Archive for July 2011

The Future of Secure Data in the Cloud

July 29, 2011

David Saer – Foresight Researcher


Given the expected growth in adoption of cloud computing, what new security challenges arise and how can we address them?

Cloud Computing – An Infrastructure Solution for a Changing World?

As organisations prepare for an uncertain and potentially turbulent decade ahead, greater emphasis is being placed on increasing flexibility and agility, reducing asset ownership and controlling costs.  In response, a growing number are turning to cloud computing for the provision of many ICT infrastructure and data management services. As a consequence, a variety of interesting questions have emerged surrounding the opportunities and challenges posed by adopting cloud based solutions.


Cloud Computing – Promise and Payoff

A simple definition of cloud computing is the use and availability of virtual servers over the internet, in effect the outsourcing of ICT infrastructure, data management and application hosting to an external provider.  Turning to outsourcing partners can bring potentially significant cost savings to businesses. For example, users of cloud based services no longer need to invest in purchasing costly servers to hold data and run their ICT services, or employ the personnel needed to manage them.

A key attraction of cloud computing is the promise of greater flexibility and agility. This is especially attractive to start-ups, as businesses can expand or contract their ICT capacity on demand at a comparatively low cost.  This can be seen to reflect a broader trend in business towards rental over ownership in an attempt to manage costs and assets – shifting the expense from a capital to expenditure model.


Security Panacea or Pain?

The implications of this move towards storing data remotely in the cloud could be transformational in terms of security. For example, having the vast majority of ICT infrastructure located and run externally could resolve many traditional security problems related to poor ‘cyber hygiene’.  Cloud based solutions also reduce the risk of insider threats, where internal staff are the conduits of threat through incompetence or malicious intent.

A major fear is that, as companies outsource their ICT to cloud based infrastructure providers, they are creating large targets full of the valuable data of multiple companies.  There are also the issues of the trustworthiness and reliability of the external providers and the risks posed by ‘multi-tenancy’, where different potentially competing companies occupy the same cloud infrastructure.  Can businesses trust the data content and intentions of those they share the cloud with as well as the administrators in control?  Similarly, to what extent should cloud providers trust the data content and intentions of their customers? How much access should these ‘hosts’ be allowed to verify the quality, legality and reliability of customer data and applications stored on their servers?


Rethinking the Security Paradigm

As companies look to secure the cost savings promised by cloud computing, the burden of responsibility for security has shifted to the cloud infrastructure providers to help protect their customers from malicious actors within and outside the cloud.  As a result pre-emptive security and verification are becoming a priority for the vendors of cloud services. For example, HP has focused its research and development efforts on providing a safety-net for their customers.  HP’s approach is to attempt to build in a comprehensive level of security into their cloud services from the outset of hosting a new customer. The aim is to prevent the theft of data, limit the damage caused by any successful break-ins, and protect end users from failures of the system or any accidental or malicious actions of an administrator.

Pre-emptive security represents a crucial departure from the more traditional approach where systems have had to have security retro-fitted because it was never an issue when they came into being. The new approach emphasises designing security in from conception of the hosting arrangement.  For example, the HP model features built in sensors which monitor for unusual activity, and immediately shut down servers that are reporting and inflicting attacks.  On top of this, Businesses will increasingly be able to customise the level of security from their cloud infrastructure provider in relation to need by paying for more sensors and security features as required.


The Future of Cloud Computing

This growing focus on infrastructure security is a positive trend given the growing number of businesses moving towards cloud computing models.  Security will remain a top concern and is expected to be a lucrative business for those who provide it. IDC estimates the cloud security market could be worth $6 billion annually by 2015.[1]  However, many questions still remain in relation to the future of secure cloud computing:

  • What further security considerations does the move to cloud computing present, and what future problems could it create? 
  • What different models of security will evolve around cloud computing?
  • How can we assess and verify the quality and robustness of the ICT infrastructure security offerings of infrastructure providers?
  • Will the trust issues surrounding multi-tenancy dissuade some businesses from switching to the cloud?
  • Could a hybrid model emerge where firms retain their own servers for key data but are willing to outsource other functions and services? 
  • Would a massive security incident derail or just delay uptake of cloud computing? 
  • On the issue of legality, where does responsibility lie, with the data owners or infrastructure providers?


About Fast Future

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Our work draws on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them. Clients include 3M, Astra Zeneca, E&Y, GSK, IBM, Intel, KPMG, Nokia, Novartis, O2, Orange, PwC, SAP, Sara Lee, twofour54 and the OECD. We also work with a range of city and national level government entities around the world.


The Future of Airline Retail – The Quest for Growth

July 29, 2011

We’ve just posted our report on The Future of Airline Retail – The Quest for Growth based on the outcomes of the Airline Retail Conference 2011 – London June 30th – July 1st 2011.

Head over to to read a text version or download a pdf copy [PDF download].

Please get in touch with your thoughts and comments.

FutureScape 22 – Fast Future’s 100 Predictions for 2011-2012 – Part 1 – Inevitable Surprises

July 29, 2011

Thank you for all the valuable advice on my personal request in the last issue and for the excellent feedback and discussion on the topics of the last two issues of FutureScape. If you didn’t get a chance to read them you can download them here.

We’ve had excellent feedback on our increased level of Twitter activity – where we’ve been sharing interesting developments and future issues we’ve come across in the course of our research. You can follow our Twitter stream at

We are breaking with our normal format over the next few issues to have some fun pondering what developments we might see over the next 18 months. We don’t normally do ‘predictions’, but at the end of 2009 we published our 50 Forecasts for 2010 to help our readers in their planning for the year ahead – the response was phenomenal.

However we held off repeating the exercise at the start of 2011 as so many others were making their 2011 predictions. We decide to wait until the mid-point of the year to share our views on what might happen between now and the end of 2012. We’ll share the rest of our 100   predictions in the next few issues of FutureScape.

As always, we welcome your feedback, ideas and submissions for inclusion in future issues.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here


Rohit Talwar


Fast Future Research

Tel: +44 (0)20 8830 0766

Sign up for our newsletters / Download past editions at
Watch a short video of Rohit’s keynote speech on global trends  here


The Future of Airline Retail

We’ve just launched our short report on the Future of Airline Retail drawing on key findings for the recent Airline Retail Conference in London. The report can be downloaded here



Fast Future’s 100 Predictions for 2011-2012 – Part 1 – Inevitable Surprises

Over the next few issues we’ll share 100 predictions we’ve put together to help you in planning for the next 18 months within your organisation. We are starting with 20 ‘inevitable surprises’ – what we see as likely outcomes of developments happening in the world around us right now.

Please share these with anyone who might be interested, let us have your feedback on our predictions, and share your own thoughts on what you expect to see take shape by the end of 2012.


1.    A Harsh Economic Landscape. The scale of national debt in the US and Europe in particular, combined with growing  hesitancy and slowing investment in the commercial sector, the costs of Japan’s rebuilding programme and a slowdown in China will create a turbulent economic outlook. Several developed economies will go back into recession or ‘bump along the bottom’ with close to zero growth. Growth will slow as a result in several export-led developing economies. Real incomes will continue to decline for much of the developed world – even in the stronger economies like Germany that maintain positive economic growth.

2.    Debt Default – Playing out the Greek Tragedy. A heavily indebted Greece will be forced default on its current debt repayment programme as it fails in its struggle to drive through the required austerity programme. Default will result from the sheer scale of the debt, combined with a lack of real political will and an increasingly hostile public – angered by reductions in services, public sector pay cuts, job losses and hardships being felt across the economy. Greece will be forced into a messy and complex withdrawal from European Monetary Union and the single currency and return to the Drachma as a sovereign currency.

3.    The Euro – Bruised, Abused and Teetering Portugal and Ireland may be able to avoid default over the next 18 months. However, the larger economies of Spain and Italy will struggle to keep their heads above water as the true scale of their national and regional government borrowings become apparent. The markets will also act to increase the pressure on them. Only a stellar upturn in economic performance will prevent both economies from defaulting on their debts and following Greece through the Euro’s newly created exit door. Germany will keep the rest of the Eurozone intact for the period but only just. The losses suffered by those financial institutions who’ve lent heavily to Greece, Spain and Italy will lead to fresh calls for government bailouts.

4.    China and the Debt Dragon – Chinese authorities will become increasingly concerned over the scale of local government debt, borrowing across the economy and the risk of inflation. Tight regulations will be introduced to control lending to businesses and citizens alike. At the same time the centre will continue to bail out heavily indebted local governments whilst exerting more control over their economic management.

5.    Banking Regulation – Tearing down the House. Depending on how quickly and how deeply the next economic downturn strikes, and the problems highlighted by ‘banking stress tests’ the banks could face far tougher regulation. In a desire to appease an angry population, several countries in Europe may drive through legislation that forces banks to separate completely their retail and investment activities. Whilst the banks will complain and raise warning flags over the dire implications for everything from the economy to social stability, politicians will drive through these populist measures.

6.    Jobless Growth and The Rise of Micro Businesses The sectors of the economy expected to see the most growth in the next 18 months are largely those which do not generate large numbers of new jobs e.g. internet services. Despite the scale and revenue of firms such as Google and Yahoo or the $Bn+ valuations being placed on relatively new players such as Groupon, these firms do not employ equivalent numbers to firms with similar turnover in sectors such as manufacturing, retail or tourism. Governments across the developed world will start placing greater emphasis on providing support to the self-employed, sole traders and micro-businesses.



7.    Citizen 2.0 – Angry, Vocal and Visible. Social unrest will rise in a number of developed economies – with the public regularly taking the streets. Key concerns will include austerity measures to reduce public debt, job losses in the public and private sector, pension reform, continued anger at the financial services sector, immigration, rising food and fuel prices and declining public service provision. In an effort to ‘wrong foot’ the authorities and get close to those in power, protest actions will increasingly be co-ordinated at short notice using social media.

8.    Hacking the Media  Following the discovery that the UK’s News of the World newspaper had hacked into the voicemails of murder victims, relatives of soldiers killed in the Iraq War and  the families of victims of the 7/7 London bombings, the newspaper was forced to close. Senior executives and journalists from the paper and its parent company News International will continue to resign, be arrested and called before parliament and a variety of enquiries to explain their involvement.

The UK government will take a lead in introducing tougher new controls on media ownership and on journalistic behaviour. These changes will be picked up and mimicked by governments around the world seeking to control their media. Possibly, the most interesting development will be the change in behaviour amongst journalists themselves. Previously unspoken taboos on exposing each others’ errant activities have been cast aside and journalists will increasingly train their investigative eye on the behaviour and practices of their colleagues.

9.    The Quest for Influence Social influence and connectedness ratings will become increasingly important, with businesses taking greater account of an individual’s influence ranking when recruiting and promoting staff. New rankings will emerge that rate the influence of companies and their leaders. In response, major firms will employ automated posting tools and hire staff dedicated to posting and responding on behalf of senior executives to ensure they maintain a high ranking.

10.  FIFA may rebid the 2022 Soccer World Cup. Soccer’s governing body will face continuing negative speculation about how Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Concerns will also rumble on about how accessible the tournament will be to fans from around the world and the quality of football that can be played at temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius. Speculation will rise over the possible emergence of a breakaway body formed by disgruntled nations. In response to all these pressures, we think there’s a 50% chance that FIFA will find a way to wriggle out of its commitment to Qatar and re-run the competition to host the tournament.



11.  The Arab Spring Uncoils. Protests and internal conflicts will continue across the Middle East and spread to parts of Africa, Asia and Central and Latin America. Even where regimes have been overturned, as in Egypt and Tunisia, the pace and path of reform will not be acceptable to much of the population and unrest will continue. Some governments will take major steps to respond to key public concerns such as youth unemployment and food prices. However, many will use severe force to try and keep the public in check.  The ‘international community’ will become more muted and increasingly ineffective in voicing its disapproval of oppressive regimes. The probability of new concerted foreign military intervention beyond Libya is low.

12.  Rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO (current members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) will play an increasingly important role in Asia. The latest SCO Annual Summit announced further military co-operation, outlined plans for a new development bank and supported the notion of a new global currency. SCO also announced that consultations had opened up with India, Pakistan and Iran – which have all applied for full membership. The economic and security implications will raise concerns for the USA, NATO and the UN.



13.  Service Becomes the Killer App. Economic pressures will see many firms and government agencies make increasing use of internet self-service portals, automated voice recognition based systems and generally try to reduce service costs by transferring them to customer. Outsourcing will also be used increasingly as a cost control device. In this undifferentiated environment, the firms that stand out will be those that deliver truly exceptional customer support – particularly in the event of service failure – offering human contact backed up by smart systems.

14.  The Rise of Corporate Global Responsibility (CGR).  Inspired by the launch of ‘Google Ideas’ – the ‘Think / Do Tank’ designed to go beyond the normal boundaries of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – a number of firms will revamp their CSR to have more global, visible and lasting impact. Newer players in particular – especially from the technology and creative media sectors – will follow Google’s lead in putting resource into finding solutions to some of the world’s most intractable problems. In Google’s case this includes issues such as improving the functioning of fragile states, increasing judicial access in the developing world and combating extremism.

15.  CEO Tenures and Contracts – Love is in the Air. The average tenure and contract duration for CEO’s of publicly listed firms will start to rise. As more boards acknowledge that their organisations need radical restructuring and longer term thinking to survive and thrive, for some the attitude to the role of the CEO will shift. Increasingly the emphasis will be on attracting, retaining and rewarding those capable of delivering longer term change and growth rather than simply focusing on quarterly earnings. More enlightened stock analysts will also begin to understands the value of thinking beyond the next three months.

16.  Google+ Disrupts the Disruptors. Google+ will rapidly become the most talked about – if not the largest – social network. The platform will undergo continuous evolution through user feedback and internal innovation and by the end of 2012 may look very different to today. We expect Google to buy up and absorb a number of smaller networks focused on key geographic regions. Despite regular platform updates, more established platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn will struggle to maintain member acquisition rates and may even see declines in total membership.

17.  Airline Competition – its Getting hot up There. Continued economic uncertainty, rising fuel prices, corporate cost cutting and ever-intensifying competition will see more airlines around the world fail, seek bankruptcy protection or merge. The service gap will increase between the new standard setters from emerging nations such as Etihad Airways and some of their old, tired and increasingly flat-footed competitors from more developed economies. Governments will come under increasing pressure to deregulate and allow greater foreign ownership of domestic airlines.

18.  Discount Fever – The popularity of and competition between demand aggregator sites such as Groupon and ‘pay to bid’ penny auction sites such as will increase. The aggregators typically offer discounts of 50% or more if sufficient numbers of subscribers sign up for that day’s restaurant, personal care or travel offer. We expect to see a proliferation of new general aggregator sites and far more travel providers enter this space – following the lead of in offering these deep discounted deals.

Airlines, magazines, social networks and anyone with a large customer and contact database will also look at these 3rd party discount offers as another route to monetizing their networks. Whilst the vendors hate the deep discounting model, the number and range making use of such aggregator platforms will increase. Competition will drive down the winning bid prices on auction sites and, in particular, the margins the aggregators can make on each transaction. Investors will begin to realise that, with few barriers to entry, the profit forecasts and resulting heady valuations placed on these sites were massively overplayed.


Science and Technology

19.  A 3D Printing Revolution. As the price and quality of 3D printing technology improves, we will see the growth of custom manufacturing outlets on the high street and online. Customers will be able to submit their personalised designs for an increasingly wide range of physical objects and have them manufactured on the spot. Larger manufacturers across a range of sectors from automotive to footwear will experiment with and adopt 3D manufacturing techniques.

20.  Powering up Alternative Energy Decisions by Germany, Switzerland and Italy not to pursue nuclear energy will drive accelerated investment in R&D and production capacity across the alternative energy sector.


Rohit on the Road

In the coming months I’ll be delivering client speeches, workshops and stakeholder briefings on the world in 2015-2030, business complexity, strategic innovation, city development, the future of meetings, the future of aviation and airports, tourism futures, developing entrepreneurship, and the future for sectors such as media, hotels, packaging, satellites, retail, insurance and infrastructure.

Please let me know, if you’d like to arrange a meeting, presentation or workshop on one of my forthcoming trips. I’ll be speaking in London, Copenhagen, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Leipzig, Vancouver, Florida and Las Vegas.

About Fast Future

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. We draw on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them.



FutureScape Issue 21 – 7th July 2011

July 29, 2011

Welcome to the latest issue of FutureScape. In this issue we have lead articles on China’s economy, Asian theme parks and growing your own clothing. We also introduce a new section of ‘Future Snippets’ examining some of the issues we’re currently exploring with clients.

We are now posting a lot more regularly to Twitter with developments, projections and future issues that have caught our attention in the course of our work. You can follow us on Twitter and debate these topics with us using the link below.

In this issue

  • A Personal Request for Help
  • Future Snippets – Greek Debt Crisis and Future Funding for Start ups
  • Chinese Whispers – A possible economic correction for China?
  • Wild Rides in Asia – Can Western theme parks succeed in Asia
  • Growing your own Clothes
  • Light Speed Data Transfer

As always, we warmly welcome your feedback, ideas and submissions for inclusion in future issues.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here




Fast Future Research

Tel: +44 (0)20 8830 0766


Sign up for our newsletters / Download past editions at
Watch a short video of Rohit’s keynote speech on global trends  


A Personal Request for Help

Please excuse me for using the newsletter to issue this request for help. We are looking for anyone who has experience of a medical condition where the individual falls over as soon as they try to stand because the room appears to start spinning and they lose balance. So far neurologists, paediatricians, ear and balance specialists have failed to find a diagnosis. Please contact if you or someone you know has been through something similar and been diagnosed.


Future Snippets 

This is a new section where we provide short overviews on some of the issues we’re currently exploring with clients.


The Greek Debt Crisis – Send in the Futurists

What are the possible scenarios for how a Greek debt default might play out?

We are regularly asked to explore future scenarios both for the European Monetary Union (EMU) and for the more indebted European economies in the wake of the current debt drama being played out in Greece. Of particular interest is what might happen if Greece does default on its debts at some point. The bulk of the analysis we’ve seen so far from economists, governments and the media has been short term focused and heavily laden with emotional rhetoric. We’ve seen little or no robust exploration of the longer term ramifications of any particular course of action for Greek society and the wider economy.  This short termism has helped contribute to the current hysteria that masquerades as debate.

In our view, we need considered analysis exploring different possible scenarios of how a Greek default could play out and the implications for Greece, the rest of Europe and the EMU. The midst of a crisis is when you have the absolute attention of key stakeholders and is – we feel – the ideal time to take a short pause for reflection. We suggest they bring in futurists who could help Greece and the EU explore the multiple drivers at play using some form of accelerated scenario planning exercise. This would allow for a rapid but comprehensive review of critical drivers, assessment of how these key factors might interact and identification of the resulting scenarios that could emerge. In our view we’ll never have a better opportunity to ask some fundamental questions – such as:

Can the EMU accommodate countries as economically diverse as Germany and Greece?

How do we repair the EMU mechanism to allow for countries to leave as well as join?

If Greece drives through the current austerity programme in the face of public opposition, how long might it take to rebuild confidence, trust and economic vibrancy?

Future Funding of Start Ups and Micro Businesses

What funding mechanisms have been adopted successfully around the world to support Sole Traders (Practitioners) with their business start up costs?

One of our current foresight studies focuses on accelerating the future development of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. In the face of continued economic uncertainty, public sector funding cuts and a squeeze on large corporate spending and recruitment, it’s becoming apparent that many job seekers may have no other option than to set up in business for themselves. A common feature of such businesses is that they have very limited resources and relatively low revenues. A survey conducted for the project found that 46% of respondents were sole traders or self employed, with 42% earning less than £49,000 (US$78,384).

The creation of sustainable small enterprises is critical to economic growth and the sector is outperforming the rest of the UK economy – which appears to be flat-lining. In April 2011, HP’s latest SMB Index found that ‘…over the past six months UK small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have grown on average by six per cent…”[1] However, in many cases, those who want – or need – to start out on their own lack the resources to finance even the basics such as a computer. Whilst some can obtain loans, and others can access micro-finance sources in some countries, for many there’s little or no provision for such small sums of money.

We are keen to identify examples from around the world of efficient, low bureaucracy funding mechanisms that have been implemented successfully to support the needs of fledgling businesses. Please share any examples you know of.


Chinese Whispers

Is a major Chinese economic correction on the cards – how might it play out and what might the global implications be?

We are well aware that the favourite pastime of many economists and commentators over the last 20 years has been to seize on any negative economic data emerging from China and use it to predict the imminent decline of this fast growing juggernaut. Consistently, these predictions have been wide of the mark and the Chinese government has proved itself adept at navigating through potential roadblocks. However, some of the most recent reports on the scale of China’s local government debt suggest that China may be facing its toughest economic challenge in the modern era.

The prevailing economic wisdom – which we have supported – is that the growth of China and other BRIC economies signifies a profound change in the global order. This paradigm is shaping the investment and expansion plans of global business and driving an eastward shift in economic momentum, prestige and relevance. According to projections from the IMF/Economist, of the next $10 trillion of global GDP, China will contribute $1.65 trillion and America $1.43 trillion [2]. Russia, Brazil and Japan complete the top five with contributions of $698 billion, $461 billion and $410 billion respectively. This is a clear sign of the overall direction of economic development. However, these and other figures discussed below suggest that the black and white scenario of absolute western declin e and unbridled eastern promise may be overplayed. Clearly, few would argue against the expected rise of Asian economies in particular, or the possibility of China and India dominating the 21st century. However, their unchecked rise is far from a given, as we have tweeted about recently.

Image 1: Clouds on the horizon for Chinese economy?

Nick Ferguson, writing in FinanceAsia on June 8th 2011 reported on Beijing’s alleged secret bailout of local governments, at a cost of $463 billion[3]. Dylan Grice, a global strategist at Societe Generale notes that whilst China exercises a greater relative degree of control over its economy than many western governments can hope for, this may have only bought time rather than saved it from a financial crisis similar to that experienced by many economies in 2008-09. Grice argues that artificially lowering interest rates contributed directly to the global financial crisis by creating a mismatch in the availability of and demand for risk capital.  On this basis, Grice suggests that China’s ‘natural’ interest rate should near match its economic growth – at around 11.5%.

The reported scale of China’s bad loans suggests that its current interest rate is far too low and anything but natural.  Grice concludes that ‘…While we can’t predict where complex systems will go, we know that the longer their volatility is artificially suppressed, the more emphatic will be its release when it does come. It is more likely that China has one-and-a-half times (and counting) the 2008 financial crisis ahead of it.’ If this turns out to be the case, the global ramifications would be immense.

A Chinese correction, never mind a full blown crisis, could have profound impacts on the global economy not least it’s still nominal motor, the US. For all the talk of a Chinese-U.S economic cold war[4], they remain highly interdependent economically. For example, after American tax-payers, China is the next largest holder of US debt, with $900 billion worth of Treasury securities[5]. Governments around the world, still struggling in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, urgently need to consider what could happen should Chinese growth come to a sudden halt. The potential economic, political and social impacts would almost certainly surpass those of 2008 given the weakened nature of the global economy, high levels of consumer debt and the parlous state of many nations’ public finances.

What might the different scenarios of a Chinese economic crisis look like?

What could the implications be for the global economy and the countries most dependent on China for export revenues and foreign direct investment?


Wild Rides in Asia

As discussed above, the seeming inexorable rise of China and the broader shift of global power eastwards have resulted in many Western businesses in particular investing heavily in Asia as a largely untapped market.  The titans of the leisure industry are no exception. Over the next decade a variety of familiar Western brands such as Disney, Universal Studios, MGM, Paramount and Merlin will all open theme parks across Asia, with further expansion already planned.[6]  These brands hope to tap into the rising incomes and wealth of the growing Asian middle-classes, who are increasingly demanding ‘international standards’ of leisure experience.

The most notable current development is Shanghai Disneyland, which broke ground in April 2011 and is expected to open in five to six years time.  Disney has long had a foothold in the region with its theme parks in Japan and Hong Kong, yet its expansion into mainland China could potentially represent one of its biggest and riskiest investments[7].  Universal Studios are not far behind, opening a theme park in Japan in 2001 and officially launching Universal Studios Singapore this year, with another park planned to rival Disney in Shanghai.

Image 2: Bright lights, big market!

As they accelerate their Asian development strategies, a number of crucial challenges and questions lie ahead for Western companies hoping to crack the Asian market. For instance, the differences between Asian countries are vast and market strategies employed in Japan, for example, may not necessarily translate well to Chinese, Korean or Indian audiences. Furthermore, it seems increasingly dangerous to assume that Asian consumers will favour Western offerings over local options. For example, Hong Kong Disneyland has experienced consistently poor revenues – possibly as a result of its relative proximity to its larger sister Disney parks in Japan. This coupled with the recent closure of the much heralded flagship Barbie store in Shanghai [8] suggest that market success is not guaranteed for foreign entrants.

At the same time, the emergence of foreign players in the leisure sector may serve to encourage domestic players to enter the market or expand their existing operations. Such moves, if delivered with sufficient quality, could benefit from nationalist sentiments. For example, in France, Parc Asterix, based on the popular cartoon character, was able to benefit from French audiences spurning Disneyland Paris.

In China, there is also the issue of how well Western firms, with their refined family-oriented image, can adjust to dealing with the Chinese authorities.  Some may struggle with centrally imposed restrictions – which are often incomprehensible to Western onlookers – such to as the recently reported ban on time-travel on Chinese television [9].  Furthermore, a constant backdrop is the issue of human rights – with regularly voiced concerns over China’s past record and current policies. How far are the House of Mouse and other companies prepared to adapt their policies, principles and behaviours in order to succeed in this key market?

How can Western brands adapt to local cultures and sensitivities, whilst also offering something different from their local rivals?

How long can the assumed Asian, particularly Chinese, appetite for Western brands and products be sustained?

Can local theme parks capitalise on national sentiment to attract visitors away from their larger foreign rivals?

With foreign investment strategies for many Western firms now predicated on the long term stability of the Asian market and wealth of the Asian middle-classes, what impact could a China-centric downturn have on their performance?


I Can’t Come out Tonight – I Haven’t Grown Anything to Wear

In researching a recent talk for the textile industry we came across a fascinating TED / CNN interview and video [10]  on growing your own clothes by Suzanne Lee – director of the BioCouture project, author of “Fashioning The Future: Tomorrow’s Wardrobe.” and a senior research fellow in the School of Fashion/Textiles, Central Saint Martins, London. Ms Lee believes we can grow our own clothes. By using microbiology she has created a fabric from tea, sugar, microbes and acetic acid. Over time through a fermentation process, the mix creates a sheet of Nano fibres formed of spun cellulose. The fabric, once dried can be formed and sewn into patterns and shapes for clothing or footwear. The material has desirable properties such as a propensity to dye easily, however it is also very absorbent and therefore non-weather-proof. However, Ms Lee believes that these kinks can be worked out.

Image 3: The unlikeliest of materials

Lee suggests that while home grown clothing is unlikely to take over from cotton or leather, it does offer the potential to radically change manufacturing processes. In a form of biological 3D printing, the technology could be used in the fabrication of a whole range of shapes by encouraging the culture to form around or within a mould. The prospect of home based manufacturing raises intriguing possibilities in terms of the emergence of new cottage industries whilst challenging traditional manufacturing models and mindsets.

How might such a shift in clothing manufacture impact low wage countries which are heavily reliant on the clothing industry?

Could the idea of custom grown clothing breathe new life into the boutique sector or lead to the emergence of a new type of store – using a range of technologies to enable customers to design and manufacture / grow their own clothes and other physical goods?

Video of the Week

Light Speed Data Transfer

For our video choice in this edition we’ve gone super geeky and selected this short video from Intel Research that explains the use of Silicon Photonics for data transfer. Replacing conventional electrical wiring systems with fibre optic wiring would allow for super fast data transfer – for example enabling download of an HD film in one second.

Rohit on the Road

The last few weeks have seen me present on the future of clothing and cleaning to the textiles sector in Brussels, conducting executive briefings on the future of meetings and tourism in Toronto and Finland, keynoting on driving innovation at the annual Airline Retail Conference in London, presenting on future drivers and scenarios for global logistics and talking about future strategy and innovation to EDFs Nuclear Leadership Academy.

In the coming months I’ll be delivering client speeches, workshops and stakeholder briefings on the world in 2015-2030, business complexity, strategic innovation, city development, the future of meetings, the future of aviation and airports, tourism futures, developing entrepreneurship, and the future for sectors such as media, hotels, packaging, satellites, retail, insurance and infrastructure.

Please let me know, if you’d like to arrange a meeting, presentation or workshop on one of my forthcoming trips. I’ll be speaking in London, Copenhagen, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Leipzig, Vancouver, Florida and Las Vegas.


About Fast Future

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. We draw on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them.


















FutureScape Issue 20 – 28th June 2011

July 29, 2011

Welcome to the latest edition of FutureScape. We hope you enjoyed the last edition and look forward to your feedback on the topics in this issue.

In this special issue we are focusing on Nuclear energy and the recent crisis in global football governance. We examine the aftermath of the crisis at Fukushima, the implications for energy policy around Europe and the world and follow it up with a look at the faltering charge toward lower global emissions. Lastly we examine the future of the beautiful game – an issue close to our hearts!

This week we are delighted to welcome two guest contributors in Tom Lane and David Saer. Tom has provided fascinating articles on the fallout from the recent crisis in Japan as well as a look at global emissions levels. David has also looked at the nuclear issue, providing his thoughts on the impact of the Fukushima crisis on European Energy policy. We would like to extend our thanks to Tom and David for their thoughts. Brief profiles of Tom and David can be found at the foot of this newsletter.

As always, we warmly welcome your feedback, ideas and submissions for inclusion in future issues.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here




Fast Future Research

Tel: +44 (0)20 8830 0766

Sign up for our newsletters / Download past editions at
Watch a short video of Rohit’s keynote speech on global trends  here


Fast Future on Twitter

In response to requests from a number of our clients and newsletter followers, we are now posting shorter and more regular Twitter updates. These cover the issues we’re looking at and the interesting developments we come across in our research programme. You can follow and discuss these posts here


Proactive Talent Retention Strategies

Our research has highlighted that despite the continuing shadow of the global financial crisis, there is growing demand and intense competition for the best talent. This demand is driven in particular by the rapid growth of developing markets and the resulting pace of expansion of multinationals in search of new growth opportunities.

As the balance of power and opportunity shifts in favour of ‘talent’, medium to large firms will have to adopt a far wider range of strategies to retain their top performers. In our survey, 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that:

To attract and retain talent, firms will increasingly undertake a variety of engagement activities such as 6-monthly stay / retention interviews.

What measures are you adopting to sense and respond to the needs and aspirations of your key assets?


Future of HR

As part of our study on the future of HR, the global survey has now closed after receiving an excellent response from contributors representing a host of different industries around the world. We would like to extend a massive thank you to all those who contributed to the study via the survey and the expert interviews. The emerging insights are fascinating – highlighting fundamental challenges and significant opportunities over the coming decade. We will be sharing the report shortly. Watch this space.


Long Term Innovation Survey

Please take a few minutes to complete an interesting survey on long-term innovation thinking being run by our friends at Volans. You can find the survey link here



What are the long-term environmental and economic ramifications of the recent decisions to scrap nuclear power investment plans in Germany and Italy? What if the promised investment in alternative energy doesn’t materialise?

The political fallout from the Fukushima disaster has been well documented. Germany, which currently derives around 25% of its energy supply from nuclear sources[1] has decided to shut down its nuclear capacity by 2022. Italy has also voted against nuclear power, whilst in Japan, a June 2011 poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that 74% of respondents[2] supported a phase-out of Japan’s nuclear industry. Since Japan has 54 nuclear power stations contributing some 17,580 megawatts of nuclear capacity online[3], such a phase-out has the potential to be drawn out and costly.

We understand the natural concerns about safety and the global shortage of nuclear construction skills and expertise. However, we also wonder whether any of the governments in Italy, Germany or Japan have considered fully the wider economic and environmental impacts of their decisions. The IEA stated in June 2011 that a halving of projected nuclear power expansion in the wake of Fukushima would increase the global growth in CO2 emission some 30 percent through 2035[4]. IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said that this ‘…is bad news in terms of having less diversification in the global energy mix, a less secure picture.’

Whilst many governments have promised increased renewable investment in the wake of decisions to cut nuclear programmes, high levels of state indebtedness and the current cost of renewable investment suggest that such commitments may be hard to deliver in practice. The IEA notes that under a halved nuclear future, coal and gas demand would increase by about 5 percent by 2035, and renewables by 6 percent, compared with what the IEA had expected before Fukushima. This could imply upward pressure on fuel and power prices, not to mention possible global warming related costs – at a time of sclerotic growth for many western economies. In contrast, the Gulf region is actively investing in nuclear power; Saudi Arabia has announced its intention to build 16 reactors by 2030 at an estimated cost of $100 billion[5]. Indeed the political expediency of scrapping nuclear power in some countries may prove an increasingly expensive long term strategy.

The World Health Organization estimates that some 600,000 Chinese died prematurely in 2007 from air pollution[6] whilst China’s Daily News reports official figures claiming that 2433 Chinese coal miners died in 2010[7]. These issues will not be resolved, indeed they may be exacerbated, by a knee-jerk nuclear moratorium of sorts. We would suggest that before deciding on a complete ban, a more rigorous research programme could be undertaken to find ways of improving the safety, construction and operation of nuclear plants to ensure they can be built and run reliably and cost effectively.



by Tom Lane

Has public perception of nuclear power as a dangerous option reached a tipping point? Could this mean we see a future free of nuclear power generation way before anyone might have predicted?

As Japan continues to recover from the terrible loss of life reaped by the earthquake and tsunami, new information has emerged from the owners of the Fukushima plant surrounding the events that took place on March 11th. It has been confirmed that in addition to the known meltdown in reactor 1, both reactors 2 and 3 also suffered a meltdown just a few days later[8]. Data provided by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) suggested that reactors 2 and 3 started to melt due to broken cooling systems. But exactly what caused this cooling system to fail remains contentious.

There is mounting speculation that the earthquake was to blame for the meltdown, contradicting Tepco’s claim that its nuclear facilities could withstand the most serious tremors and that the meltdowns were caused by damage inflicted by the tsunami. This new information, coupled with scepticism due to conflicting reports at the time and frustration over Tepco’s lack of transparency, has lead to a surge of anti-nuclear sympathies developing across the globe, reaching their peak in Europe.

Amidst a European-wide implementation of stress-tests on nuclear facilities, Germany has become the first country to agree upon a timetabled decommissioning of its nuclear infrastructure, pledging to shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022. The decision marks a government U-turn for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition, who earlier this year backed a proposal to extend the life of ageing nuclear power stations across the country. In a firm rebuke to the nuclear lobby, Germany’s Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen stated “It’s definite: the latest end for the last three nuclear power plants is 2022. There will be no clause for revision”[9]. A  contested issue across the country, the move represents a significant rethink of the government’s energy strategy as Germany currently relies on nuclear power for nearly a quarter of its total energy consumption.

The move also comes just days after the Swiss Cabinet called for the country’s five nuclear reactors to be decommissioned by 2034. A decision that will be debated in the country’s parliament – with the outcome expected in June. This trend has also been repeated in Italy where the government has won a vote of confidence on plans to shelve the construction of nuclear power stations. On the 24th May, Silvio Berlusconi’s government won a ballot by 313 to 291, citing Fukushima as the catalyst for the debate.

Italy is currently the only member of the G8 that does not generate electricity from nuclear power. It is also one of the few that experiences regular earthquakes. The vote is seen as significant as the Italian government had previously backed nuclear power as a long term energy source for the country. Similar announcements regarding decommissioning current plants or the phasing out of new nuclear builds have also been echoed in Thailand and Malaysia.

These policy reversals indicate an increasing uncertainty over the current safety and future role of nuclear technology in commercial power production. Whilst the UK and France remain committed to their own nuclear strategies, both are coming under increasing pressure from anti-nuclear campaigners and demands for clarity from the ‘nuclear industrial lobby’ over their plans for the future.

By moving away from nuclear power Japan, Germany, Italy and potentially Switzerland, Malaysia and Thailand will become increasingly reliant on traditional energy sources in the short term. Japan is expected to increase its oil imports heavily  in the coming years as it makes up for energy shortfalls caused by the current suspension of the majority of its nuclear power stations. At a time when energy markets remain volatile due to instability in the MENA region, it will be interesting to see whether this additional demand will create the conditions for a period of sustained global inflation and what sort of socio-economic implications this might have.

What will be the costs to businesses and how can they account for this? How will aviation and shipping adapt to long term fuel hikes? How will this inflation effect the sovereign debt crisis in an already fragile Europe? What effect will it have on living standards and the possibilities for growth? It might also be worth considering whether the renewable energy infrastructure industry is ready for a surge of demand?

Are fears over nuclear energy well founded or can a reliable model be found for the safe(r) construction, operation and protection of nuclear facilities?

Will a departure from Nuclear energy generation lead to greater or lesser global emissions in the short, medium and longer term? Is this an ideal opportunity for global policy makers to take the leap and invest heavily in renewable energy?

[Image 1]


by David Saer

How long can we expect to wait until renewable energy sources fill the demand vacuum left by Nuclear and other environmentally damaging energy generation approaches?

The news that Germany is planning to phase out nuclear power by 2022 has reverberated around the continent and the entire nuclear industry.  The decision comes as an abrupt change of course for Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition, which had originally reversed the previous government’s decision to phase out nuclear power by 2021.  However the nuclear crisis at Fukushima in Japan following the wake of the tsunami caused an already controversial issue in Germany to spiral into mass anti-nuclear protests, forcing the Merkel government into a review.[10]

This decision now presents several serious questions for Germany with regard to how it aims to satisfy its future demand for energy as nuclear power is phased out over the next decade.    Chancellor Merkel has said that the end of nuclear power in Germany will help make the country a trailblazer in renewable energy, with an expected expansion of North Sea wind farms.  However, can renewable energy alone really cover the 23% of the country’s energy that nuclear power provided?  How rapid will the investment need to be in order to meet such an ambitious target? If it fails, will Germany have to look for energy abroad, either through the nuclear power of France or by importing coal from the Czech Republic?  Furthermore, could another reversal of policy follow in several years if Germany cannot satisfy its energy needs, in response to a particularly harsh winter for example?  These are serious questions which need to be addressed to maintain the German economy, which will be of greater concern to the broader European economy.

In terms of broader regional impact could this spark a wider trend across Europe?  While Germany and Italy are turning their back on nuclear power and Switzerland is hesitating, France still champions its use and Britain is pressing ahead with plans to build several next-generation reactors.[11]  If Germany’s transition from nuclear power proves successful could there be an emboldening of green movements across the continent, encouraging or forcing other countries to follow suit?   Will the move finally lead to sustained investment in and development of green technologies and businesses? Will this also force an effective behavioural change in industry and consumers toward greater energy efficiency, which could then provide a model for these other countries to follow?  Will this help Europe reclaim some of its status as a world leader on the environment, and will this help or hinder promises to cut carbon emissions?  Furthermore what will be the unintended fallout from this move?  How could the demise of the nuclear industry affect both European science and the broader economy?

Overall, Europe and the world will be watching to see if Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power proves a permanent change in course, and the wider implications that will flow from this.

Will this move by Germany and similar plans by Italy kick off a domino effect in other national nuclear energy strategies?

[Image 2]


by Tom Lane

How can developed economies help developing economies to avoid repeating the mistakes of previous eras of industrialisation and pursue lower emission paths to industrial, social and economic development?

Is it fair or reasonable to expect the developing economies to adopt potentially more expensive and slower routes to development given that Western and Japanese development and wealth was built through more than a century of uncapped emissions?

Findings to be published in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) flagship series ‘World Energy Outlook’ will indicate that energy related carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 were the highest in history. Having fallen slightly due to the financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have jumped to 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), up 5% on 2008 when they reached 29.3 Gt [12]. These figures undermine the goals set-out by global leaders during climate talks in Cancun 2010 where negotiations resulted in targets to limit a temperature increase to 2°C.

The IEA claims that emissions need to be capped at 32Gt by 2020 if the world is to mitigate the most damaging effects of global warming and the 2°C limit is to be achieved. However, if current projections continue then the world will exceed the 32Gt limit nine years ahead of schedule [13].

In an article in the Guardian newspaper Dr Faith Birol, Chief Economist at the IEA, is quoted as saying that preventing the 2°C rise currently looks like “a nice utopia. The prospect is getting bleaker. That’s what the numbers say.” [14] Meanwhile Lord Stern of the LSE who wrote the 2006 Stern Report for the UK Treasury on the economics of climate change is also quoted as saying that the results were a wake up call as “such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict.” [15]

[Image 3]

The preliminary release of the IEA’s figures coincides with the latest bout of UN climate talks as national representatives from 187 countries descend on Bonn, Germany, for another round of negotiations to try and forge a successor to Kyoto. Whilst individual nations have set their own targets in addition to those agreed, the ‘carbon-accounting’ techniques used to tally up the release of green house gases remain in dispute. In the UK the Conservative-led coalition government has promised to cut domestic green house gas emissions by 50% by 2027. Critics have raised questions about the methodology employed to calculate these targets [16]. One area of contention is the distinction between emissions produced through the manufacturing of goods for export and those released in the production of goods that are imported. It has been argued that failing to account for this difference ignores the role that domestic consumption plays in generating emissions abroad and thus simply relocates the problem without tackling it.

These problems raise serious questions about the compatibility of economic growth with environmental and humanitarian sustainability. Perhaps one of the most pressing questions surrounds how to cap and enforce limits on green house gas emissions to avoid the 2°C rise.

If these targets are to be achieved:

  • How can reluctant businesses and nations be persuaded to measure their true emissions footprint?
  • What incentives or regulatory interventions are required to be successful?
  • Which industries are most capable of adapting and which seem likely to fall?
  • How will consumer habits have to change?
  • How might international trade be affected?
  • What would an economy with capped industrial production look like?

If we fail to achieve these goals:

  • What contingency plans should be put in place to cope with mass migration?
  • What can be done to mitigate possible conflicts in the event of a decisive shift in cultural demographics or resource-wars?
  • With whom does this strategic responsibility lie?


How can FIFA overcome its increasingly negative image and turn the soccer World Cup into a genuine engine for social and economic development?

If there’s a common thread running through the Fast Future team, it’s our love of soccer as it should be played – think Gianfranco Zola, Lionel Messi, beach football and ‘jumpers for goalposts’. So we make no apology for giving over our final article in this issue to the need for a radical rethink of how world football is run. At the end of this article we outline a proposal to transform the World Cup into a genuine engine of global social and economic development rather a way to generate additional profits for an increasingly rich FIFA.

The last few weeks in particular have seen further tarnishing of the image of the game’s administrators specifically and the game of football generally. Jack Warner – FIFA’s Vice President – has resigned in the face of a corruption enquiry, while a similar investigation continues against Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former head of the Asian Football Federation and a key figure in Qatar’s 2022 bid. The allegation of senior FIFA officials handing out bundles of cash to secure votes raises the question of whether this is a one off or common practice in the decision making processes of football’s ruling body?

Continued speculation and innuendo have also cast massive doubt over the transparency and integrity of the process by which the host country for the football World Cup is selected. In response to allegations of widespread malfeasance from other bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the England Team bid was shown to have hired private investigators to keep an eye on rival nations [17].

[Image 4]

While the problems at the top of world football dominate the headlines, the latest story to rock professional football has been the emergence of a new match fixing scandal. A British national newspaper recently revealed that FIFA would be working with Interpol on a major inquiry into match fixing. The latest cases in Finland and Germany suggest that such activities may be widespread and not confined to small time fixtures. Investigators have been given reason to suspect that friendly internationals also have been affected [18].

The concern is that continued scandal, the dominance of profit considerations and an erosion of trust could alienate the global fan base. Under such circumstances, is it too farfetched to imagine a future in which football has become so corrupted through match fixing and official connivance that fans leave the sport in droves and are drawn toward more transparent and ‘real’ sporting competitions?

So how does FIFA change course? It’s probably too much to ask that Sepp Blatter and the entire governing body resign and make room for fresh blood – but that would be a start. However a more realistic but ambitious step would be to change the ‘operating model’ for the World Cup itself. FIFA says it would like to spread the game to every corner of the world to drive social and economic development. Here’s a way of doing it for the 2022 World cup which has been awarded to Qatar – population 848,016. [19]

Instead of playing the 2022 finals in a single country, they should be hosted by a consortium of developing nations with Qatar as the lead bidder. So for example, the group stages, round of 16 and quarter finals could each be held in seven developing nations alongside Qatar. All of the games for a particular qualifying group would be held in a single country. Qatar would also host games at each stage, plus one of the semi-finals and the finals. This would spread the economic benefit of infrastructure development, tourism revenues and global exposure to countries that need it far more than Qatar. It would also enable a far larger audience to see the games live than are likely to do so in Qatar.

Qatar has already committed to dismantling many of the new stadiums it will build and transferring them to developing nations after the 2022 World Cup. In our view it would be better to build those stadiums and the supporting infrastructure in developing economies right now so they can start to contribute to local development long before 2022.

Could such a bold move help transform the image of FIFA – what would be the impediments?

What sorts of future can you envisage for world football if corruption and match fixing are not tackled effectively – will fans remain faithful to a sport so undermined?


Fast Future has long been fascinated by the future of medicine and the implications for society. This video from Daniel Kraft at TED Maastricht examines medical innovations, explores what future medicine might look like and discusses how technologies will be leveraged to help improve our health. Highlights for us are the spectacular images from the latest MRI scanners and the examination of the paradigm shift from ‘conventional’ to digital medicine. Enjoy the video here









[Images 5&6] The Tri-corder – not so far fetched. Ask the folks at the X-Prize

How will these and other technology enabled advances in healthcare affect our expectations of and attitudes towards healthcare? What are the funding implications?


Rohit on the Road

The last few weeks have seen me talking on a variety of topics on my travels.  In Abu Dhabi I presented to a range of global and local media businesses on future trends and opportunities in the technology, media and telecoms sectors. In Slovenia I keynoted to 250+ entrepreneurs, investors and advisors on fostering entrepreneurship in developing economies across Europe. In the Lakelands of Finland I presented to a combined live and virtual audience on how to drive sustainable tourism development. Finally I was in Brussels to talk to a sector of the shipping sector on how to drive innovation and reverse an inexorable decline in industry fortunes.

In the next two weeks I’ll be running an executive briefing for the tourism industry in Toronto, keynoting at the annual Airline Retail conference in London, presenting on future drivers and scenarios for global logistics and discussing future strategy and innovation with a global energy firm.

In the coming months I’ll be delivering client speeches, workshops and stakeholder briefings on the world in 2015-2030, business complexity, strategic innovation, city development, the future of meetings, the future of aviation and airports, tourism futures, developing entrepreneurship, and the future for sectors such as media, packaging, retail, logistics, energy, insurance and infrastructure.

Please let me know, if you’d like to arrange a meeting, presentation or workshop on one of my forthcoming trips. I’ll be speaking in London, Bristol, Copenhagen, Brussels, Toronto, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Leipzig, Florida and Las Vegas.


About Fast Future

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. We draw on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them.


Contributor Profiles

Tom Lane

Tom is a recent Masters Graduate in International relations with a background in political theory and economics. At undergraduate level Tom studied the History of Art where he earned the prize of having his dissertation published. Tom Has a strong interest in futures research, particularly with respect to monetary policy and geographical, cultural and political dynamics within the EU and UK.

David Saer

David is a recent MA graduate from the University of Sheffield where he was awarded a distinction in International Studies. Before that David studied History and Politics at undergraduate level. David has particular interests in cybersecurity and future developments in China, India and the Middle East. David is also a published writer from his time at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) where he remains a contributing author.

















[15] Ibid.







[2] [3]




FutureScape Issue 19 – 15th June 2011

July 29, 2011

Welcome to the latest edition of FutureScape. We hope you enjoyed the last edition we look forward to your feedback on the topics in this issue.

In this issue we focus on the following issues:

  • Ecademy Social Media Survey and CEO Opportunity
  • Crucial Conversations
  • Electoral Reform
  • Urbanisation
  • Directed Evolution – The Future of the Human Genome

As always, we warmly welcome your feedback, ideas and submissions for inclusion in future issues.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here




Fast Future Research

Tel: +44 (0)20 8830 0766

Sign up for our newsletters / Download past editions at
Watch a short video of Rohit’s keynote speech on global trends  here


Ecademy Social Media Survey and CEO Opportunity

We are helping our friends at the Ecademy social network with a vital short survey on future social media policy for the UK. We are asking our UK based readers to complete the 3 minute 10 question survey and share the link with your colleagues:

Ecademy are also conducting a global search for a CEO who will become a co-investor and help drive the business forward to 2020. You can find the details here:


Crucial Conversations

The most frequently asked question from readers is ‘what topics are occupying the minds of your clients right now?’ While many of the issues vary from client to client, there are ten themes which seem to be high on the agenda for most CEO’s and CFO’s across business and government sectors around the world. In no particular order, these are:

1.    Eurozone 2.0. Could the Euro collapse, what might follow it and what are the global ramifications?

2.    Economic turbulence. Is a second global economic downturn inevitable – will it be more severe and longer than the last one?

3.    Incomes and wealth. Is it inevitable that average real incomes and living standards will decline in many developed economies – if so what are the implications for business?

4.    Social disruption. How might the ‘Arab Spring’ play out – what are the ramifications for the region and could we see similar disruptive social movements emerge in developed and developing economies alike?

5.    Speed of change. How do we learn to think and act at ‘internet speed’? Web technology in particular appears to be leaving us behind, by the time we’ve analysed and debated a new development, the market appears to have moved on.

6.    Free business models. Are ‘freemium’ business models just a fad – or can you genuinely build a sustainably profitable business when providing your core offering for free?

7.    3D or ‘additive’ manufacturing. Everyone is talking about 3D printing as the next revolution in manufacturing and how it will change everything – what impact could it have on our business?

8.    Return on innovation. The results of our innovation efforts to date are pretty unspectacular given what we’ve invested. Can we genuinely build an innovative and entrepreneurial culture or should we just buy the ideas in?

9.    Managing complexity. What practical strategies can we adopt for managing growing complexity in our environment, our business and our private lives?

10. Changing mindsets. How can we develop a tolerance for uncertainty and the capacity to think in scenario terms within our organisation?

What key questions are driving the agenda in your organisation today?


Latest Convention 2020 (C2020) and Future Convention Cities Initiative (FCCI) Presentations

We delivered a number of very well received sessions on the C2020 research programme and the FCCI at Imex Frankfurt from May 23rd – 26th 2011. You can download the presentation materials using the links below:



In a period of rapid global change, what electoral systems are most appropriate for mature democracies and those making the shift from single to multi-party models?

On May 5th Britons went to the polls to vote in the long heralded referendum on voting reform as well as local council seats (excluding London). Perhaps unsurprisingly, 67.9% of those who took part in ballot voted NO[1]. From a futurist’s perspective, the saddest thing about the campaign was the lack of long term thinking and the degree of fact free debate and scaremongering that both sides opted for. Perhaps this was safer and simpler than entering into a genuine and reasoned debate about what kind of electoral system we require in a rapidly changing world.

Call us naive or unrealistic, but at a time when countries across the Middle East and further afield are trying to establish working democracies, perhaps an informed debate in Britain about AV and it’s variants might have helped inform the thinking of those struggling to align diverse agendas in strife torn societies.

Among the wild warnings over AV were the concerns that we’d see more coalitions and that minority parties would have more say. The implicit assumptions here being that a coalition is in itself a bad thing and that somehow the system should act as big brother making it difficult or impossible for the more extreme parties to get a voice in parliament.

Interestingly, Germany has only had one majority government in the last 56 years – so they have some experience of coalitions. In fact, German political parties often issue coalition statements before elections, so geared is their electoral system to the construction of coalitions. [2] In the 2009 election, for instance, the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CDU/CSU) won 33.8% of the vote and entered into a coalition with the Free Democratic Party (FDP), themselves earning 14.6% of votes.[3]








[Images 1 & 2] Two can play that game…or can they?


The negative British debate about coalitions largely ignored the fact that Germany does not seem to have suffered from compromise politics and may even have benefited from a consensual approach and the inherent moderating effect that brings. Apart from being the Eurozone’s leading country banker, Germany weathered the last global financial crisis better than most and recovered faster.  Germany also ranks 5th in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness tables behind only (in order) Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore and the USA. Germany also ranks 5th globally in terms of innovation – suggesting it is better placed than many to survive the inevitable turbulence of the next decade.[4]

According to the IMF Germany has only suffered 4 years of negative GDP growth in the last 30 years. This is an identical number to that of the UK [5] which had one of the world’s most decisive democratic electoral systems prior to the 2010 general election that saw a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats come to power.

How much does the historic strength of Germany’s economy owe to the continuity of policy dictated by a string of coalition governments?

Will coalition governments become the norm in other mature and emerging democracies where the economic agenda dominates currently and there is limited real policy divergence between the main parties?



Where are the best new ideas and practical solutions coming from to tackle the challenges of urbanisation?

The pace and scale of urbanisation looks set to become an increasingly important driver of the economic and political agenda. Urbanisation, particularly in developing economies, has a direct and substantive impact on issues such as economic performance, transport systems, infrastructure, the environment, resource consumption, allocation of federal funding, societal development and cohesion among many others.

Speakers at the 2011Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), highlighted two issues in particular for emerging economies that are experiencing accelerated urbanisation. Dominic Barton, worldwide managing director of McKinsey & Co. noted that “There is a huge amount of pressure on wages. People moving into cities look for jobs. Demand for jobs in China is huge, something like 23-30m a year. Wage inflation is growing in China.” Klaus Kleinfield, chief executive of Alcoa concentrated on the impact on the demand for resources: “With natural resources, when you see demand rising in relation to food for instance, it is driven by the build out of cities and economies and therefore it creates scarcity.”

Higher fertility rates amongst the urban young and continued mass migration from rural areas to urban zones are expected to be the ‘twin’ dynamics that will drive the increase in the percentage of the world’s population who’ll live in cities or urban areas. Estimates suggest this will reach around 70% by 2050, up from 49% in 2009.[6]

This continued and rapid growth is likely to create a range of issues resulting from challenges to the infrastructure and ‘carrying-capacity’ of existing cities effecting services such as energy, education, health care, transportation, sanitation, water & food supply and physical security. Another key concern is that urban growth effectively crowds out the rest of the country – gaining a dominant share of resources and political attention.

 [Images 3]

Further potentially detrimental outcomes or unchecked urbanisation are likely to involve huge urban ‘sprawl’, local environmental degradation and a shortage of employment opportunities leading to widespread poverty. The emergence of these shanty towns where regular employment is limited can also lead to a lack of political representation and ill defined legal rights for the most disenfranchised. Is our Grand Challenge to better understand – and support – the development of long term sustainable urbanisation policies across the world?[7]

Under the circumstances, three parallel grand challenges present themselves – i) improving conditions and opportunities in rural areas to prevent people moving away and to attract others back; ii) improving the employability of those currently in these urban bleak spots – drawing on accelerated learning and confidence building programmes that seem to be having success around the world– see next issue for more details; and iii) scaling up micro-finance, entrepreneurship and micro-business management programmes to enable those effectively off the radar to take greater control of their own destiny.

What are the risks, opportunities and implications for your country if the current rate of urbanisation continues unchecked?

What are the best examples you have seen of projects and initiatives to tackle the urbanisation challenge?



We’d like to alert you to this spellbinding video on ‘directed evolution’ from a recent TED conference. In it “Medical ethicist Harvey Fineberg shows us three paths forward for the ever-evolving human species: to stop evolving completely, to evolve naturally — or to control the next steps of human evolution, using genetic modification, to make ourselves smarter, faster, better. Neo-evolution is within our grasp. What will we do with it?”


Rohit on the Road

I’m just back from a very enjoyable and highly intensive programme of presentations, innovation workshops and political / industry stakeholder briefings for our clients in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. In the next few months I’ll be delivering client speeches, workshops and stakeholder briefings on the world in 2015-2030, business complexity, strategic innovation, city development,  the future of meetings, the future of aviation and airports, tourism futures, develop[ping entrepreneurship, and the future for sectors such as media, packaging, retail, logistics, energy, insurance and infrastructure.

Please let me know, if you’d like to arrange a meeting, presentation or workshop on one of my forthcoming trips. I’ll be speaking in London, Bristol, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Abu Dhabi, Brussels, Toronto, Slovakia, Lithuania, Leipzig, Florida and Las Vegas.


About Fast future

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. We draw on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them.


[1] Alternative Vote: regional results, 07/05/2011, BBC, (17/05/2011)

[2] The Electoral System, Facts About Germany,, 917/05/2011

[3] Germany: Government, 2010, globalEDGE,, (17/05/2011)

[4] The Global Competitiveness Report, 2010-2011 © 2010 World Economic Forum, 2010, World Economic Forum- Professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin,, (17/05/2011)

[5] IMF Data and Statistics, IMF, (17/05/2011)

[6] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 23/09/2009. Website: 26/05/2012

[7] UN Habitat. [no date] World Urban Campaign. Website:





FutureScape Issue 18 – 6th May 2011 – Age Old and New Age Challenges

July 29, 2011

Welcome to the latest edition of FutureScape. We took a break over the holiday period, but now we’re back and hope that absence makes the reader’s heart grow fonder.

In this issue we focus on the following issues:

  • Future of HR highlights
  • Is it that time already? The argument over retirement age
  • The death of Osama Bin Laden
  • The escalation of data theft and its repercussions
  • The blurring of physical and digital worlds

As always, we welcome your feedback, ideas and submissions for inclusion in future issues.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here




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Our surveys on the Future of Human Resource Management and Venues 2020 have garnered an excellent response so far. Thank you to everyone who has already participated. If you haven’t yet completed these surveys, please share your thoughts using the following links:

Future of HR

Venue 2020


Adapting to Changing Employment Models

How will companies need to adapt to get the best out of an increasingly dispersed and contingent workforce?

In the course of a recent interview with Joyce Gioia at the Herman Group we discussed her work on workforce trends and employee retention. Joyce envisages a future model for companies where:

“…they will have a core nucleus of administrative staff around which will be an ever changing set of people – teams, individuals, contractors and contingent workers. These people will remain with the firm as long as it makes sense to do so, then move to another firm.”

Joyce believes such a move will give firms of the future incredible manoeuvrability and flexibility but will also create challenges. Firms will have to learn how to earn the loyalty of employees quickly, displaying high levels of care and attention from the outset in return for employee’s commitment and best efforts.

  • What are the implications from an HR perspective?
  • Will the distinctions between the conditions and benefits for permanent and temporary staff begin to blur?
  • How much will employers and their staff be willing to invest in each other if they both expect the relationship to be short lived?

Social Media Influence Rankings

Recently a number of tools have emerged which claim to measure our social influence. Sites like Klout, PeerIndex, and Empire Avenuedraw on a variety of factors to assess our influence rating. Key variables include things such as the size of our networks on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, the amount of tweets we post and the extent to which we are ‘retweeted’. There is already evidence that people are being recruited based on their influence ranking. Some are suggesting that in future our influence rankings will be critical to our ability to find the right opportunities. Others argue that the measures used are crude and inaccurate.

  • Are influence rankings a temporary fad or a key tool for tomorrow’s recruiter?
  • Are such measures a good indicator of those who display ‘thought leadership’?

Share your thoughts on the future of HR in our current survey

We’d also appreciate it you could forward the links to colleagues and contacts who might be interested in completing either of the surveys. We will donate $1 for each respondent and everyone who leaves their details will receive a free copy of the relevant report.



Free  Future of HR Seminar – London May 10th 2011

I will be delivering a seminar on the emerging research findings of our study on the future of HR at the Hyland Europe and Africa Summit in London on May 10th 2011. Attendance is free and full details can be found here.

Innotown – Business not as Usual

8 – 9 June – Aalesund, Norway
If you haven’t done so already, I’d encourage you take a look at the program for this years’ conference. It is a tremendous experience in spectacular surroundings.
Convention 2020 Case Study Competition Winners

The recent Convention 2020 student case study competition has now closed. We received a very high standard of entry from students around the world. After a careful assessment stage we have selected two winners, one each from Germany and Spain.

Full details on the winners will be released at IMEX Frankfurt which runs from May 24th to 26th.



The Economist magazine argues retirement age should be raised to 70 – is this viable? Is it too little too late?

What are the potential psychological impacts on society and the workplace of raising retirement age to 70 or beyond? Do we have the appetite or capacity to work beyond 70?

Will societal prejudice toward older people decrease as more ‘pensioners’ remain in the workforce?

Given increasing life expectancy, high levels of public debt in developed economies and continued economic uncertainty, what should we do about retirement age and the associated cost of pensions system? A recent Economist front page headline read ’70 or Bust!’ with the sub ‘Current plans to raise the retirement age are not bold enough’ [1].

The Economist argues that by 2040 Europe should have a mean retirement age of 70 while ‘…America, with a younger population, can afford to keep it a smidgen lower’.[2] The problems are set to be even more severe in France Germany and Italy where by 2050 there will be only 1.9, 1.6 and 1.5 workers supporting each pensioner compared to 2.6 in the States.[3]

The whole notion of ‘a retirement age’ and the pension system is being challenged. It was Bismarck, then Prime Minister of Prussia who in 1889 first instituted the retirement age and state pension – set at 70 years old. This at a time when average Prussian male life expectancy was 46.3. [4] He clearly wasn’t expecting many people to show up to collect!

Pension systems across the developed economies are now creaking as more and more people spend longer and longer in retirement. We now face the prospect of people living 20-25 years beyond retirement age. A baby born in the UK 2011 will, on average, live for more than 90 years and nine months. In the last year alone, men, who typically have shorter life spans than women, saw their average life expectancy increase by 44 days. [5]

[Image 1]

Another pertinent issue regarding prolonging working lives is the divide between those in sedentary and manual jobs. An extra five years of office work is a world apart from five extra years at, in many cases literally, the coal face.

There is also the question of affordability – for both the individual and the state. For many in low paid jobs an extended retirement will prove to be simply unaffordable and legislation effectively ending a career could cause suffering to those still physically and mentally able to work.

For the state it is economically injudicious to forcibly remove a selection of your tax base and put their care on the state’s tab. In a sign of things to come perhaps, the UK government has announced that forced retirement is to be abolished by October 2011[6]. However, once workers reach the current state retirement age of 65 employers will no longer be required to pay pension benefits or provide private medical insurance.[7]

So what do the possible solutions look like? Firstly, we have to be honest about the situation and share the stark facts with the population at large. Secondly, we need far more education from an early age on the importance of taking personal responsibility for planning for old age.

Thirdly, our whole notion of how we structure a life needs rethinking. The concept of working until retirement needs to be replaced by a greater emphasis on regular career breaks throughout our working lives which could extend to 75, 80 or even 85. For this to work we will need a real emphasis on preventative medicine and heath management to ensure people are physically and mentally able to work into their seventies and beyond.

Next, for a truly workable solution to this problem, society will have to revise its opinions of ‘old’ people. The result of a study conducted by Demos and Brunel University show that ‘there was agreement that younger people (aged 30) are more acceptable as a boss than a 70 year old. Furthermore, people over 70 are less likely to be seen as ‘making an economic contribution’ compared with those in their 20s.’[8]

Finally, our attitude to and accommodation of older people in the workforce is going to have to change radically. In the workplace, we’ll have to think hard about the design of tasks, team structures, communications methods, use of technology and reward mechanisms to serve the diverse needs of five or more different generations in the workplace.

  • What kinds of conversations are you having in your organisation about retirement age and individual pension provision?
  • What steps are you taking personally to prepare for ever increasing life expectancy?



How will the death of Osama bin Laden influence the priorities, strategies and tactics of those involved in conducting or preventing global terrorism?

How has this affected both the short and long term risks for businesses and individual citizens from the US and the West as a whole?

What are the implications for US-Pakistan relations and the broader power dynamics in the region?

Following the US action against Osama bin Laden (OBL), questions have inevitably been raised about the timing of the attack. Following the fuss surrounding his birth certificate, the event comes at a key time for Barak Obama, potentially boosting his popularity after a challenging first term. Was the timing pure coincidence or a master stroke of political strategy in the run up to the next presidential campaign?

A number of things stood out for us in the immediate aftermath. The first of which was the spontaneous and widespread scenes of celebration and euphoria across America. This was clearly an incredibly cathartic moment for Americans given the impact of 9/11 on the US psyche. The first question is where does America go from here and how seriously should they take the promises of retribution?

Has the death of OBL dealt a serious blow to Islamic terrorism – enabling the US to reduce the level of resources it commits? Or have Al Qaeda and its affiliates already moved to a different operating model in which OBL was little more than a symbolic figure?

Think about how much business has evolved to a decentralised and networked operating model over the last decade. Is it reasonable to assume that terror organisations have adopted a similar development path?

Has the arrival of Generations Y and Z and their differing values into the terrorist community had a similar impact to that which it is having in the business world? Is their desire for early responsibility and greater decision making authority diminishing the influence of OBL over the selection and implementation of acts of terrorism?

The next, less abstract, thought is the extent of Pakistani complicity in OBL’s prolonged evasion of US forces. Far from living in cave networks or hiding out in Pakistan’s tribal belt, it appears the world’s most notorious terrorist was living in relative luxury 35 miles from Islamabad. America is now asking very serious questions of Pakistan and the answers could go a long way to shaping the future of the region.

It will also be interesting to see the economic fallout of this event. The death of OBL presents clear knock on risks for global business and individuals. Inevitably the spotlight is falling on the so called ‘easy access high impact’ targets such as airports, airlines and tourism destinations at a time when the spectre of revenge attacks is high in the global consciousness.

[Image 2]


How will the theft of details of 100 million user accounts from Sony affect our willingness to share data online?

What could be the implications of large scale data theft for Cloud based solutions and how will these providers satisfy customers’ expectations for data security?

Sony, the global consumer electronics firm, has revealed the theft of a further 25 million user details from its PlayStation Network, following close on the heels of the 77 million losses it originally announced. [9] This is a serious blow to Sony’s credibility and may blunt its competitive edge against online rivals. Elsewhere hackers broke the security of Epsilon, an online marketing firm, affecting the customers of clients such as  Barclaycard and Citigroup.[10]

Sony has suffered criticism after waiting a week to inform users of the breach, and saw a 2% drop in its share price. The incident also challenges the viability of its entire enhanced networking strategy .[11] Time will tell how much customer loyalty has been eroded or if Sony can rescue opportunity from the jaws of disaster and reinvent itself as the poster child for online trust and security.

More broadly, with the growing importance of digital, online and cloud based solutions, there is an implicit assumption that our data is being held securely. In the past we have taken it for granted that global brands would hold our data securely and that as individuals we didn’t need to do our own due diligence on their security provisions. These assumptions are now being challenged and could slow the rate of take up of cloud based solutions by individuals and businesses alike.

The issue is only likely to rise in importance given the projected growth of information captured online from 0.8 Zettabytes (trillion gigabytes) in 2000 to around 35 Zettabytes by 2020.[12]

Even without the risks created by these new incidents, the problem of information security was already a very real issue. In 2010 data theft was estimated to cost large US companies $3.8 million annually each – albeit a slight decline on 2009. At the same time,  approximately 9 million Americans a year have their data stolen.[13]

The interesting question now is whether in the wake of the Sony data theft, is the strength of your online security an opportunity for competitive advantage? An alternative perspective is that the ‘size of the prize’ is so great and the cost of failure so immense that it requires industry wide solutions from players in sectors such as online gaming, social networks and cloud based applications.


[Image 3]


What are the implications of the continual blurring of boundaries between the real and virtual worlds?

Welcome to Tweetland, an online gameworld which uses the Tweeting of certain keywords to guide gameplay. Some trigger words are based on trend topics, while others are based on internet ‘memes’ or common events.

For instance, in an in-world driving game if someone mentions ‘Meteor’ in a Twitter posting then a meteor will hit the road.[14]

Two games are currently available – racing game Route 140 and ‘shoot-em-up’ Love City. Take a look at the video, shown here on

  • Are such developments simply a new form of entertainment or could they have potential applications in commerce, government and broader society?
  • What are the most interesting examples you have seen of the blurring of boundaries between real and virtual worlds?

 [Image 4]



In the next few months I will be delivering workshops and speeches in the following locations –  London, Bristol, Brussels, Singapore, Berlin,  Slovenia, Frankfurt, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Finland  and Copenhagen. Please contact me at if you’d like to discuss the possibility of me delivering a speech for your organisation in one of these locations. Similarly I’d be happy to meet with you to discuss your foresight, strategy and innovation research and consulting needs.

Finally, a number of people have asked to re-publish our content in their magazines, blogs, websites and newsletters. We are happy for you to do this – if you want to republish any articles, please acknowledge the source, provide a link back to our website and let us know you’ve done it.

Many thanks and we hope you enjoyed this latest newsletter.



[1] 70 or Bust! Current plans to raise the retirement age are not bold enough, Apr 7th 2011,

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Pension policies need updating, says Rae, 07 Apr 2011,

[5] Life expectancy increase by 44 days in just one year, 19 Apr 2011,

[6] Forced retirement Legislation to be Abolished in 2011, 21 Jan 2011,

[7] Ibid

[8] Ageism concerns older generation, 08 April 2011,

[9] Sony Suffers second data breach with theft of 25m more user details,  03 May 2011,

[10] Millions warned over substantial email data theft, 04 May 2011,

[11] Sony loses face over theft of PS3 data, Apr 27 2011,

[12] Trillion-dollar bonanza awaits cloud storage suppliers, 04 May 2010,

[13] Data Theft From Computer Security Breaches Declines, Report Says, Apr 19 2011,

[14] Tweet Land: Where the game play is determined by Twitter, 03 May 2011,