Newsletter 2018

Foresight and Strategy 2018

December 2018 – Season’s Greetings from SAMI

The final results of the foresight project we did with the EU’s health and safety agency (EU-OSHA) on the increasing digitalisation of work and the associated challenges for occupational safety and health (OSH) are now available in a new report: “Working in the digital future — safety and health in 2025” – complete with cartoons courtesy of Joe Ravetz.

Professor Paul Moxey talked to the Quakers Business Conference: “Trust and Integrity in Business”. His talk “Following Carillion, can we trust corporate reports?” examined how we still see unexpected crashes and scandals. His book, “Certificate in Corporate Governance” , is formally launched this month.Jonathan Blanchard Smith gave a talk on scenarios post-Brexit to CQI London. One attendee commented: “It gave a fantastic insight into the work you do and the forces that are shaping our fragile world. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to attend.” For a copy of the report please email

We mentioned last month Paul and Gill Ringland’s paper submitted to the journal of the European Court of Auditors , with their paper on page 16.

SAMI Director David Lye attended the ESPAS (European Strategy & Policy Analysis System) Conference in Brussels on 28/29 November. The Conference looked at global trends to 2030. Key issues included:

  • The rise of populism – have we reached “peak populism” or will the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution on people’s lives add fuel to the fire? The 2019 Euro Elections will be an early indicator
  • The 4th Industrial Revolution – can Europe be a leader, or will it be swept along by a US and/or Chinese tide of technology and investment?
  • The Economy – can Europe remain a leading heavyweight, or will it become a middleweight?
  • Given the demographic trend, which will see “The West” comprising just 8% of the world population by the end of the century, what can Europe do to safeguard and promote the values of liberalism, democracy and transparency?

We welcomed on board a new Associate, Olfa Meliani-Faure. Olfa is a PMI certified Programme Manager, specializing in Transformation programmes and Risk & Fraud Management. She speaks several languages and her clients have included: HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, Santander, and BNP Paribas Fortis.

It is traditional at this time of year to reflect on the last twelve months – but 2018 feels as if it has been so exceptional that any reflection may have to wait for the history books. Never has our motto is “robust decisions for uncertain times” seemed more appropriate – SAMI team members have worked across government and the private sector across the world, helping people try to make sense of what the future may bring; presenting speeches; publishing books; and engaging with the speed, size and unpredictability of change in a world which often feels in flux. Since 2019 gives every indication that it will be, if anything, more extreme than 2018, all of us at SAMI Consulting wish you a relaxing break. We suspect you may need it. You may too need us by your side in 2019 – if that’s the case, just call or email. Robust decisions are possible, no matter how uncertain the times – and we can help you make them.

Executive Education

Our new Executive Education portfolio now includes a much expanded range of courses, covering foresight techniques and Board governance. Contact Jonathan on if you are interested.

Our two-day Futures Thinking Workshop will run on 18th/19th March 2019 – contact for more information.

Futures Issues

  • The International Energy Agency has identified “modern bioenergy” as one of the blind spots of the energy system. Despite rapid growth in solar PV and wind technologies, bioenergy remains the largest source of renewable energy because of its widespread use in heat and transport, sectors in which other renewables currently play a much smaller role.
  • The IEA also suggest that oil use for cars will peak in the mid 2020’s, due to improvements in fuel efficiency as much as the introduction of electric vehicles. In some sectors (eg buses), oil use is already falling. But the International Transport Forum says that current transport CO2 reduction commitments are not enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Meanwhile, researchers from MIT have flown a 5m wide plane powered by an ‘ion drive’ which uses high powered electrodes to ionise and accelerate air particles, creating an ‘ionic wind’. Unlike the ion drives which have powered space craft for decades, this new drive uses air as the accelerant.
  • Xinhua News Agency demonstrated the world’s first AI news anchor . Based on the latest AI technology, the system has a male image with a voice, facial expressions and actions of a real person. “He” learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor. Is this real progress or just what Noel Sharkey calls “showbots”?
  • And despite earlier denials, it’s claimed that the UK Government is developingautonomous military systems . According to Peter Burt, author Off the Leash: The Development of Autonomous Military Drones in the UK, there is evidence that the MoD, military contractors and universities in the UK are actively engaged in research and the development of the underpinning technology with the aim of using it in military applications.
  • The goal of growing meat in the lab is coming nearer , as Cambridge’s Department of Clinical Neurosciences has developed a new technology that could be used to convert pluripotent stem cells into muscle and fat cells. In theory, just one single stem cell would be enough to grow a steak.
  • In a controversial use of the gene editing tool CRISPR, a Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies . The aim was to try to bestow an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus

Our Blogs

Our blog series based on Gill Ringland’s and Patricia Lustig’s book ‘Megatrends and How to Survive Them’ has continued this month with two further posts – one looking at social structures and one on economic activity . We also reviewed this year’s New Scientist Live event and looked at some of the latest news about income protection payouts and what this will mean in the future.

November 2018

SAMI is very proud to have been awarded Best Enterprise Training Consultancy in SME News’ 2018 Greater London Enterprise Awards . SME News says it “prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.”

SAMI Associate Patricia Lustig, has just won an award from the Association of Professional Futurists as a 2018 Most Significant Futures Work for works that advance the methodology and practice of foresight and future studies with “Strategic Foresight: learning from the Future” , Triarchy Press , 2017. Available from Amazon.

We have announced new dates for the two-day Futures Thinking Workshop – 18th/19th March 2019 – contact for more information.

Patricia Lustig (SAMI Associate) and Gill Ringland’s (SAMI Emeritus Fellow) new book,Megatrends and How to Survive Them : preparing for 2032 , published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, came out on November 1st. If you’d like a copy with 20% discount, use the code: MEGATRENDS20 when ordering from the website. It is also available on Amazon. A number of SAMI blogs have been written based upon the book, the first one is here .

Nicola Stacey of the Health & Safety Executive presented a paper on the work they and SAMI did for EU-OSHA at the Safety of Industrial Automated Systems conference in Nancy. The paper is available in the volume of Proceedings.

Paul Moxey’s article on the new UK Corporate Governance Code has appeared in the October edition of Transparency Times

Discussion on the Association of Professional Futurists listserv reminded us of a paper in the Journal of Futures Studies by Wendy Schultz and Andrew Curry on applying different scenarios methods to the same question.

Former SAMI Fellow Peter McKiernan’s latest book “Scenario Thinking” is available to download free for a limited time.

Professor Paul Moxey and SAMI Emeritus Fellow Gill Ringland have submitted a paper “Scenario mapping: helping regulators to imagine possible futures” to the European Court of Auditors. The paper argues for greater use of scenarios in non-financial reviews and value-for-money audits.

Executive Education

Our new Executive Education portfolio is now ready for a “soft launch”. A much expanded range of courses will be offered, covering foresight techniques and Board governance. Contact Jonathan on if you are interested.

Futures Issues

  • The proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who do not drink alcohol has increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015. Just 28% admitted drinking above the recommended limits, compared with 43% a decade earlier in 2005. And the number of lifetime abstainers also increased significantly, from 9% in 2005 to 17% in 2015.
  • Global warming threatens the internet . By 2033, more than 1,100 internet traffic hubs will be surrounded by water. New York City and Miami are the other two most susceptible cities, but the impacts could ripple out and potentially disrupt global communications.
  • UN data shows that the growth of internet access around the world has slowed dramatically suggesting the digital revolution will remain a distant dream for billions of the poorest and most isolated people on the planet. The rate at which the world is getting online has fallen sharply since 2015, with women and the rural poor substantially excluded from education, business and other opportunities the internet can provide.
  • UN Women and the World Food Programme (WFP) are using blockchain to assist Syrian refugee women participating in UN Women’s cash for work programmes in refugee camps in Jordan.
  • Researchers at MIT in a study called the Moral Machine asked people in 233 countries to choose who should be the victim in an unavoidable crash. The common themes were: kill animals rather than people; kill as few people as possible; kill older people rather than younger ones. Interestingly, different nationalities made different choices.
  • The Famine Action Mechanism will explore the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to provide more powerful early warnings to identify when food crises threaten to turn into famines.
  • Robot ethicist Kate Darling explains why we show sympathy towards robots and what that tells us about ourselves.
  • Spray-on radio antennae could revolutionise Internet of Things applications by enabling super-light, ultra-thin sensors that can be used anywhere.
  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have created a new electronic dermis . When placed over a prosthetic device, this artificial skin lets an amputee feel pain and other sensations in their missing limb, giving feedback about what they’re touching — its temperature, texture etc.

Our Blogs

During October we have continued with our blog series on Gill Ringland and Patricia Lustig’s book on Megatrends – looking at changing values and issues of migration and urbanisation . We have also published the second in our Africa series, looking at social changes that may occur throughout the 21st Century as we work our way through the STEEP categories. And finally we have spent some time looking at technology trends during 2018 – updating our blog from January and noting some new trends that have emerged.

October 2018

Ex-SAMI CEO and Emeritus Fellow Gill Ringland and co-author, SAMI Associate, Patricia Lustig gave a talk based on their soon to be published book, “Megatrends and How to Survive Them” to CFOs. “You energised a large group of CFO’s to talk about megatrends for the future – a topic they might not normally think about!”

Professor Paul Moxey’s book “Certificate in Corporate Governance” is also due to be published shortly.

Huw Williams’ talk on Megatrends and Futures Thinking to the Chartered Quality Institute’s Milton Keynes branch was well- received. Interestingly, unlike in other such talks, the group chose Climate Change as the megatrend most important to quality professionals.

In recent blogs we have announced two new major research strands. Our “Future of Africa” blog series seeks to bring the study of African futures to the fore. Africa is often seen as a place which has things done to it, rather than as a continental actor in its own right. We want to have an in depth look at the continent in large, realising as we do so that this is a precursor to an understanding of the individual nations, peoples and drivers in this vast, complex, and most promising of continents.

Our second project is one which we have been discussing for some time. Our slogan says “robust decisions for uncertain times” and it seems to us that whilst the times get more uncertain, the robust decisions play more on the side of building capacity to survive the times, rather than to succeed in them. We wanted to offer some space to understand the opportunities in the future as well as the risks; so our new “Positive Futures” project will attempt to draw out some opportunities where futures thinking can positively impact, not only on visions of the future but also on providing spaces where our clients and our societies can succeed – despite uncertainty.

Both these projects are led by Fellows David Lye and Jonathan Blanchard Smith. Feel free to get in touch with them directly if you have thoughts and contributions!

“A road to clarity”, a retrospective exhibition of paintings and prints by SAMI Associate Molly van der Weij, is on in Notting Hill until 11th November.

Our friends at Z/Yen are running their – Smart Ledgers & Risk on Wednesday, 14 November 2018.

Executive Education

Our new Executive Education portfolio is now ready for a “soft launch”. A much expanded range of courses will be offered, covering foresight techniques and Board governance. Contact Jonathan on if you are interested.

Futures Issues

In a forecast that will dismay environmentalists – and which questions the theory that oil company reserves will become “stranded assets” – Opec’s annual report has significantly revised production estimates upwards.

Germany launches world’s first autonomous tram in Potsdam. The AI system takes stress away from drivers.

Researchers have created a new electronic dermis (e-dermis). When placed over a prosthetic device, this artificial skin lets an amputee feel pain and other sensations in their missing limb. The overall result is to let wearers differentiate between pain and not-pain without thinking, instinctively knowing their limb is in danger.

One of the largest life insurance providers in North America, John Hancock, will now only sell “interactive” policies that collect health data through wearable devices such as a smartwatch. Is this a positive boost to health or an invasion of privacy?

The new Apple Watch can monitor the electrical pulses that drive the heart’s activity, and proactively alert users who it has determined might have a condition called atrial fibrillation. The FDA has given its approval, Apple said, and the new product goes on sale this Autumn. But some worry about over-medicalisation of healthy people.

Digital Health in Africa is booming. Applications include AI/smartphone health advice, Zipline drones delivering medicines, AI diagnosis of childbirth asphyxia by analysing the baby’s cry, and a solar powered hearing aid.

Climate change will have impacts where you might not expect. The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulatory Authority considers that banks, building societies etc are exposed to physical and transition risks from climate change . These could have financial risk implications that can result in large financial losses. “This requires strategic board oversight and more dynamic scenario planning”.

Our Blogs

In our latest blogs we have spent some time considering various aspects of the future. Firstly we thought about whether we are seeing the warning signs of another crash like 2008. We then looked at the rise of Africa over the next 100 years . Interspersed with these was a further blog, looking at the topic of population , in our series on Gill Ringland‘s and Patricia Lustig’s new book on Megatrends. Finally, on a positive note, we wrote aboutseeing the opportunities of risk rather than the downside.

September 2018

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Jonathan Blanchard Smith as a Director of SAMI. In addition to his futures and strategy work, Jonathan will be responsible for SAMI’s marketing and client outreach.

Michael Owen, SAMI Chairman, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome Jonathan to this very senior role in SAMI. He brings a wealth of expertise in marketing and business development, and he has greatly impressed with his energy, insights and commitment to our company. Jonathan’s appointment represents a key milestone in SAMI’s future growth pathway.”

“I’ve been excited about SAMI since the day I first heard of them,” said Jonathan, “and it’s been a great pleasure not only to be a Fellow but now to become a Director. I’m convinced that, more than ever, people need a firm that will help them make ‘robust decisions in uncertain times’. I’m looking forward to playing my part in our clients’ and in SAMI’s, success in the future.”

The new UK Corporate Governance Code will challenge Boards to get their heads out of the sand, challenge their assumptions and use scenario planning to ensure their risk governance does more than just tick boxes. Professor Paul Moxey is expert in this area – read his blog (see below) and get in touch.

A paper based on the work we did jointly with the Health and Safety Laboratory for the EU’s Health and Safety Agency has been accepted for presentation at the Safety of Industrial Automated Systems Conference on October 10th-12th in Nancy. The lead author is Nicola Stacey of HSL, with SAMI contributions from John Reynolds, David Lye, Joe Ravetz and Huw Williams.

Huw Williams is giving a talk on Megatrends and Futures Thinking to Chartered Quality Institute’s Milton Keynes branch later this week. If your organisation would be interested in something similar then let us know.

Readers may interested in the ad:tech conference coming up on 26th/27th September at Olympia, co-located with Technology for Marketing and eCommerce Expo. Sessions include ones on AI, Blockchain and the role of social media in gang culture.


There are still places left on our Futures Thinking and Scenario Planning course on 17th and 18th September at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists in central London.

Contact for more information.

Futures Issues

The implications of a population decline , potentially massive in Germany and Russia, include impacts on GDP, elderly dependency and ultimately geo-political power.

In their annual study of millennials’ attitudes , Deloittes have found that they are losing faith in businesses, feel unprepared for Industry 4.0, and value diversity and flexibility.

More than half the world’s population now lives in urban areas . The 300 largest metropolitan economies in the world accounted for 36 percent of global employment growth and 67 percent of global GDP growth. Emerging economy metro areas continued to disproportionately drive growth, accounting for 80 percent of the 60 best-performing metropolitan areas.

Rising sea-levels caused by climate change threaten major internet hubs , such as New York, Miami and Seattle.

A wearable patch that can determine how much cortisol someone is producing in seconds, using sweat drawn from the skin under the patch is being developed at Stanford. This is a more reliable indicator of stress than other approaches measuring temperature or heart rate.

AI diagnosis continues to move forward. A joint study between Moorgate Hospital and DeepMind showed that the AI system could read eye scans and detect more than 50 eye conditions. Critically, it didn’t miss any serious cases and had an error rate of 5.5% – as good as the expert teams.

There have been several recent announcements of flying cars – or “personal aerial vehicles”. BBC Click did a round-up. Even if the technology works, the way in which it could be applied will take a lot of thinking about.

The end of physical money approaches, as even Edinburgh Fringe performers are now taking contactless.

Our Blogs

It’s been a while since our last newsletter meaning that our list of published blogs is a bit longer than usual! Back in July we published a press release about resilient households and the exclusion of mortgage cover from the new benefit testing rules . This is part of a piece of work from the group that two of our SAMI colleagues co-chair and we were pleased to see this result. This was followed by a piece on the possible effects of AI on the legal profession following the publication of The Law Society’s report on the topic. A review of a recent World Academy of Arts & Sciences Colloquiumcame at the end of July. In August we turned to the impact of blockchain on world trade and the new corporate governance code and we also published two blogs on current megatrends based on a book written by SAMI colleagues and due to be published in the autumn. The first of these looked at thereasons for writing the book and the second described the megatrends , what they are and why 2032 was chosen as the timescale. More on the book will follow over the coming month

August 2018

Foresight and Strategy is taking a break over August – normal service will be resumed in September. We will continue to post weekly on our blog – – with links posted on Twitter and Linked In.

There are still places left on our two-day Future Thinking workshop on 17th and 18th September. Contact for more information and to book.”

Last month we said Gill Ringland and Patricia Lustig’s book, “Megatrends and how to survive them: preparing for 2032”, would be published by Cambridge Scholarly Press: apologies, it should have said Cambridge Scholars Publishing”

July 2018

We have been looking at developments within the SAMI Futures Model . Our focus on “strategy with a view of the future” allows a long term approach to client issues, so there is a need for the model to rise above the day to day and engage only with those major trends we see, whether developing or maturing over the period. Of all the current political issues, we see that the current round of US-instigated trade disputes may be among the most significant. Falling firmly within our “Global Competition” and “Fragmentation and competition” sectors, a number of our scenario points are already becoming firmer, and we shall be watching these developments to see whether these elements of the model need to be strengthened in future iterations.

SAMI consulting has been running a project for several years on Building Resilient Households with an emphasis on income shocks and how families can prepare for them. Part of this work is about the interaction between what families can do and disincentives in the benefit system. After discussions with DWP progress has been made on mortgage protection which is especially important given the withdrawal of State support since April this year

The manuscript for Emeritus Fellow Gill Ringland and SAMI Associate Patricia Lustig’s new book “Megatrends and how to survive them: preparing for 2032” has left their desks and is now with the publishers, Cambridge Scholarly Publishers. Publication is expected “in the autumn”. The book builds on Tricia and Gill’s experience, with input (thank you!) from SAMI people Jonathan Blanchard Smith, David Lye, Paul Moxey and Huw Williams. We will be publishing extracts as blogposts over the coming months.

Huw Williams gave a talk to the British Computer Society Elite group on Megatrends and Futures Thinking tools. They thought the 4th Industrial Revolution and Generational differences were the most important for their profession.
Email for a copy of the slides.


Our Futures Thinking and Scenario Planning course will be on 17th and 18th September at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists in central London. Comments from previous course members include:

  • “I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I do not have any comments on improving it as it has fully met my objectives. Thank you very much for an engaging and interactive training on scenario planning.” (Strategy consultant based in Dubai, UAE)
  • “For me, it was a really good and well-structured course, with excellent information and handouts. The material was comprehensive and clear – and you could ask any question you wanted.” (Head of Legal, Construction Industry Training Board.)

Book before the end of July for an “early-bird” discount of 15%.
Contact for more information.

Futures Issues

After decades, the trend line of UK longevity stopped rising in 2010 and has been flat since. The number of deaths per week has been running significantly higher than average for the last 5 years. If this continues, the implications across society are immense.

Henrik Jonströmer, the Deputy Head of Strategic Research in the Department for International Trade (DIT) published a valuable illustration of the drivers of change for the Future of Trade in 20 year’s time.

Legal and General are developing a sustainable investment strategy , disinvesting in companies that fail to take action on climate change.

Cities face greater risk of drought and floods . By 2050, more than 1.6 billion people in nearly 1000 cities will face average daily peak temperatures of 35°C for three months of the year. Over 650 million people in 500 cities will see their access to water reduced and over 800 million people will live in 570 coastal cities at risk of flooding from weather extremes and sea level rise

Can health apps be bad for your health? Although many benefits are claimed, not all are supported by evidence. And there are suggestions that the data produced can induce anxiety, or resignation, dropping out of exercise because the target will not be achieved. This news comes as Fibit launch Fitbit Ace for children .

The American Medical Association is to encourage the use of AI in healthcare though it sets out a number of requirements – transparency, avoidance of bias and privacy protection – for successful implementations. Meanwhile, NESTA are looking into AI and education – applications for students to learn at different speeds, for teachers to do assessments more easily and for administrators to monitor the system.

The EU is to invest €9bn in AI, supercomputers and cybersecurity . Application areas include health care, renewable energy, car safety and cyber-defence. The plan is to create common European libraries of algorithms available to all.

Eindhoven in Holland is set to be the first to build 3-D printed houses . The technology allows the houses to be printed in almost any shape, and uses less concrete.

The internet of things is now starting to create the bathroom of the future – smart, augmented reality mirrors, analytical toilets, personalised 3D printed cosmetics and AI-controlled toothbrushes!

Our blogs

Since our last newsletter we have published blogs on a range of topics. Firstly a review of a Nesta event on AI and the future of work , followed by some thoughts on the role of scenarios in the building and testing business models . We then reviewed a visit to the V&A exhibition ‘The Future Starts Here’ , took a look at how we might be able to debias decisions and finally had a quick look at some coming disruptive technologies .

June 2018

Thank you for opting in for the Foresight and Strategy newsletter. If there are any particular topics you would like us to cover, please get in touch.

This month we’ve been on the speakers’ circuit.

Dr Wendy Schultz and Jonathan Blanchard Smith both presented papers at the EU’s Future-Oriented Technology Analysis (FTA) conference on June 4th and 5th.

Wendy’s, written jointly with Gill Ringland, “Supporting decision making with foresight tools in chaotic times”, outlines a new approach to futures thinking which balances what we know with reasonable certainty about the future against foresight’s more usual exploration of alternative possible futures.

Jonathan’s paper “Debiasing political decision making through “value-free” scenario models” describes ways in which contentious issues, like Brexit, can be analysed without the noise and fury of entrenched positions.

Email for copies of the papers.

Huw Williams gave a similar talk to the Travelers “On Risk” conference at London Stock Exchange. The audience of law firm risk managers appreciated the way the structured approach of scenarios helped move forward past the many Brexit uncertainties.

Following on from his longitudinal study into the effectiveness of Corporate Foresight practices , Professor Rene Rohrbeck identified three key practices that firms need to develop:

  • Building a strategic radar, e.g. DHL, Deutsche Telekom, Cisco
  • Creating future insights, in particular an insight advantage towards competitors, for example through a scenario-based strategy process , as opposed to the traditional linear type
  • Bridge the growth chasm with accelerators and venturing, e.g. BASF, Daimler, Bosch


We are again running our Futures Thinking and Scenario Planning course. This will be on 17th and 18th September at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists in central London. Comments from previous course members include:

  • “I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I do not have any comments on improving it as it has fully met my objectives. Thank you very much for an engaging and interactive training on scenario planning.” (Strategy consultant based in Dubai, UAE)
  • “For me, it was a really good and well-structured course, with excellent information and handouts. The material was comprehensive and clear – and you could ask any question you wanted.” (Head of Legal, Construction Industry Training Board.)

Contact for more information.

Futures Issues

A new study, by Deloitte, found that while money can attract talented millennials , it doesn’t necessarily retain them. Factors like workplace diversity and flexible working arrangements are cited as ways to keep these workers loyal. The findings also suggest that millennial views of employers’ ethics and motivations are eroding, with just under half believing that businesses behave ethically, a drop from 62% in 2017.

A Pew Research Center survey of technology use among teenagers in the United States found that some 45 percent of 13 to 17 year-olds are online “almost constantly” (up from 24% in 2014/15), with another 44 percent saying they go online several times every day. Facebook is no longer the most popular online platform among teens, overtaken by YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

A team of physicists at the University of Missouri has applied for a patent for a new structure for semiconductor circuits that is far more efficient , allowing batteries to last longer: “could mean that a normal 5-hour charge could increase to more than a 500-hour charge.”

The OECD’s International Transport Forum suggests that blockchain technologies can radically improve urban “mobility as a service” systems by enabling verifiable interactions between different services.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science have now created a biohybrid robot — a robotic device that incorporates living tissue — that remained functional for more than a week. Such robots could be used in the pharmaceutical industry to test drugs or conduct other experiments which could eliminate the need for animal test subjects.

AI is beginning to re-shape the future of the university . It can provide personalized learning plans, re-designed spaces for interactive learning, with IoT manage the smart campus, provide an online advisory service and monitor performance, giving structured feedback.

Our Blogs

During May we have published blogs reviewing some recent publications and events. Firstly we looked at the four “Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future”identified by the UK Government as a part of its Industrial Strategy.

We then moved on to review a recent event, hosted by The Law Society, on AI and Ethics – the first blog looks at the Opening Address , given by Lord Clement-Jones and the Keynote Address given by Professor Richard Susskind and the second looks at the panel sessions and the closing addressgiven by Christina Blacklaws, Vice President of the Law Society.

Following this focus on AI, we changed direction with a blog about sick pay and income protection as the move to the gig economy gathers pace (first published in Cover magazine ).

May 2018

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Jonathan Blanchard Smith will lecture at the London Stock Exchange as part of the “On Risk” conference on the 5th June. He has been working for some time on developing what we are currently calling “value-free modelling”, which moderates the effect of various decision biases in futures thinking. He will be talking about developments in the project, especially in relation to contentious issues such as Brexit.

Gill Ringland delivered a presentation on “The near future to 2030 and its potential impact on the role and impact of International Institutions on Economic Policy” at the XV International Colloquium of the World Academy of Arts & Sciences in Brussels.

Huw Williams led a discussion with the joint Panel Heads of the Institution of Engineering and Technology on the four Grand Challenges of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and how well-known drivers of change may affect them. The IET is responding to a consultation from BEIS.

The Law Society held a very interesting conference on “AI and Ethics”. Speakers included Lord Clement-Jones, Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on AI discussing its recent report, and Professor Richard Susskind, co-author of “The Future of the Professions”. Watch our blog for a review.

NESTA are organising an evening discussion on “AI and the future of work” on the 17th May as part of their FutureFest programme. Look out for Cathy Dunn’s forthcoming blogpost.

Futures Issues

News of a plastic-eating enzyme, developed at the University of Portsmouth, caught the news. A commercial infrastructure based around the enzyme would have two benefits: disposing of the original container, and creating new clear plastic for reuse.

Self-care and digital wellness apps sales are booming. Millennials are dealing with the stress of social media by turning to mindfulness and meditation online. What other markets might be affected by the underlying generational trends? The wearable health tech market is also forecast to grow rapidly, with products such as blood pressure and ECG monitors, smart insulin patches and smart contact lenses, and VR phobia treatment.

A Chinese hospital is looking to overcome the shortage of doctors by using AI to do patient pre-diagnosis, CT scans, organise patient records, and transport operating-room supplies.

Singaporean scientists have used off-the-shelf robots and open-source code to assemble an Ikea chair. Rather than having a dedicated robot do the task, they managed it using generic robots – indicating that a much wider range of tasks could be done robotically.

The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) is working with the Georgian Government to reform their legal system. It’s using Blockchain as a way for the national public registry in Georgia to make land register entries available digitally. In future, the aim is for real estate transactions to be handled completely via Blockchain, with “smart contracts”.

Are your walls sitting there doing nothing (apart from holding up the ceiling)? New smart walls can track a user’s touch and gestures, enabling them to play videogames by using different poses to control them, change the channel on their TV with a wave of their arm, or slap the wall directly to turn off the lights, without the need for light switches.

Our Blogs

In the last month we have published some blogs on reports and articles from the UK Government. Firstly on the future of the sea by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and secondly a short blog based on a note on horizon scanning from the Government Office for Science. This was followed by a review of a recent exhibition at the Museum of London on future visions for London. And finally, a short blog on the future of international institutions to coincide with a presentation given at the recent Colloquium in Brussels organised by the WAAS (World Academy of Arts & Sciences).

April 2018

Our tagline of “robust decisions in uncertain times” has seemed unusually pressing this month. An emerging trade war, an emerging cold war, and the lack of clarity over Britain’s departure from the EU have all combined into very uncertain times indeed. We have, unsurprisingly, seen an uptick in companies and organisations getting in touch to try to get a handle on what the future – and especially their future – looks like, and we look forward to working with more, in more depth, as the year continues.

One of our key themes – the rise in regionalism – clashed with another, the polarisation of opinions. During a visit to Spain this month, the issue of Catalonia was much in evidence; in conversation, in the display of flags in the streets, and in the press and broadcast media. That’s not to say they didn’t have strong opinions on Brexit as well. Their views reflected what seems an increasingly embedded European media approach exemplified by this article from Handelsblatt in Germany . As the UK seeks to redefine itself, its credibility will be of real importance, and where some ‘robust decisions’ with a proper view of the future are needed.

At the Chartered Insurance Institute President’s Dinner, SAMI’s work on “Building Resilient Households” was singled out for a special mention in the “Building Public Trust” award category. The report explores the factors affecting resilience to sickness absence and what can be done to help more families weather the effects of this in future.

SAMI’s Gill Ringland and Jonathan Blanchard Smith have both been selected to present papers at theEU’s Future-Oriented Technology Analysis(FTA) conference on June 4th and 5th. Gill’s, “Supporting decision making with foresight tools in chaotic times”, outlines a new approach to futures thinking which balances what we know with reasonable certainty about the future against foresight’s more usual exploration of alternative possible futures. Jonathan’s paper “Debiasing political decision making through “value-free” scenario models” describes ways in which contentious issues, like Brexit, can be analysed without the noise and fury of entrenched positions.

Gill is also presenting a paper at the World Academy of Arts and Sciences XV International Colloquium on the role of International Institutions on Economic Theory and Policy , on May 2nd. The paper covers some of the major trends affecting policy out to 2030.

Huw Williams is presenting to the joint Panel Heads of the Institution of Engineering and Technology on the four Grand Challenges of the Government’s Industrial Strategy , and how well-known drivers of change may affect them.


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

Futures Issues

A lot has been written about the first death caused by an autonomous vehicle . The Guardian also listed other deaths by robot . Perhaps we need a system/process like that for plane crashes, with an independent body transparently analysing the causes so everyone can learn.

Twenty-six experts from academia, civil society, and industry have written a report on the security implications of emerging technologies . It raises serious issues about the potential malicious use of AI by rogue states, criminals, and terrorists. More cuddly is the AI baby monitor which tracks behaviours and habits, and alerts parents to unusual events. And if you thought that, although AI may replace many jobs, humans are better at empathy, you may be disturbed by a study showing that AI reads emotions better than humans .

A tooth sensor can measure your alcohol, salt and sugar intake, while Fitbit is targeting the smartwatch mass market. More fundamentally, CRISPR gene editing is now ready for testing in humans – biotech companies plan to use it to treat blood diseases and blindness.

Shell’s post-oil scenario, “Sky” , explores what it would take to comply with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, and keep global warming to “well below” a rise of 2°C above preindustrial levels. It concludes that “a simple extension of current efforts” is insufficient, and that “deployment of disruptive new technologies at mass scale” is necessary.

China needs more water . So it is building a vast system of chambers, three times the size of Spain (!!), on the Tibetan plateau which could send enough silver iodide particles into the atmosphere to allow extensive clouds to form. What unintended consequences might follow from this?

Fifty years ago, Prof Paul Ehrlich and his wife Anne published “ The Population Bomb ” which predicted the collapse of civilisation due to over-population and lack of resources. Today he still believes that “Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people”.

Our Blogs

In recent weeks we have posted blogs reviewing recent publications from the Millennium Project. One covered the report of a workshop that examined methods for countering threats from terrorism ; the other reviewed their latest ‘ State of the Future ’ report. We followed up these reviews with a further look at the ideas of Philip Tetlock and his work on superforecasting and revisiting the book ‘Beyond Crisis’ .

A compilation of last year’s blogs into various categories is now available on our website .

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 securitythreats 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 .

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%. Ourcase 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 aninteractive 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 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 availablehere . Following our Christmas break we began the New Year with a look at the technology trends for 2018 .