Foresight and Strategy 2018

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Past copies of Foresight and Strategy (formerly eSAMI) our monthly e-newsletter, are available. For other years go to Foresight and Strategy

March 2018

We've been in Europe again, looking beyond Britain's departure from the EU with governments, thinktanks and industry. Our "value-free" model of looking at the future gained lots of interest (we are currently working this up into a paper for a conference in the summer). The takeaways included: the concern of Brexit is turning into searching for opportunity, both in attracting UK businesses to Europe and in purchasing UK businesses following the fall in the pound; a continuing concern over the rise of populism with the European body politic; and an interest - though not yet action - on the impact of new technologies, especially amongst the SME sector.

We've also been looking at the future of agricultural investing with industry groups in the sector, and there'll be a blog on that in the next few weeks.

The Government Office for Science has issued an updated Futures Toolkit , covering several tools including Horizon Scanning, Delphi and Scenarios.

We ran a workshop on Scenario Planning and Futures Thinking for the Chartered Quality Institute’s Corporate Connect programme. Fifteen participants explored how fundamental megatrends would affect the profession, over what timescale, and how different scenarios would require different approaches.
“Many thanks for the highly informative CQI Event last week on Scenario Planning and Future Thinking”
We’re keen to share these ideas with others – are you interested ?


We are reviewing our training portfolio and would welcome any suggestions on topics you would be interested in. Please contact us on

Futures Issues

Several EV stories this month:

  • The National Grid is drawing up plans for 50 ultra-rapid charging stations across the country, mainly at motorway service stations, with the potential to recharge at 350kW (enabling a charge in 5 to 12 minutes). The aim is for 90% of EV drivers to be within 50 miles of an ultra-rapid charger.
  • BP, in its new Energy Outlook, forecasts a 100-fold growth in electric vehicles by 2040 and suggests that this and travel sharing will dent oil consumption, forecasting a peak in demand for the first time. They suggest that some 30 percent of car kilometres are powered by electricity by 2040 from almost zero in 2016.
  • Harley Davidson will launch its first production e-motorcycle in 2019. It has 74 horsepower, a 93 mph top speed, 50 mile ride time, and automatic drivetrain (i.e. no clutch or shifting).

Type 2 Diabetes may be a rapidly growing concern, but the good news is that technology is starting to offer monitoring and “closed loop” solutions.

According to one study people typically touch their phones over 2,000 times per day, leaving a trail of data to mine. Could your digital footprint — how often you post on social media, how quickly you scroll through your contacts, how frequently you check your phone late at night — could hold clues to your physical and mental health? “Digital phenotyping” suggests it could.

NESTA’s ten predictions for 2018 include altruistic drones, prize-winning AI artists and policy shaped by simulation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a report surveying the landscape of potential security threats from malicious uses of artificial intelligence technologies, and proposes ways to better forecast, prevent, and mitigate these threats. And if you want to see what AI is currently capable of, DeepIndex have over 300 examples .

Is the commercial ethos of big business starting to shift from short-term shareholder value to a wider morality ? Larry Fink, CEO of asset managers BlackRock, and Apple’s Tim Cook are arguing for “moral responsibility”. Indeed BlackRock is considering offering investors the chance not to invest in gun firms , and is asking those firms how they monitor safe use of weapons. Will this become a real trend or is it just a response to recent incidents that will quickly fade away?

Our Blogs

During February the focus of our blogs has been around risk, reputation and what boards need to think about. We looked at a range of issues from reporting of risk , the lessons that could be learned from the collapse of Carillion , and considering the issue of why boards fail to address the issue of risk . Other topics we’ve explored in the last few weeks have included a report on the launch of Cities Outlook 2018 , a review of last year’s ESPAS conference and options for addressing social care funding .



February 2018

It is perhaps inevitable that British business is focused on the implications of leaving the European Union. That concern is shared elsewhere; this month, SAMI is working on scenarios and strategies for organisations in central Europe, for instance. On the other hand, what is sometimes lost in the UK is that the rest of the world has other concerns, but SAMI is bringing its skills and experience to those as well. We look forward to reporting on the results in later issues of Foresight and Strategy.

We have been working with the Chartered Quality Institute on developing our description of megatrends. The document is evolving – if you would like to see it – comments welcome, please email .

Our own review of our work continues this month with away days and some detailed self-examination - we want to be the best at what we do and are spending time and energy practicing what we preach, as we review our own strategy and approach. We'll be able to report back on that as well in the next few months.

The World Economic Forum Global Risks Report always comes out in January ahead of the Davos shindig. This year the top three high impact/high likelihood (HI/HL) events are all environmental: extreme weather events, natural disasters and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Also HI/HL are biodiversity loss and manmade environmental disasters plus, because no doubt they are linked, water crises and large-scale migration. The exception to this environmental theme is cyber-attacks.

The report also lists 10 “Future shocks” - sudden and dramatic breakdowns caused by the instability of feedback loops, threshold effects and cascading disruptions. These include:

  • “grim reaping”: a breakdown of the global food system caused by extreme weather, political instability or crop diseases;
  • “the death of trade”: with deepening protectionist sentiment, trade disputes could spread rapidly by triggering adverse impacts and retaliatory moves along global value chains;
  • ”inequality ingested”: bioengineering and cognition-enhancing drugs widen the gulf between haves and have-nots, with many people choosing to disregard potential health risks in order to maintain or elevate their status.

We’re still impressed by Professor Rohrbeck’s 7-year longitudinal study showing that the right Strategic Foresight practices boost profitability by 33% and market capitalization growth by 200%. Our case studies have always shown how valuable clients thought Foresight was, but quantifying its effect is remarkable.


We are again running our two-day Futures Thinking workshop, in central London on the 5th and 6th of March. This practical "hands-on" course is designed to give participants a good understanding of a range of futures techniques and includes exercises to gain confidence in using them. There are plenty of opportunities to discuss case studies and for participants to share their experience. Topics covered include:

  • Horizon Scanning
  • Drivers of change
  • Scenario Planning
  • Policy assessment

Contact for more information and to register.

Futures Issues

US researchers are developing a a high-efficiency “thermal battery” , a polymer that is very effective at absorbing and releasing heat. The plastic-like material holds 200 times as much thermal energy as water. When exposed to sunlight, its molecules adopt a high-energy state. Then, when slightly warmed or activated by another trigger, the molecules revert to their low-energy form and the stored heat is released.

In their paper "Improving Palliative Care with Deep Learning", Stanford researchers are using an algorithm to predict mortality, and their goal is to improve timing of end-of-life care for critically ill patients , for example enabling people to end their days at home.

In Syria, a swarm of home-made drones has attacked a Russian airbase. In what may be the first announced use of a swarm of drones in a military action, 13 small drones descended on Russian forces, but none did significant damage. What next for military applications?

We’ve reported before about increasing mental health issues amongst Millennials, with greater levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies. A new study puts this down to perfectionism , and in particular to “multi-dimensional perfectionism” – feeling inadequate in many different ways.

Nissan announced that it is working on a “brain-to-vehicle” interface , which monitors the driver’s brainwaves in order to take action (eg braking) 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster. The possible range of such applications is literally mind-boggling (sorry!).

Our Blogs

January continued with weekly blogs on a variety of different subjects. To begin, we returned to the issue of reputation and how quickly messages meant for one audience reach others with unintended consequences. The following week we reviewed a conference on anticipation - something with which those mentioned in the previous week’s blog could usefully engage. Lastly we looked at an interactive exploration of decision-making and cognitive bias and how such bias could be avoided.



January 2018

With the New Year, we have taken the opportunity to start a detailed review of how we reach out to our clients and colleagues. In the near future, you'll start to see changes to our website, but most immediately, you'll have noticed that "eSAMI" has become "Foresight and Strategy". At a time when every email is competing for your attention, we want to make sure we stand out - and giving our newsletter a new, clear name is part of that process. We'd like your views too - what should we be doing better? How should we best present ourselves? Do let us know at

Helping people understand what the future may bring is increasingly important when the future has never seemed so uncertain or confusing. Every time one goes on Twitter, hears the news or catches a newspaper, the world seems ever stranger and more unpredictable. 2018 shows no signs of slowing down: technological and biotech advances compete for mental space with politics, social change and conflict. Near term events have long term implications, and 2018 promises to have more than its fair share. We will be working, thinking about and discussing what matters, as always - in the UK, inevitably that means Brexit; in Europe, the pace of social change as the liberal order of the EU's founders continues to be challenged by a resurgent populism; as China outpaces an apparently rudderless United States, and as events across the globe threaten peace and security for some, or all, of us.

But it is not just politics, the changes which will cause material differences to life in the medium and long term continue - the fourth industrial revolution is picking up speed, technology both enables and restricts freedom and opportunities, and medical as well as biotechnological innovation moves out of clinical trials and into the real world. We will be there, gathering in all of this, and helping our clients understand it, and what it means for them, now and into the future.

This year will be no easier than last - and its implications as long running. We look forward to being alongside you as it develops.

We’re often asked if there is any evidence that “this futures stuff” actually works. We’ve put several case studies of successful projects on our website, but now at last independent research has quantified the value of “future preparedness”. In a robust 7-year longitudinal study, Professor Rohrbeck showed that the right Strategic Foresight practices boost profitability by 33% and market capitalization growth by 200%.

After the ESPAS conference in Brussels last month, Gill Ringland joined our friends at the School of International Futures for a discussion in the issues facing futurists and how to embed foresight within organisations. The photo below shows some of the things identified.

Details of the SOIF Webinars are coming up soon - if you aren't already signed up to the SOIF newsletter, you can do it here .


We are again running our two-day Futures Thinking workshop, in central London on the 5th and 6th of March. This practical "hands-on" course is designed to give participants a good understanding of a range of futures techniques and includes exercises to gain confidence in using them. There are plenty of opportunities to discuss case studies and for participants to share their experience. Topics covered include: • Horizon Scanning • Drivers of change • Scenario Planning • Policy assessment Contact for more information and to register.

Futures Issues

The Economist pointed out some interesting demographic changes we can expect to see in 2018 - France and Finland will join the list of countries with a shrinking workforce, while China continues to see the biggest decline in its working age population.

The wonderfully named Magic Leap announced the forthcoming launch of its Mixed Reality goggles. As well as six cameras to track the wearer’s environment real-time, the goggles have four microphones to sense the sound around a user. Applications can be built on dedicated portal from “early” 2018.

The US Food and Drug Administration just approved the first gene therapy for an inherited disease, a hereditary form of blindness. It’s just a one-time injection into the retina, but could cost as much as $1 million if it’s anything like previous treatments.

A Japanese company is rolling out a “ digital pill ” which reminds patients to take their medication. The digital pill dissolves in the patient’s stomach activating a sensor to send a signal to a patch reader attached to the patient's waist and on to the system's app on the patient's smartphone via Bluetooth. It’s particularly aimed at schizophrenia patients, as many as 40% of whom stop taking their medication within 6 months.

Uber is reducing the costs of ambulance services in the US. A before and after study showed rates of ambulance usage drop by around 7% after Uber or similar ride sharing apps launch in an area. Some doctors are concerned however that calling an Uber rather than dialling 911 may mean that patients do not get the best treatment.

Although Bitcoin itself is having a rocky ride, new applications for Block chain keep emerging: wealth management, ethical business practices, tackling electoral fraud. Could it be used to halt “fake news”? It’s also suggested that Blockchain could help developing countries cut regulation costs and spur greater access to the world economy.

A recent study showed that algorithms designed to detect lymph node metastases in patients with breast cancer could out-perform a panel of pathologists.

Alder Hey hospital is using an AR app to make children feel more relaxed in hospital. A virtual guide can show them round the hospital – what is like to have an X-ray - answering questions about the medical procedures.

Meanwhile the ECB is trialling the use of VR headsets to improve batsmen’s reaction times, against specific bowlers rather than generic ones. Shame it was too late for this Ashes series.

Global spending on the Internet of Things is expected to reach $772.5 billion next year, up 14.6 percent from the $674 billion seen for 2017, according to the latest study from IDC. The key applications will be fleet and asset management, smart utility grids, smart cities, and home automation and security.

Intriguing effect of greater use of renewables in Germany – negative energy prices . Improvements in battery technology, and “smart home” systems should be able to better balance supply and demand.

Our Blogs

Our recent blogs have covered quite different subjects; firstly we shared some thoughts following the sad news of the death of Watts Wacker , including a project he had been involved with at ICL in the 1990s. We then reviewed our time at the DMDU workshop in Oxford last November where we heard great perspectives on the ‘real world’ from speakers such as Claire Craig, giving insights into how the foresight – or DMDU – community can provide inputs to policy makers. The full programme is available here . Following our Christmas break we began the New Year with a look at the technology trends for 2018 .

A collection of our 2017 blogs will be shortly be available in pdf format on our website.

SAMI Consulting - The home of scenario planning

Foresight and Strategy
Foresight and Strategy is a monthly email round-up of issues we think might interest strategists and futurists.

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28 March 2018

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