Our Clients - Defra Horizon Scanning

Case Study – Defra “Partnership” Horizon Scanning project


SAMI Consulting was commissioned by Defra and a number of partner agencies – Environment Agency, Natural England, Food Standards Agency and the Welsh Government – to undertake a project on “Strategic Evidence of Future Change” intended to stimulate strategic thinking. This Horizon Scanning project would provide evidence that delivered foresight and insight to help identify potential threats, risks and opportunities to better achieve strategy, policy and operational goals.

SAMI’s Role

SAMI managed the scanning and led the analysis of the data. SAMI had recommended collaborating with internal scanning teams, and provided them training in the use of a software tool to make this possible. This co-ordination of multiple sources of input was a key strength of the project.

The project comprised:

  • Scanning: SAMI Principals addressed the wide-ranging Political, Economic, Social and Technological developments, while more specific, technical inputs were provided by the Agencies themselves and a team of environmentalist academics at Manchester University that SAMI recruited for the purpose;
  • Software: the scanning “stories” were stored in a database using a tool calledFuturescaper, which required scanners to enter metadata and linkages between stories.
  • Analysis: the SAMI team used the Futurescaper tool to help identify the most influential stories and then drew out conclusions and implications for the Defra Partnership.
  • Communication: The analysis was written up into reports, with Executive Summaries, and an Annual Summary Report produced.

The Outcomes

The reports, which are available at samiconsulting.co.uk/presentations and reports.php, were well-received by senior management and other stakeholders in the Defra Partnership. A presentation of the key issues in the Annual Summary Report was given to an audience of around 50 people, and generated a discussion of future issues. The key issues discussed in the presentation were:  

Gene editing has accelerated the biotechnology revolutionThe impacts will be felt across whole areas of environmental science, food supply, and rural affairs.
Paris submissions suggest a 2.7ºC rise in global temperatureAt current GHG emission rates, a 2°C rise will be exceeded by 2036.
Radically new food ingredients are being developedNatural plant proteins can replace animal protein in food; and new genes will be introduced to the food chain.
Litigation as a strategy to stop climate damage…echoing action against the tobacco industry, it creates incentives to act to avoid legal damages.
The evolving “Smart Countryside”What are the policy implications to ensure environmental and food benefits?
Rising environmental activismRising public, corporate and religious concern over climate change may lead to increased environmental activism.
Challenge and opportunity in rural areasThe pace of change increases, as do the demands on rural areas.
Resources for the next industrial evolutionBio-mimicry and 3D printing bring in a whole new chapter in the next ‘industrial evolution’.

Konrad Bishop, Head of Horizon Scanning and Futures at Defra commented: “SAMI developed and undertook an innovative horizon scanning project for Defra and partner organisations to provide strategic evidence of future change. The narratives developed through the project around the potential causes and impacts of future change provided valuable evidence to inform decision-making and strategy across the organisations. “


The Team

The Project Director was John Reynolds, with Huw Williams as Project Manager. Scanning and analysis was carried out by Dr Wendy Shultz, Martin Duckworth and Cathy Dunn; Joe Ravetz managed the team of Manchester scanners. For further information contact huw.williams@samiconsulting.co.uk