Archive for the ‘Futurescape Newsletters’ category

FutureScape – November 27th – Reimagining and Financing Tomorrow’s Cities

November 28, 2013

Welcome to our latest newsletter. In this edition we would like to share with you the highlights of several excellent events we attended during the last few months with a strong focus on innovation and tomorrow’s cities. We would also like to offer readers a discount on the latest in a series of inspiring Re.Work futures conferences to be held in London on December 13th.

As always we welcome your feedback, contributions and suggestions for future topics.

Please feel free to forward the newsletter to your contacts and networks.


Rohit Talwar
Fast Future
Tel +44 (0)7973 405145

Skype fastrohit
Signup for our newsletters / Download past editions at
Watch a short video of Rohit at

 1.  Looking for Speaking Opportunities in New York and Rio de Janeiro / Sao Paolo

Rohit will be visiting New York City regularly over the next few months for various speeches and events. He will be available for additional speeches and workshops on the following dates:

December 9th and 10th

January 6th – 10th, 29th – 31st

February 3rd – 7th

March 3rd and 4th

Rohit will also be in Rio de Janeiro from February 8th-15th observing the training of local trainers as part of his role supporting Street Kids International (SKI). While there he’d be happy to deliver presentations to local audiences with the proceeds going to SKI.

During his trip Rohit will be delivering talks on the following:

  •  Future law firm strategies and the impact of IT on the legal industry over the next decade
  •  Global drivers of change for business and the accountancy profession
  •  From muscle to magic – how smart firms create the future
  •  Futureshock – a timeline of science and technology developments shaping the next 50 years
  • The future of travel, tourism, business events, airports and aviation.

If you would like to discuss booking Rohit for a speech for your organization, please contact

2.  Announcing the forthcoming RE.WORK Summit – London –  December 13th 2013 – 30% discount for our readers

On September 19th this year we attended the excellent  RE.WORK Technpic1_reworkology Futures Summit in London. This  extremely well designed and curated event was created by  founder Nikita Johnson. A strong panel of speakers  explored  the themes of future urban landscapes,  wearable and embedded technologies, the internet of  things (IoT), big  data, the future of health and medicine  and many other  themes. A series of inspiring talks  provided genuinely new  insights, ideas and perspectives  and challenged the audience  to think well beyond the  here and now.You can find a summary of the sessions from September 19th  here:

Based on our experience at RE.WORK Tech, we’d strongly recommend attending the forthcoming RE.WORK Cities Summit  The event will take place on December 13th in London and will focus on the potential of technology to make our cities more efficient, safer and sustainable. Attendees will have the chance to gain insight into breakthrough innovations that will have an impact on our future urban areas. The sessions will explore how open data and sensors, nanotechnology and synthetic biology could affect future cities. Participants will be encouraged to brainstorm ideas on tomorrow’s city and have the opportunity to meet and network with start-ups, entrepreneurs, innovators, business leaders and academics.

The aim of RE.WORK Cities is to bring together the most influential technologists, entrepreneurs, academics, business leaders and Government officials to collaborate and reshape our future cities. There will be over 30 speakers and a target of around 200 attendees at the event, including Carlo Ratti, MIT; Fabio from Future Cities Laboratory, Andrew from UCL Bartlett, Alicia from Libelium; Enrico Dini, d-shape.

The agenda will be split into themed sessions including: Data and the Changing Dynamics of the City; Digital Fabrication & 3D Printing; and Synthetic Biology and the Living City. Sessions will include short talks from speakers plus a group discussion session. There will also be an interactive brainstorming session moderated by the Future Cities Catapult. Throughout the day there will be a showcase area featuring exhibitions from Arup, The Design Museum and prototypes from a joint wearable technology hackathon from Wearable Futures and RE.WORK. RE.WORK Partners include: The Future Cities Catapult, Arup, Wearable Futures, The Observer, The Guardian, TechCityNews, BBC Future, BBC Focus, The Global Urbanist, BBC Worldwide, Google Solve for X and the Singularity UK.

As supporters of the event, our readers can take advantage of a reader discount. To claim the 30% FutureScape discount please use reader discount code fastfuture30

3.  Financing Tomorrow’s Cities 

On 19th November, the newly elected Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf introduced the Financing Tomorrow’s Cities initiative – a joint project by the City of London Corporation and  Z/Yen  Group. The goal of the initiative is to  create a  debate around innovative financing mechanisms for t  tomorrow’s cities through  shared research, a series of  events and online  discussions.The Lord Mayor’s introduction was followed by a  panel discussion with representatives from the  banking, legal, insurance, engineering, construction and policy sectors.  A critical observation highlighted by the panellists is the fact that cities will have to finance and build more infrastructure in the next 40 years than they did in the past 400. The associated challenges range from smart allocation of capital to assets that need to be built through to climate change mitigation and a transition to a circular economy.  Although responding to these challenges is not easy, the panellists argued that future city leaders should focus on three key change levers:

  • Learning from best practices from around the world
  • Encouraging more collaboration among the numerous stakeholders in a city such as education providers, businesses and architects, and
  • Incentivising future-proof thinking.

4. Financial Times Innovate

Image The 2013 FT Innovate Event entitled ‘’The New Groundbreakers’’ took place  in London on 6th-7th November.  Over the course of two days, innovators  from  academia, corporations, start-ups and innovation agencies were  informed,  inspired and entertained by a series of talks delivered by start-ups  like Decoded and VoxPopMe,  corporations such as Samsung and P&G and digital  innovators such as  Facebook, Amazon and Dropbox.

In this issue of FutureScape we decided to highlight the talk delivered by  INSEAD  Professor Hal Gregersen as it  captures the essence of innovation,  explains why some people are more innovative than others and suggests  how  to improve our  innovation capacity.

Clearly, innovation is the ability to create value, driven by bright ideas. But  how do innovators come up with  those ideas that disrupt industries?  Gregersen argues that the answers can be found in rigorous research  undertaken by  Clayton Christensen, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen and summarized in the book  “The Innovator’s  DNA’’.

As the research suggests, innovators come up with great ideas through the utilization of key discovery skills,  including observing, networking, experimenting, associating and questioning. Innovative leaders like Jeff Bezos  and Steve Jobs think differently, challenging the status quo, but also act differently – discussing and experimenting with new ideas. Gregersen suggested that all individuals and companies can learn to be more innovative because innovators are not born but made. The starting point is to remain as curious as children who are open to the world and not afraid to ask questions. Everyone can be an innovator – we just have to unlock our potential.

You can watch Hal’s inspiring talk here:

5.   Rohit on the Road

In the next few months Rohit will be delivering speeches in Dubai, Karachi, London, Maastricht and New York. If you would like to arrange a meeting with Rohit in one of these cities or are interested in arranging a presentation or workshop for your organisation, please contact

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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 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




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



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,






Futurescape Issue 17 – 19th April 2011 – The Future of Human Resources

July 29, 2011

Welcome to the second edition of Futurescape for 2011. We hope you enjoyed last Monday’s edition and that this week’s effort continues to touch on issues that spark your interest. In this issue we focus on the following issues:

  • The future of Human Resources
  • HR Grand Challenges
  • Youth unemployment
  • Is it that time already? The argument over retirement age
  • The iKnow Delphi project: facilitating out of the box thinking
  • The Future of Banking – the UK Banking Report and it’s global ramifications
  • Mapping Human Land Use

We hope you enjoy this edition and as always we welcome your feedback.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here

ROHIT TALWAR, CEO 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


Thank you to everyone who has already completed the survey. For those that haven’t – it remains open until May 1st. We will donate $1 to the Save the Children Fund for each survey response. The survey can be accessed here. Please share the link with colleagues who might be interested in the topic.

We are also running a student case study competition and the details can be found here


Fast Future has been conducting a strategic foresight study on behalf of a client on the future of the HR function in medium to large organizations. We have completed a great deal of desk research and spoken to a range of industry experts and thought leaders who have provided compelling insights into how the world of HR might develop over the next decade.

We are now launching a survey to test global responses to the ideas and challenges emerging from our research. We are interested in the views of those who work in HR and those who are served by the HR function. Please take some time to complete the survey and share the link with your colleagues.  You can find it here

The survey closes on May 4th 2011. We will donate $1 to the Save the Children Fund for each completred response.


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


Balancing Strategic and Transactional Roles

Where can the HR function add most value in tomorrow’s enterprise?

A key theme arising from the research is the need for the HR function to become more strategic. The suggestion is that transactional roles and workflows will need to be automated and consolidated into shared service centers or outsourced completely. In the face of global change and uncertainty, the argument is that HR needs to step up to a more strategic advisory role. This would involve mentoring and partnering the business to help navigate complexity, develop a flexible, adaptive and responsive organization design and get the most out of its talent.

Is this a realistic vision, what will it take for HR to step up and take its seat at the top table? Share your views in the survey.

Competition for Talent

How will strategies for talent acquisition, retention and employee engagement need to evolve to attract and keep the best talent at every level?

The last year has seen a steady stream of CEO surveys and expert commentary that suggests talent is the new global competitive battleground for the decade ahead.  While flexibility, access to capital, innovation and development of new markets are all still priorities, they all depend to a greater or lesser extent on the availability of talent that can deliver on these priorities.

The issue is no longer just a matter of finding, developing and keeping the very best. Experts interviewed for our study suggest that organizations need clear talent retention strategies to address 70% or more of their workforce. This suggests the need for a more personalized and individually focused approach to understanding and responding to individual aspirations and expectations. Our research suggests that such an approach could be a stretch for many organizations today and will require radically different HR approaches and capabilities.

What does the talent plan look like for your organization – how closely is it aligned to business strategy?

HR Automation

Are we seeing the start of a trend toward a fully automated HR function? Is possible, is it a desirable outcome for businesses?

At the operational level, a key question is how can HR balance the ‘High Tech’ and ‘High Touch’ aspects of its role? The emerging tension for HR is how it balances the requirement for employee self-service, and the cost saving and efficiency benefits of automation with the need to deliver a high level of service.

“Increasingly, HR leaders are starting with the desired business outcome and working backwards from there to answer questions, rather than starting with the question of what to automate.”[1]

– Naomi Bloom, Managing Partner, Bloom & Wallace

What are the skills and capabilities required to design effective ‘on demand’ HR systems and to automate document management and HR workflows? What critical activities need to remain high touch?


What are the potential long-term effects of a ‘lost generation’ of young people for the UK and other developed economies?

What can the G20 and individual employers do to tackle the issue?

New figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics suggest that almost a million Britons between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed – a rate of 20.4% [2]. Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union said “The government is ignoring the costs of the social breakdown that is a consequence of mass youth unemployment,”[3]

David Arkless, the President of Corporate and Government Affairs at Manpower states that ‘…Youth unemployment is a growing problem almost everywhere and the implications are frightening. Not only are the social costs high, as youth with little hope for the future may see no alternative to criminal activities, but with shifting demographics and working populations getting older, the world simply cannot afford for the next generation to be left on the sidelines of work as we face a worsening talent mismatch [4].’

With global youth unemployment at 81 million [5], the International Labor Organization (ILO) notes that ‘…halving youth unemployment could add up to $3.5 trillion to the world economy whereas preventing their entry into the global market could result in widespread social unrest.’ [6] A concerted global approach is required will be essential for this potential time-bomb to be transformed into an economic boom. Co-ordinate action will also help avoid the risk of employers in some countries complaining that they are at a disadvantage because of the legal and social obligations they have towards addressing youth unemployment.

A range of policy options are available – starting with the obvious such as incentivizing employers to offer apprenticeships, providing support for young entrepreneurs and expansion of higher education. More drastic options would include new models of conscription, where those involved are inducted via military-style boot camps and then put to work on a variety of social projects.

Tactics may vary and some of the options may appear less palatable than others, but as governments try to see their way beyond the Global Financial Crisis and plot a path through the next decade, positive action on youth unemployment must surely be high on the ‘to do’ list. Indeed, in January this year, former UK Prime Minister  Gordon Brown, addressing the G20 summit, urged world leaders to tackle the ‘generational time bomb’ of youth unemployment by making the issue a priority.[7]

What might the social, political and economic impact be if the phenomenon of high youth unemployment is repeated and allowed to continue unchecked across the developed and developing world alike?


How are scanning tools such as the iKnow Delphi project being used to inform government policy and business strategy?

Last week George Padgett from Fast Future was lucky enough to attend a presentation of the groundbreaking iKnow Delphi project run by futures researcher Rafael Popper. Raphael and his team at Manchester University have compiled a database of wild card events and weak signals. A combination of crowd sourcing and research by Rafael’s team has identified over 700 signals, 120 of which have been included in a Delphi survey [8] which has just concluded.

Wild cards and weak signals are an important part of the futurist’s toolkit. Wild cards are ‘low probability high impact’ events – of which we’ve seen a plethora in recent months from the Japanese Tsunami and nuclear disaster through to the waves of popular unrest from Tunisia and Egypt through to Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. Weak signals are emerging signs that a change or new trend may be developing but for which there may not be any supporting evidence.

The aim of the iKnow Delphi project is to create a shortlist of those wild cards and weak signals which have been evaluated as the most important/feasible and worthy of attention. The findings will be used to drive further EC funded research that could in turn influence the direction of future policy.

(Image 1)

The iKnow Delphi tool is one of the best crowd sourced scanning systems we have seen. We would encourage all our readers to have a look at it, and, if you are interested, make a contribution to the project. It can be found here.


Does the UK’s Independent Commission on Banking’s interim report offer a blueprint for the future of global banking?

The UK’s Independent Commission on Banking released its interim findings last week. Established in the wake of the financial crisis, the Commission’s report addresses the need for structural and non-structural reforms in the UK banking system. [9]

The interim report criticizes excessive risk taking, excessive leverage and inadequate cash ratios among British banks in the run up to the crash. To reduce risks in future, the interim report calls for reforms to make banks better at absorbing losses; making it easier and cheaper to assist banks that get into trouble; and the curbing of excessive risk taking.

The Commission stops short of forcing banks to split off their riskier investment arms into completely different companies, instead opting for a ‘complementary combination’ of softer options. Industry threats to move abroad seem to have been allayed [10] and bankers generally express satisfaction at the findings. [11]

You can access more detail on the Commission’s findings here

Some key questions emerge from a review of the interim report?

  • Has the commission gone far enough in curtailing the banks’ appetite for risk and reducing the potential for future crises in the sector?
  • Will the proposed reforms prevent a future banking crisis?
  • Will they lead to a better early warning system?
  • Will they ensure sufficient resources are in place to manage another bailout?
  • How will the public perceive the full report when released in September 2011?

Four Scenarios for the Future of UK Banking

We have identified four scenarios for how reforms of the sector might play out and what effect they will have.

1. Extend and Pretend – Despite public concerns the Commission produces few substantive reforms. Existing provisions are extended slightly with small cosmetic changes. Government pretends that this is a major reform package and hopes that economic growth will mask over the cracks. While public concern is high, the banks are largely happy and stay put.  Following a period of sluggish growth, stability returns and the cycle begins to repeat itself as consumers and lenders forget the horror of the crisis. The City bursts back into full risk taking mode on the back of improving UK and global economic performance.  Unaddressed structural issues lead to another crash within five years. A new Banking  Commission study is launched.

(Image 2)

2. Tough Love – The commission goes further than expected and proposes critical reforms that placate public opinion while reassuring the banking lobby that their overall structures will remain intact. The recommendations are accepted and result in measures that are successful in reining in excessive risk and banking overstretch. The UK approach is applauded worldwide and the overall benefits bring a faster than expected return to growth. Britain makes a faster than expected return to growth and maintains its position as a global leader in financial services.

3. Exodus – Movement of Bank People   In the months running up to September’s release, the UK’s coalition government and the Commission experience fierce anti-bank sentiment among the general public. This is reinforced by concerns raised by industrialists and strong media criticism. In response, the Commission goes further than expected and recommends the complete separation of retail and investment banking activities, effectively splitting the big banks.

In response, banking giants begin the process of moving their UK headquarters abroad and restructuring their activities. Confusion and chaos rein as regulators, lawyers and the courts struggle to agree on what is allowable under the new separation rules. Some banks succeed in moving their operations offshore and retaining their integrated offering. Others are forced to sell off parts of their UK operation or create complex legal structures to retain effective control. Some banks take the strategic decision to stay put, separate their activities rapidly and move on. The resulting uncertainty and legal wrangling has a serious impact on the UK’s standing as a financial center and contributes to the uncertainty which continues to hamper growth and recovery.

4. Brave New Order. The Commission proposes limited reforms with few surprises from the interim report. Government makes slow and painful progress in implementing even these modest changes. In the meantime the recovery proves sluggish and a ‘Double Dip’ recession is widely forecast.

A combination of market uncertainty, public pressure and a shift towards ‘responsible banking’ models leads a number of banks to ‘break ranks’ and implement a split between consumer and commercial banking and their riskier investment banking activities. The wave of resulting sell-offs, flotations and mergers creates a renewed wave of activity in the market customers reward those banks who are perceived to have adopted a responsible stance and the pressure mounts of those maintain the old structures.

The double dip is relatively short-lived and the economy responds positively to the removal of some key areas of uncertainty. The UK continues to be seen a global financial center. The government tries to take the credit for having encouraged the banks to reform themselves.

How do you think the banking sector will develop in the UK, and globally over the next 10 years?

Please feel free to send us your own scenarios for the future of the banking sector. We’d be fascinated to learn what you all think.


What innovations are required in the food production system to sustain a population that is forecasts to rise to over 9Bn by 2050 and whose food consumption is outstripping supply?

We recently came across an interesting article in Wired Magazine highlighting a very short video examination from the ARVE Group of how the Human Race has brought land under cultivation over the last 8000 years. [12]

Perhaps most interesting features are the ebb and flow of cultivation in South America pre- and post- colonial discovery and North America’s rapid development of its arable land over the last 2 centuries.

(Image 3)


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 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.

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 week’s newsletter.


[1] 5 Challenges for Human Resources in a Digital World – Sharlyn Lauby March 2011, Mashable

[2]Unemployment figures show more than one in five young people out of work, 13 April 2011,

[3] ibid




[7] Youth unemployment hits record high, 19 January 2011,

[8] iKnow Delphi 2.0,

[9] ICB press release,

[10] Banking costs will rise for customers, says John Vickers, 11 Apr 2011,

[11] Banks breathe a sigh of relief, 13 April 2011,

[12] Global human land use over 8,000 years mapped, Olivia Solon, Wired 12 April 2011


Image 1

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Image 3

Futurescape Issue 16 – Global Challenges

April 13, 2011
Welcome to the first edition of the Futurescape newsletter for 2011. In this issue we focus on global challenges that have been occupying our attention recently and some that we have identified as potential game changers on the world scene, specifically:

  • Unrest in the MENA region
  • Counting the cost of natural disasters
  • Econonic Power shifts
  • Terminator? More like Communicator!


It’s hard to believe how fast the first quarter of 2011 has gone. We’ve been busy working on a variety of client consulting projects and taking forward the 2011 programmes for the Convention 2020 research study and the Future Convention Cities Initiative. We are also running a study on the future of human resources and another on global trends and drivers for a US client.  We’ve also been responding to the tremendous interest generated by our Hotels 2020 study.

So far this year, client workshops, project work and speaking commitments have taken me to Las Vegas, Cancun, Melbourne, Adelaide, Geneva, Lisbon, Belfast, Berlin, Vina del Mar – Chile, Seoul, Gothenburg, Budapest and Frankfurt.

We hope you enjoy this edition and as always we welcome your feedback.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here


ROHIT TALWAR, CEO Fast Future Research

Tel: +44 (0)20 8830 0766

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

Please Take our Venues Survey

We have just launched our latest Convention 2020 Foresight survey. The survey focuses on innovation, future strategy, design, finance and future success factors for convention venues.

The report will be published at IMEX Frankfurt in May 2011 and all respondents will receive a free copy.

We hope the results will prove invaluable in plotting future venue strategy.  We will donate $1 to the Save the Children Fund for each survey response.  The survey can be accessed here Please share the link with colleagues who might be interested in the topic.

Student Case Study Competition

IMEX and Fast Future have launched a Student Case Study Competition. The goal is to identify examples from around the world of how business events, meeting venues and meeting destinations are innovating to prepare for the future. It is open to students over the age of 18 studying at an academic institution anywhere in the world.The authors of the two best case studies will get free travel and accommodation to participate in IMEX 2011 in Frankfurt. Case studies must be a maximum of 1000 words, in English and received by April 22nd 2011. Full details of the competition can be found here.



What will be the outcome of the wave of popular uprisings in the MENA region and what is the end game for the western intervention in Libya?

The last two months have seen a surge in popular uprisings and revolutions within the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf. The fundamental drivers of unrest in many of these countries are social inequality and employment. The OECD reckons 100 million jobs need to be created in the region by 2020[1].

The success or otherwise of the revolutions of 2011 – and of those existing leaderships that continue in power – will largely depend on the ability of their economies to create the necessary jobs.

Five Scenarios for the Future

We are suggesting five possible scenarios for how the situation could play out over the next 12-24 months.

1. People power – Popular revolutions unseat more Middle Eastern governments and internal pressure leads to increasing governmental transparency. Broadly democratic and open governance models are adopted and despite inevitable teething troubles, the prospects are encouraging. Relative stability acts as a catalyst for economic growth and encourages foreign investment.

2. Revenge of the despot – Stalemate in Libya gives encouragement to other embattled strongmen, leading to a mixture of regional repression, guerilla movements and in some cases civil war. In this scenario, economic opportunity declines overall and gives rise to more forms of extremism. Foreign businesses start to withdraw from all but the most stable of Middle East economies.

3. Ignition – Popular revolutions succeed in removing the current leadership in several states. In many cases we see the installation of Islamist governments either via ballot box or through force. Domestic tension and conflict continues in many of these states.

Several economies suffer from continuing domestic tension and the exit of foreign capital. Fears rise over the prospects of a war involving Israel and Iran and / or other regional agents.

(Image 1)

4. Volatility as standard – The divergent outcomes from 2011 failed to stem the real issue afflicting most MENA economies – the lack of enough small to mid sized companies to accommodate excess youth labour. This leads to a prolonged period of uncertainty where some weaker governments fail in the face of civil unrest and an uneasy and awkward geopolitical framework envelops the region.


5. As you were – A failure to sustain foreign intervention results in eventual victory for the Gaddafi regime over the rebel forces. The outcome gives courage to more oppressive leaderships across the region and unrest from Bahrain to Yemen dies out gradually.

A number of leaders across the region make serious efforts to create more jobs, encourage business start-ups and tackle underlying social issues. Social tensions remain with occasional flare-ups but the changes in Tunisia and Egypt are seen as exceptions rather than the norm. Foreign investment is largely targeted at the most stable and open economies and an uneasy relationship with the international community persists for a decade or more.



Is the world braced for increased incidences of natural disasters?

What level of risk should we be willing to accept in disaster planning?

What lessons have we learned from the events of the last few years?

The globe has been rocked by natural disasters with unnerving regularity in recent years. Pakistan suffered a devastating flood in 2010[2], China a similarly destructive Earthquake in 2008 and the worldwide H1N1 Bird Flu Pandemic has so far claimed 10000 lives.[3] 2010 also saw perhaps the worst disaster in recent history, the catastrophic Earthquake in Haiti, which took at least 220 000 lives[4] with an estimated economic cost of at least $14 billion.[5]

Recent events have demonstrated the fragility of even the most robust states in the face of natural disasters. The recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake near the Honshu region in Northern Japan has had a devastating effect.[6] Up to 25 000 people have lost their lives[7] and the World Bank has estimated the economic impact at up to $310 billion.[8]

The subsequent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant on Japan’s East coast has highlighted the critical planning, financial and communication challenges and trade-offs at the heart of disaster planning.

(Image 2)

Ø  What level and frequency of natural disaster should we be planning for?

Ø  How much are we willing to spend on preventative measures against the most exceptional of circumstances?

Ø  How well does the public understand what is considered an ‘acceptable risk’ when planners decide on the level of disaster protection they will put in place?



Is the East’s economic dominance in the 21st century now a ‘given’?

Will the West go gently into the night or will the fight for economic supremacy become a bitter struggle characterised by protectionism and currency conflicts?

What strategies are the leaders of the G20, the World Bank, the IMF and other global and pan-regional institutions adopting for the economic shifts shaping are world? Are they running on the assumption that Asia – led by China and India – will be the dominant economic power of the 21st century? Or is there a sense that we’ll see a resurgent west standing toe to toe with its Asian counterparts on the economic landscape over the next 20-50 years?

The argument that the global financial crisis has expedited the transfer of economic power eastwards is one that has become increasingly popular. While the larger economies such as China and India slowed down, they didn’t actually go into recession. Many other emerging Asian economies endured a shorter and less severe recession than their western counterparts. The Economist [9] argues that this, coupled with generally healthier banking systems and debt structures, puts them in a strong position for growth.

(Image 3)

The global crisis may have removed previous competitive advantages from western economies but in practice, the trends were already underway and had signalled growing Asian strength for some time before the crisis.

Pre-crisis estimates from E&Y suggested the BRIC nations would contribute 40% of global economic growth in the decade from 2008 to 2018[10]. Others suggest that even with a recovery in the developed world, emerging markets will account for 70% to 75% of global growth every year for the foreseeable future[11].

The rise of Asian GDP as a percentage of the world economy (at purchasing power parity (PPP)) is notable – increasing from 27% in 1995 to 34% in 2009 [12]. Indeed the Economist notes that by 2014, Asia’s share of the world economy, at PPP, should exceed that of America and Europe combined[13]. They also estimate that by 2020 Asia could well produce 50% of all sales and profits for some Western multinationals, advancing from a typical range of 20-25% today.

The Institute for International Finance forecasts that for 2010 and 2011 combined net inflows of capital into emerging economies will total more than $800bn over the two years[13].



We’d like to finish with a fascinating take on Cyborgs from the recent TEDWomen event in December 2010. Here Amber Case takes a light hearted look at how we as humans are already Cyborgs and where the technology might take us. It’s only a few minutes long and well worth watching.

(Image 4)



One of the events I’ve most wanted to speak at was Innotown, and I finally got the opportunity to deliver a keynote speech at the 2010 conference. The conference is held in the picturesque Art Nouveau town of Aalesund in Norway and is a real feast for the mind and soul alike. This year’s line up of speakers is truly exceptional. Over two thirds of the tickets have already been sold with more than two months to go. It’s well worth checking out the programme and giving yourself permission to attend if you possibly can.



In the next few months I will be delivering workshops and speeches in the following locations – Lucerne, Brussels, Singapore, Berlin, Slovenia, Frankfurt, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Copenhagen.


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 week’s newsletter.

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.



[1] OECD, MENA Ministerial Brief,,3746,en_34645207_34645466_43401490_1_1_1_1,00.html

[2] Pakistan floods ‘hit 14m people’, 6 August 2010,

[3] A Disastrous Year: 2010 Death Toll Already Abnormally High, 11 March 2010,

[4] ibid

[5] Economic Cost of Haiti Quake Could Hit $14 Billion, 17 February, 2010,

[6] Japan quake magnitude raised to 9.0 from 8.9: USGS, 14 Mar 2011,

[7] Japan rattled by aftershock 1 month after tsunami, April 11, 2011,

[8] ibid

[9] ‘East or famine?’ February 25th 2010, Economist

[10] ‘E&Y report states BRIC nations to account for 40 per cent of world growth by 2020,’ India Brand Equity Foundation, 24th December 2008,

[11] ‘Emerging Markets: The new drivers of growth,’ by Janice Mace, February 4th 2010, Pambazuka

[12] ‘East or famine?’ February 25th 2010, Economist



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