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25th Anniversary series: 2013 – A Strategy Cycle for the European Commission

May 28, 2015

EFFLA (European Forum on Forward Looking Activities) was set up in September 2011 to aggregate existing forward looking studies and data and involve public and private stakeholders to improve the evidence base of future (R&I) policies and act as an Advisory Board to Director General of the Research and Innovation Directorate (RTD).

As part of its work, it adopted in 2013 a strategy cycle from TEKES in Finland [i]as the basis for aligning its strategy and priority setting activities to the DG RTD cycle. This showed us two principles for the work of DG RTD.

strat cycle

First, the type of stakeholder consultation during stages I and II – the left hand side of the cycle – needed to be for ideas, with experts irrespective of organisation or geography. On the RHS, consultation is with Member States, industry groups, etc.

Second, we found was that there were many good pieces of work in all quadrants, but that the setting of priorities tended to be done in the context of individual pieces of Strategic Intelligence without a view of the whole Horizon, and that the Sense-Making stage was missing from the processes.

The importance of Sense-Making is that it focuses on formulating the question that the policy makers are concerned with, and finding ways of bringing together those parts of strategic intelligence which will help answer the question, in a format that is helpful. The methodology for this might be scenarios, or Three Horizons[ii] or any other appropriate method – the essential aspect is the bridging between the horizon scanners and decision makers.

We have used this strategic cycle in a number of our SAMI projects, and find that it helps our clients to see the stages of analysis and synthesis leading to strategy – a simplified form can be found on the SAMI web site at

Written by SAMI Director, Gill Ringland.

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