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July 25, 2013

In recent posts, we looked at the methodology used to characterise the various approaches to Horizon Scanning and five examples of public sector approaches. In this week’s post we look at three private sector approaches from:

  •  Arup – professional services in and around the built environment
  • Pepsico – convenience snacks, food and beverages.
  • Advisory Council For Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe

Next week we will look at:

  • Allen & Overy – global law partnership
  • Daimler  – automotive industry

and map all five onto the Horizon Scanning map described in a SESTI paper (Amanatidou et al 2012):

  • by the level of participation
  • by the extent to which automated processes are used

 Interviewees were also asked about:

  • The nature and size of the team involved in HS and Foresight
  • How HS formed part of the wider Strategic Foresight process

Most interviewees saw Horizon Scanning as an integrated part of the overall Strategic Foresight process, rather than as a distinct activity, and it was generally conducted by the same team.


Arup are an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists offering a broad range of professional services in and around the built environment.


The Arup Foresight + Innovation team, established in 2002, is comprised of a group of professionals with diverse areas of expertise. Members of the team work in a variety of capacities to maximize the depth, breadth, and relevancy of the work undertaken. The result is a holistic approach to researching and monitoring the trends and issues that are likely to have a significant impact upon the future of the built environment and society at large.

The team primarily provides internal support to Arup, but around 25% of their effort is dedicated to external clients. Recent projects have included research on the Future of Retail, the Future of Urban Mobility, the Workplace of the Future, and the Future of Design Tools. Horizon Scanning per se is less than 5% of total activity of the team.

Drivers of Change

In 2003 Arup’s Foresight + Innovation team initiated the “Drivers of Change” programme as an interface for communicating research, trends, and questions about the future to a global audience. The programme explores different “drivers,” or topics that prompt change in society and markets, such as Energy, Waste, and Water. These topics are each analysed through five different realms of impact: Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political, collectively referred to as the STEEP framework.

This research has been condensed into a series of ten knowledge card sets, which each explore a single driver in greater detail. Each card features a thought-provoking question and a fact on the front, and a longer explanation and a graph of supporting data on the back. The cards are used in workshops and as a major input to projects both internally and externally.

Links to Strategic Foresight Process

Insights and implications from the team’s Horizon Scanning and trend analysis are communicated across the organisation in a monthly, 2-page Foresight newsletter, which also lists the team’s current projects, and information gathered on relevant research from other organisations in the industry.

The impact on policy is not centralised and structured. Instead it is through individual businesses/practices and Regions, with which the team is in close contact. Typically, projects will be initiated by business/practice teams with Foresight in support, in an on-demand, responsive mode. These projects may include exploratory discussions and workshops, rather than immediate decisions, in order to create an open, flexible, dynamic culture for innovation.

Positioning on HS Matrix

a) Use of Technology:

The team posts insights and weak signals on a public Pinboard database which can be found through the Drivers of Change website, and also on a closed internal database similar to PINTEREST for specific insights on particular projects. This latter is used to stimulate debate with Arup subject matter experts. The team also uses RSS filters to scan for inputs and Twitter searches on specific topic futures. Additionally, a voting application has been developed for the Drivers of Change programme, enabling the generation of real-time tag clouds. This crowd-sourcing technique allows for the collection of data about the most relevant drivers for a specific sector, audience, or geography from the existing database, and allows users to suggest new topics for potential incorporation into the evolving Drivers of Change programme.

 b) Participation

There is an element of research being done by people individually, who then put data onto the databases. But there is also a range of wide discussions with stakeholders across the business – forums, ideas platforms, and skills networks.


 Foresight at Pepsico is seen as a four stage process rather than a single event. Overall this is an 18 month project reporting out to the Pepsico CEO.

 a) Discovery

25 senior executives are interviewed to create a “Futures Audit”: basically the organisation’s current view of the future as it is expected to unfold. It is important to document this expected future, both to capture the ma­jor drivers of change underlying research and technology management, and to contrast it with new emerging issues that may move the future in new directions. An “Environmental Scanning” phase then specifically looks for weak signals not included in the Futures Audit. The review aims to identify how weak signals would impact current beliefs.

 b) Extrapolation

The team takes weak signals and builds a tree of impacts – an “implications wheel”. They then run a workshop with creatives and futurists to identify several possible futures. The technological aspects of these futures are then reviewed by relevant experts to do formal assessments on their feasibility – ie they place practical constraints onto the scenarios.

 c) Integration

Finally 3 inductive scenarios, complete with formal process, system diagrams and interactions are built. These are developed into an online game which is played for two weeks by two global teams of 88 people, competing to develop better strategies across the scenarios.

 d) Planning (implementation)

The common expectations are then fed into the design of products, services, and business models and the technological challenges of the scenarios evaluated.


The HS element of the process was largely sub-contracted to external agencies. Internally, many executives and researchers were involved, but there was no central team of “futurists”, just an administrative and support role.

 Positioning on HS matrix

The scanning phase is primarily in the “expert” quadrant.  Other phases of the Foresight process are more collaborative, and the use of an online game to explore alternative strategies is novel.



Advisory Council For Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe

 ACARE is an industry lead forum of stakeholders from airports, airlines, and manufacturers as well as bodies such as Air Traffic Control, other safety organisations, research organisations, Member states and the Commission itself.  ACARE produced on the basis of “Vision 2020” a strategic research agenda of aviation and aeronautical sector in 2020. Its main focus then was to influence stakeholders in the planning of research programmes at European and national levels.

The document was reviewed in 2011, with the time horizon for developments in the sector extending, to focus on 2050: “Flightpath 2050”. This document is accompanied by the strategic roadmap for aviation research, development and innovation developed by ACARE that accounts for both the evolution of technology as well as radical changes or ‘technology shocks’.

 Analysis included a review of various historical trends:

  • environmental requirements such as fuel emissions and noise.
  • safety and security, following 9/11
  • the economic downturn
  • globalisation and the development of the “BRICs”

 “Flightpath 2050” and the subsequent strategic research and innovation agenda is not simply a projection of past trends, but sets goals for the European aviation sector and in particular industry and through the involvement of senior members of the industry, seeks to identify the key steps to achieve them, and a commitment to do so.

 Positioning on HS matrix

Few technological tools are used in the Horizon Scanning phase – it is primarily an expert-driven activity.

 (written by Huw Williams)

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