What is strategic foresight

Foresight is the discipline of exploring, anticipating and shaping the future to help building and using collective intelligence in a structured, systematic and systemic way to anticipate developments. Strategic foresight, on the other hand, seeks to embed foresight into European Union policy-making.

Strategic Foresight will:

  • anticipate trends, emerging issues, and their potential implications and opportunities in order to draw useful insights for strategic planning, policy-making and preparedness. This is also the purpose of the dedicated "Foresight Newsletters" which support future thinking among policymakers and inspire strategies on long-term policies. The latest 2021 edition of the newsletter focused on Synergies between Civil, Defence and Space Industries. Previous 2020 editions tackle issues such as Artificial intelligence and digital transformation, Raw Materials, Security and Health.
  • inform the design of new initiatives and the review of existing ones in line with the revamped Commission Better Regulation toolbox;
  • build collective intelligence in a structured and systematic way to better develop possible transition pathways, prepare the EU to withstand shocks and shape the future we want.

Strategic Foresight is not about predicting the future; it explores different possible futures, alongside the opportunities and challenges they might present. Ultimately, it will help us act in the present to shape the future we want.

Key actors

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič is the first ever member of the College of Commissioners in charge of strategic foresight. In the Commission, part of Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič’s mission is to lead the efforts to embed strategic foresight at the heart of EU policymaking. The Secretariat-General and the Joint Research Centre lead the implementation of the mandate (the latter drawing on its internal foresight capacities). The Commission’s Strategic Foresight Network ensures long-term policy coordination between all Directorates-General. The Commission is building close foresight cooperation and alliances with other EU institutions, notably in the context of the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS). It also works with international partners, and develops partnerships that draw on Member States’ public foresight capabilities through the EU-wide Foresight Network.

EU-wide Foresight Network

The launch of an EU-wide Foresight Network was announced in the Commission’s 2020 Strategic Foresight Report.

Its objective is to develop a partnership that draws on public administration foresight capabilities, by bringing together intelligence and foresight expertise from all Member States and the European Commission for strategic exchanges and cooperation on forward-looking issues relevant to Europe. This include topics like open strategic autonomy, resilience and our capacity to achieve the green, digital and fair transitions. The EU-wide Foresight Network has two levels. “Ministers for the Future” indicated by each Member State at the invitation of Vice-President Šefčovič meet informally at least once a year. Their main role is to discuss and agree with the Commission on the main strategic priorities for the Commission’s strategic foresight agenda, take stock of progress, discuss key issues of relevance for Europe’s future and agree on follow-up. This work will naturally feed into EU strategic programming.

The work of the Ministers for the Future is supported by a network of senior officials from the national administrations, who meet at least twice a year to prepare the ministerial meetings and to take stock of the follow-up of their conclusions.

Supporting EU policy-making

Strategic Foresight helps improve policy design, develop future-proof strategies and ensure that short-term actions are coherent with long-term objectives by using a number of different techniques, including:

landscape

Horizon scanning: a systematic scan and collection of events and trends, the output being a future-scape or visual mapping of new signals of change

megatrends

Megatrends analysis: analysis and discussion of pattern shifts and interacting trends, the output being a story of the future (singular) and a plan of action

frames

Scenario planning: interactive and iterative process, involving interviews, analysis and modelling, the output being a set of stories of plausible futures, whether we like them or not, and how these might come about

objective

Visioning: identification of a preferred direction, the output being a shared understanding and explicit description of the preferred future and a medium term roadmap detailing specific actions for making progress towards the vision

Strategic foresight will guide the Commission in achieving President von der Leyen’s six headline ambitions by:

  • conducting foresight exercises on forward-looking issues to explore ways to achieve the aspirations outlined in the Commission’s political priorities, analyse key trends and emerging issues and define topics of critical interest for the EU. These exercises will include the publication of an Annual Strategic Foresight Report. Starting from 2021, its preparation will be based on full foresight cycles, which are aimed at guiding the priorities of the annual State of the Union addresses, subsequent Commission Work Programmes and multi-annual programming
  • supporting the Commission’s Work Programme as part of the revised Better Regulation Agenda. Major policy initiatives should be informed by strategic foresight, ensuring that EU policies draw on a clear understanding of future trends and emerging issues, possible scenarios and related challenges and opportunities
  • strengthening the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme, which identifies opportunities to reduce Europe’s regulatory burden, and informs the assessment of whether existing EU laws remain ‘fit for the future’

Report on Strategic Foresight

This is the first of the Commission’s annual Strategic Foresight Reports. In its Communication ‘Strategic Foresight – Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe’, the Commission presents its strategy to embed strategic foresight into EU policy-making. It discusses first structural lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis, and explains how foresight can help strengthen Europe’s long-term resilience in an era of fundamental and rapid change. It does so by analysing the EU’s resilience across four dimensions: social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital.

2020 Strategic Foresight Report

Next steps

  • 2021 Annual Strategic Foresight Report
  • Further development of resilience dashboards
  • Implementation of a Strategic Foresight Agenda
  • The annual European Strategy and Political Analysis System (ESPAS) conference

Contact

For any enquiries, please contact us at SG-FORESIGHT@ec.europa.eu; JRC-FORESIGHT@ec.europa.eu

Documents

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