalisation of wisdom”, and “technological convergence” would be limited by specialised regional innovation clusters. In addition, Western Nations would lose wealth while people in the Middle East and Asia would benefit. Social welfare systems in the West would no longer be fundable due to tax losses and a rise of “unproductive” shares of people in society (ageing population and unemployment). The migration of highly educated people as well as industrial workers to new markets would increase. European societies would age even more rapidly than projected. Thus, social tensions and crime could increase, as the West suffers economically.

Innovation Imperative

What if the current emphasis on innovation and creativity among designers, programmers and engineers spread to all workplaces? Hence, all employees, from the janitor to top management are constantly involved in innovation activities. Creativity is part of any daily job routine and is a key in performance measurements.

If more and more people suffer from the constant innovation pressure, innovation could become something undesirable and negative. Increasingly, people may feel compelled to use their spare time to meet the innovation demands – which could have negative effects on people’s health. Creativity drugs could become common and a loss of orientation due to the continuous change might be a consequence. Designers and engineers may feel threatened by the distributed innovation approach. At the same time, a counter trend may be that innovation fatigue takes over and “No-Innovation” is en-vogue in certain areas. Thus, managing that we end up with a “balanced innovation culture” is a challenge in this scenario context.

Waste-based Innovation

Think about the following: What if the principle of “Waste equals Food” (cradle-to-cradle) was widely adopted? Raw material databases with used components and materials serve as a starting point for innovations. The whole world becomes one eternal circle. Everything that is made of something is part of making something.

A change towards waste-based innovation would lead to a highly environmentally friendly economy. However, if recycling makes sense depends on the specific product, as in some cases recycling or reuse may have higher environmental costs. Some products might have to be banned entirely. Waste-based innovation would probably lead to a radicalisation of material awareness and could open the door for the advancement of recycling technologies and production. Trading of waste would become an even more highly profitable business.

City-driven systemic innovation

In 2009, the city of Munich launched an idea contest to animate as many people as possible to generate and advance innovation concepts on energy efficiency in the fields of mobility and habitation. We could ask: What if cities became stronger actors in the field of innovation by proactively pushing for needed and demanded solutions? Cities could take on the investment risks for the development and implementation of needed innovations and use these as a new economic factor by patenting and marketing their solutions to other cities.

Possible impacts: City-driven innovation initiatives could increase the probability for people to find solutions for social and environmental problems which are beneficial for all. They could also lead to ideas which otherwise would have never been realised by private actors. At the same time, as a public customer, they can also open new market opportunities for suppliers and therefore help to reduce market risks.

Future Drivers of Innovation

The innovation visions presented span a wide field of possible innovation patterns, and, as briefly illustrated, lead to various effects in the social, economic and environmental dimension.

An analysis of the innovation patterns reveals that a significant driver in the economic dimension is the increasing global competition. The pressure to innovate is rising due to ever-shorter product life cycles, growing product piracy, and the transition of industrialised societies into knowledge economies. The key question is: How can we develop better ideas, implement them faster and spend less money while doing so? Another economic driver of changing innovation patterns are changes in the work world: Flexible working patterns, outsourcing and the increasing number of professional freelancers foster and enable the emergence of new innovation concepts. Moreover, companies have started to realize the direct (money) and indirect (reputation) economic value of social and environmental innovations, so there is a growing interest in both of these areas. Geographical changes in innovation patterns, in particular the shift of innovativeness to developing countries, is driven by cost advantages and the rapid economic catch-up in those countries.

In the social dimension, many innovation futures are driven by people’s growing ability and willingness to deal with social media and collaboration tools. This driver is closely connected to the repeatedly mentioned aspect that the younger generation is about to enter the business world, bringing with them new ways of thinking about (free) knowledge sharing, collaborating and inventing. Another trend is the spread of individualisation, which, as one effect among others, increases people’s ambitions to express themselves by influencing the design of products and / or to change the functionality of solutions and services according to their individual needs. Finally, there is also evidence that there is a change in the way innovators and being innovative is regarded socially: Being innovative is becoming more and more socially desirable for a growing number of people.

From an environmental point of view, the growing awareness of climate change, social grievances and the inefficient use of resources are driving forces for emerging innovation patterns. However, new innovation concepts could fail for precisely these reasons if they turn out to be resource-inefficient or to produce tons of new waste. From a technological perspective, especially new Web 2.0 applications are bringing about changes in innovation patterns, as they make knowledge sharing and collaborating easier and more affordable, also on a global scale. Furthermore, many new innovation concepts are expected to result from the upcoming technology wave (sustainability technology), and general technological progress, i.e. cheaper, more powerful and usable devices.

In the final stage of the INFU project, the various impacts, likelihood, opportunities and threats of selected innovation futures will be discussed and policy implications will be elaborated in more detail.

Authors: Karl-Heinz Leitner     
Sponsors: European Commission, FP7 SSH Programme
Type: European Foresight Exercise
Organizer: Austrian Institute of Technology (Project coordinator),
Duration: 06/09-01/10 Budget: 0.5 Mill. € Time Horizon: 2020 Date of Brief: Aug. 2010


Download EFP Brief No. 175_INFU

Sources and References


De Jong, J., Vanhaverbeke, W., Kalvet, T., Chesbrough, H. (2008): Policies for Open Innovation: Theory, Framework and Cases, Research project funded by VISION Era-Net, Helsinki.

Stamm, B. von, Trifilova, A. (2009) (Eds.): The Future of Innovation, Gower, Surrey.

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