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Roadmapping the future of mobility

March 22, 2017

I was delighted to work with Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) to facilitate a pilot event to be called ALFI. This stands for Alternative Futures Insights. The Round Table was initiated by Anna-Marie Greenaway, Director of International University and the topic chosen for the first UK pilot was on the future of mobility – for people and freight.

The Round Table was at the end of February at the Møller Centre, at Churchill College Cambridge: I had not been there before – it is really well organized for our sort of event, with very helpful staff used to providing for the range of people that we gathered together. These included academics from Anna’s network and Dr Nicky Athanassopoulou’s network at IfM, experts on transport from the European Commission, and futurists. From BP, Mike Muskett, Distinguished Advisor Downstream Technology and Dr Dan Walker, Head of Emerging Technology and members of his team joined the lively discussions.

After introductions over a sociable dinner at St Johns College, the next day we tackled an agenda integrating two different methodologies – scenario planning and road-mapping on the topic of “what mobility in Europe might look like by 2040 for both people and goods”.

Scenario planning traces its history back to just after the Second World War, when Hermann Kahn pioneered the technique of “future-now” thinking, aiming through the use of detailed analysis plus imagination to produce a report as it might be written by people living in the future, to promote debate on nuclear weapons. Since then the method has been used extensively for creating future mental models to improve the quality of decision-making.

Roadmapping is a powerful technique regularly used by companies, government organisations and academic institutions to establish and support strategy and innovation. Roadmapping explores, manages and communicates the linkages between technology, research and product development to commercial objectives and market opportunities through a structured visual framework.

Roadmapping blog

We started by emphasizing that scenarios are not forecasts and went on to use Three Horizons to capture drivers of change important for the future of mobility to 2040. The Third Horizon social and economic drivers were used to form the scenario axes. In principle, the technology-based drivers from all Three Horizons would be then examined in all the scenarios, using the road-mapping process. In practice, due to time pressure, we used the scenarios to highlight technologies implicit in their development and did not get time to examine those generated through the drivers discussion. These were however captured for the write-up.

The workshop used the Strategic-Plan (S-Plan) framework developed by the IfM over a period of several years [[1], [2]]. The framework was configured to elicit the emerging technology implications from each scenario developed and evaluate which technologies maybe important for several scenarios.

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact either Nicky Athanassopoulou ( or Gill Ringland (


[1] Phaal, R., Farrukh, C.J.P. and Probert, D.R. (2004), “Customizing Roadmapping”, Research Technology Management, 47 (2), pp. 26–37.

[2] Phaal, R., Farrukh, C.J.P. and Probert, D.R. (2007), “Strategic Roadmapping: A workshop-based approach for identifying and exploring innovation issues and opportunities”, Engineering Management Journal, 19 (1), pp. 16–24.

Written by Gill Ringland, SAMI Fellow and CEO.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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