UK cities are being left behind in planning for the long term

Posted June 21, 2013 by rohit100
Categories: Various press

My interview for the Yorkshire Post, published on  June  6th 2013.

Lithuania, wrongly written off by some as a basket case, has a detailed national plan to guide its development to 2025.

South Korea launched a commission five years ago to look at the future integration of robotics into city life.

Developing economies are stealing a march on their rivals in the developed world with long-term plans for the future and a sharp focus on the efficient use of resources.

The UK, meanwhile, has been incredibly complacent, failed to notice what is going on and is suddenly seeing everything changing but cannot find the right answer.

This is the scenario set out by Rohit Talwar, who advises international governments and corporations on how to understand and respond to the various forces shaping the future.

He will explore these themes and others at the Intelligent Cities Conference in Leeds later this month.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post yesterday, Mr Talwar said technological infrastructure like fast broadband is very important, but local and central governments must understand that the most successful towns and cities are sustainable, economically viable and vibrant places.

“They need to think about a lot more than just technology,” he said.

He added that planners must find new uses for high streets following the consolidation of the retail sector and suggested repurposing retail units as community resources.

Mr Talwar said public buildings such as schools could be used as “multi-service facilities” in the evenings to accommodate local libraries, community centres, doctors’ surgeries and even magistrates’ courts.

“Such moves would meet the twin goals of cutting the operating costs for local councils and taking local facilities and giving them more value to the community,” he said.

He suggested that Britain needs to shake up its education system to take account of the instant availability of academic information and increase efforts on helping pupils to learn valuable life skills to help arrest the nation’s slide down OECD world rankings and deal with the vast numbers of disenfranchised young people.

Mr Talwar said the industries of the future will develop to support the ageing population and care for the elderly.

He also highlighted the growth potential of sectors including biotechnology, biomanufacturing, human enhancements, wearable robotics, nanotechnology and advanced materials.

Mr Talwar said Leeds should host international conventions if it wants to realise ambitions to expand its healthcare sector.

This will bring academic experts and industry together and forge new global links for the city and help develop its cluster of businesses.

But Mr Talwar cautioned that “it’s not all about money”, adding that culture, lifestyle and values help make a destination and a great place to live.

The Intelligent Cities Conference takes place at Leeds Metropolitan University on June 19.

Organisers said Rotterdam’s planning for sustainability, Helsinki’s investment in energy and resources, and the IBM city control centre in Rio de Janeiro are all examples of how cities around the world are taking a smart approach.

It will include presentations from Cambium Networks, Ericsson, EE, IBM, Cisco, Arup and Aql, Leeds Data Thing, Medtech University of Leeds and Synchronoss Technologies.

Paul Hadley, deputy director of Information Economy Industrial Strategy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, will also speak.

Mr Talwar’s business, Fast Future, helps clients identify and analyse “future trends, drivers and shocks”.

“Technology is a critical enabler of the smart city, but a truly sustainable and intelligent model requires us to go much broader and think about every aspect of what makes a city vibrant and viable,” he said. He urged governments to see technology infrastructure as part of the vision, not the whole solution.

Here is the link to the interview:


Transforming Education – Apps for Good – a Platform for Innovation

Posted June 17, 2013 by rohit100
Categories: Uncategorized

One of the areas we have been interested in for some time is the long term future of education and how we can transform systems around the world to equip children and adults for a changing world. One of the initiatives that has impressed us most is Apps for Good for Good is an education initiative that enables young people from 11 to 18 years old to develop their digital skills and knowledge, and create exciting new apps for mobile phones, tablets and social media platforms. Fast Future has just started discussions with Apps for Good around how they can scale up their initiative and platforms to serve a much larger audience and cover a wider range of educational topics.

The goal of this not for profit initiative is to offer an open-source technology education movement which partners with formal and informal education organisations to train educators to deliver courses to young people that teach them about technology, problem solving and entrepreneurship through the medium of learning how to write apps. The courses cover all key aspects of new product development, from idea generation, feasibility and deciding on business models to product design and marketing. Young people work together as teams to find real issues they want to tackle and how best to solve them through apps. Through this, they unlock and explore their talents, passions and skills.

Launched in March 2010, Apps for Good worked with 97 schools, 6,200 students and 150 experts. For the 2013/2014 academic year this will grow to 400 schools and 20,000 students supported by 800 educators and 400 experts. The goal is to increase this to 50,000 students in 1,000 schools for 2014 / 2015.

As a not for profit organisation, they are always looking for support and assistance. They are currently looking for schools and experts who want to be part of their programme and for people to support current and future events through provision of skills, services and sponsorship in areas such as event filming and photography, printing, WiFi provision, catering and accommodation for the student finalists. If you can help please contact Heather Picov

Radical Abundance – Could a Revolution in Nanotechnology Change Civilization?

Posted June 4, 2013 by rohit100
Categories: Uncategorized

We recently attended a fascinating London Futurists presentation by Eric Drexler on his new book – Radical Abundance – How a Revolution in Nanotechnology will Change Civilization. In what he described as abanquet of indigestible truths, the originator of the term Nanotechnology explained how he thought the term had been hijacked to mean very small things. He argued that the initial hype had led funders to focus their research investments on narrower domains of materials science rather than exploring the true potential of engineering at the molecular level. Drexler believes that such a focus on atomically precise manufacturing (APM) could yield massive low cost, zero carbon and clean advances in domains as diverse as ultra-efficient vehicles, energy production, physical infrastructure, computers and consumer products.

A video of the presentation can be found here:

Book site:

Press Release – Imex Power of 10 Findings

Posted May 23, 2012 by rohit100
Categories: Uncategorized

‘Collective agility’, strategic innovation and foresight are keys to future success – according to new IMEX Power of 10 findings

May 23rd 2012 – Frankfurt, Germany Findings from the largest ever foresight research study and consultation to be conducted on the future of the global meetings and events industry were announced at IMEX in Frankfurt earlier today.

The Power of 10 Study was commissioned from Fast Future Research by organisers of the award-winning IMEX trade shows to mark IMEX in Frankfurt’s 10th anniversary this year – with the aim of giving ‘something of lasting value’ back to help drive the development of the industry over the next decade.

Fast Future’s researchers built on the findings of their earlier Convention 2020 report (of which IMEX was a founding sponsor) and conducted interviews with over 100 leaders, respected practitioners, innovators, change agents and future thinkers from across the industry.  The research explores both the internal mechanics of the meetings industry itself and the full range of business sectors it serves.  As well as looking 10 years into the future, the study also looks back over the last decade to trace and define the key lessons learned from past experience.

The interview insights, together with desk research, a student essay competition and the results of a global survey, which gathered feedback from 765 respondents in 68 countries on six continents, were analysed to produce the final Power of 10 Report. The study was sponsored by IMEX’s partners in Germany – Messe Frankfurt, the Frankfurt Convention Bureau, the German Convention Bureau and CPO Hanser – together with researchers, Fast Future Research.

Three dominant themes

Against a backdrop of ‘a perfect storm of mega-trends’, the study identifies three main themes that look set to dominate the decade ahead and therefore hold the key to success for the industry as a whole and, more urgently, those companies, associations and destinations that serve it.

The three themes are:

  1. An uncertain global economic outlook and the challenges presented by hard to predict macro-economic shifts;
  2. The rapid availability and penetration of new technologies, whose quality, cost and diversity are touching every aspect of our lives; and,
  3. The everyday reality of shorter and faster business cycles.

As the report makes clear, many other industry sectors are currently wrestling with similar challenges. However, for the meetings industry, these challenges raise specific and sometimes fundamental questions which must be faced quickly – and faced collectively – if the sector is to fulfil its highest potential as a universally respected and strategically valued business tool within the next 10 years.

In a snapshot from the global survey findings on key factors shaping the industry’s next decade, 71% expect global economic uncertainty and instability to have an impact across the sector worldwide.  A further 49% believe we will start to experience the impact of improvements in the quality and cost of technology alternatives to live meetings.  In addition, shorter and faster business cycles are expected to play a significant role by 47%, while 46% anticipate growing political and economic influence coming from Asia.

The need to rethink the event experience

At the operating level, there is a very clear expectation that the industry will need to undergo both evolutionary change and more radical transformations in a number of areas if it is to keep pace with developments taking place in client sectors.  The report addresses specific findings and recommendations for corporations, associations, venue owners, hotels, convention bureaus, agencies and industry service providers.

In order to both improve its resilience against economic shocks and address competition from the growing range of communication and knowledge sharing alternatives available to clients, the research reveals a strongly-held view that the live business events sector has to demonstrate and raise the perception of its direct value to those involved.  91% of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that ‘To reduce its vulnerability to economic cycles, the business events industry must demonstrate a tangible return on investment for event owners, delegates, sponsors, exhibitors and other key stakeholders.’

The Power of 10 report also shows that the forces of change are already being felt in the areas of event design and the delegate experience which, in turn, are producing fresh priorities for event owners, including a range of new design and delivery challenges for in-company events, corporate events and conferences and exhibitions.

There are five main sections to the final research: The Delegate Experience and Event Design; The Learning and Knowledge Transfer Imperative; Sector Analysis and the Future of the Value Chain, 10 ‘Grand Challenges’ and future scenarios for the industry.

Six sub-reports to be released in coming months

To enable the industry to embrace and act on the true scale and depth of the research, the full findings are set to be released and presented in six detailed sub-reports over the coming months.  The first sub-report will focus on “The Big Picture – Reflections on Past and Future Factors.”  Thereafter other parts, such as “What will the Future Event Experience look like?”; “Maximising Learning and Value – The Role of Knowledge Management, Technology and Social Media”; “Event Ownership – Fresh Perspectives and Event Economics”; “Beyond Tourism – Evolution of the Industry Value Chain” and “Shaping the Future – Grand Challenges and Winning Scenarios” will be published over the next six months.  All of the interview transcripts and the best of the student essays will also be released over time.

Says Ray Bloom, Chairman of the IMEX Group: “This was a major undertaking for IMEX and for Fast Future. The report’s findings are extremely comprehensive and make compelling reading for anyone involved in the sector. We are delighted to be able to gift the research to the meetings industry to mark the end of IMEX’s first 10 years. What becomes very clear from the study findings is that the pace of change has accelerated far quicker than any of us ever thought or imagined possible 10 years ago. I fully expect the next 10 to be even richer with change – bringing both anticipated and unexpected developments – and if the industry has the collective will to transform itself to meet those challenges then we are set for a very exciting decade ahead.”

Fast Future CEO, Rohit Talwar, who presented the findings at a press conference at IMEX in Frankfurt earlier today, said: “The research paints a vivid picture of a rapidly maturing industry. There is a growing desire for the sector to be taken seriously as a vital enabler of communications, learning, knowledge transfer and business development. In response, across the globe we see increasing acceptance of the need for genuine longer-term thinking, strategic innovation and the kind of collective and collaborative agility that is the norm in many of the key client sectors that the meetings industry serves. There is a tremendously exciting decade in prospect for those who give themselves permission to open the door and let the future in.”

  • Obtain a free download of the IMEX Power of 10 Executive Summary from
  • Future sub-reports will be announced by press release and then made available for free download from the IMEX Research Hub.



About Fast Future

Fast Future is a global foresight research and consulting firm that provides future insights, strategic advice and keynote speeches to global clients in business, government and associations in over 60 countries on six continents around the world. Fast Future’s goal is to use proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Fast Future’s clients include Accor, Amadeus, AAAS, American Express, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, E&Y, IBM, Intercontinental Hotels,  Intel, KPMG, Microsoft, Orange, Pepsi, Pfizer, Preferred Hotels, PwC, SAP, Sara Lee, Tata Group and over 60 government agencies, airports, convention centres, convention bureaus and associations around the world.

Editors’ notes

– The next IMEX in Frankfurt takes place 21 – 23rd May 2013

– All IMEX show press releases can be downloaded from

– Printed copies can be obtained from the IMEX Press Centre at Messe Frankfurt until 17:00 24 May 2012.

– High-resolution photos of the show are available at

– The next IMEX America will take place at the Sands Expo and Convention Center at the Venetian/Palazzo from 9 – 11 October 2012.

Media contacts during IMEX (22 – 24 May)

Kit Watts +44 7968 417518 Email:

Carina Bauer +44 7785 392812 Email:

Contact the Press Centre during IMEX on: +49 (0) 69 7575 71022


Fast Future Recruitment

Posted February 13, 2012 by rohit100
Categories: Uncategorized

Job Title – Trainee Science and Technology Foresight Researchers (x2)  [PDF Download]

Working for – Fast Future Research

Location – Working from home, but ideally based in London

Salary – £16,000 per year subject to review after 1, 3 and 6 months

Job Details

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with global corporations, governments and NGOs around the world. Our aim is to help clients understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape their environment, the economy and the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Our core activities are futures research, consulting, events, and delivery of workshops and speeches for leadership audiences around the world.

We draw on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to conduct a range of high impact strategic futures studies. These studies are designed to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world and build thought leadership positions in the marketplace. The insights generated are used to help clients define and implement innovative strategies. We are particularly interested in the future evolution of the global science and technology landscape.

Fast Future is enjoying a period of growth and has a number of exciting client research studies and internal development initiatives underway. To help deliver these projects, we are now looking for two entry level foresight researchers to join our small, close-knit and rapidly expanding team.  The roles will be full-time, and performance, personal development goals and salary will be reviewed after one, three and six months.

The primary focus of the roles will be scanning, summarising, compiling, maintaining and analysing a large database of research material on the emerging STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) landscape. This will include scanning for innovations, trends and major developments on matters such as funding initiatives, the global R&D map, science diplomacy, standards, cross-disciplinary breakthroughs, STEM  publishing and emerging  issues. Alongside this you will have the opportunity to work on a range of Fast Future’s other research projects and take on other internal development responsibilities.

Fast Future is passionate about investing in the professional and personal development of its team and there will be regular opportunities to acquire new skills, attend learning events and maximise your potential. The leave entitlement is 20 days per year and you will have the opportunity to spend a day per month working on voluntary causes of your choice.

We are looking for candidates who have a genuine interest in looking at the future in general and at the outlook for STEM in particular. The right individuals will consider themselves something of a generalist, be interested in and have broad knowledge of a variety of subjects, and be up to date on current affairs and technological advancements.

Necessary Skills and Attributes:

  • Curiosity, imagination and a desire to inspire
  • Awareness of the latest scientific and technological advances and innovations
  • Understanding of international and domestic political, economic and commercial issues and developments
  • Excellent communication skills, written and oral
  • Proven research capabilities
  • Ability to scan for and process large amounts of data in a rapid and efficient manner
  • Capacity to handle working remotely and independently
  • Ability to multitask and keep to deadlines
  • Strong attention to detail
  • A high level of computer literacy
  • Comfortable using a wide range of social media and online platforms.

Closing date for receipt of applications – 28th February 2012.

To apply please send the following information to David Saer at

  • A personal CV
  • A 500 word (max) article on a future challenge or development in the STEM field (see our FutureScape newsletter for examples of such articles)
  • Another example of something you have written previously
  • A covering letter outlining why you want to work for Fast Future, what you can bring to the role and what you hope to gain from the opportunity.

Applicants must supply all of the elements above to be considered for one of these positions.

New Video Interviews

Posted February 10, 2012 by rohit100
Categories: Uncategorized

New video interviews with Rohit for the Urban Times, on 3D printing, exo-skeletons, extreme human longevity and the future of society.

In Safe Hands – the Future of Financial Services

Posted February 7, 2012 by rohit100
Categories: Uncategorized

Summary of Long Finance Seminar

Gresham College London 25/01/12

Iva Lazarova – Foresight Researcher – Fast Future


Seminar Overview

This paper presents a summary and reflections on the Long Finance seminar to launch Gill Ringland’s report, “In Safe Hands? The Future of Financial Services[i] published in association with SAMI Consulting. This seminar was part of the Long Finance initiative[ii], a project whose goal is “to improve society’s understanding and use of finance over the long-term. In contrast to the short-termism that defines today’s economic views, the Long Finance time-frame is roughly 100 years.”  The underlying question being addressed is;

“When would we know our financial system is working?”

The impact of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis on economics and society reminds us of the significance of the financial services sector. It also highlights the need for long-term thinking that will enable us to better prepare for and respond to the challenges that the future might bring. For me, the Long Finance seminar was a valuable and intellectually stimulating experience that deepened my general understanding of the topic. The session also provoked a shift in my own focus away from a concern with the reasons for and impact of the financial crisis, towards thinking about the role which the financial services (FS) sector could play in the future and how it can cater for the changing needs of society. The key messages from the seminar and report are summarized below.


Financial Services in 2050 – Underlying Assumptions

The scenarios presented were based on what the author considers to be the best available forecasts for 2050 in terms of population, the use of technology and the organization of society. Listed below are some of the key assumptions upon which the scenarios were built:

General Assumptions and their Implications for Financial Services

1. Demographics. By 2050 the global population is estimated by the UN to be around 9 billion (range 7.5-10 billion) with the majority in Asia and Africa. Birth rates will fall, life expectancy will increase and the average age of the global population will rise over the period.

Implications. As our national populations age, the need for financial services that cater for the elderly will grow. In addition, an older population is more likely to be risk-averse and FS need to acknowledge this in the design of products and services.

 2. Power and Influence. The balance of global power and influence is shifting from the West to the East. This is likely to cause political challenges and turbulence.

Implications. The changing balance of power will probably have an impact on the sector as a whole as well as on the role of financial centres. Will Shanghai and Hong Kong replace New York and London as the leading financial hubs? Is it possible that the rise of not only Asia, but the BRICs in general will influence the development of a new set of values on which the FS sector will be based in the future? Will a new paradigm challenge the Washington Consensus?

3. Technology.  Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will underpin much of society and commerce. The so called NBIC (nano, bio, info, cogno) convergence is playing an increasingly important role creating new materials, products and services with properties and functionality that are already changing lifestyles.

Implications. Employment in FS in mature economies is likely to continue shrinking as the impact of ICT grows. Many of the existing players could be forced to merge or be replaced by new entrants, and many aspects of insurance and retail banking will be automated. Critical question arise – firstly, how will the sector adapt to these ongoing changes, and what will the most important products and services be?

 4. Sustainability. Pressure on the environment is increasing – ecological, energy and environmental concerns will become more acute.

Implications. The environment will be a crucial factor influencing the financial sector – scarcity will increase the role of FS in trading resources.


The Four Global Scenarios

The report sets out four possible scenarios for the future of financial services. These are summarised below. Using the driving force model, the scenarios focus on two key aspects of the global society:

  1. The persistence or otherwise of the ‘Washington Consensus’ (i.e. ‘Western values’) e.g.:
  • Will our future economy and society be similar to today’s?
  • Will it implicitly follow the Washington Consensus? Or, Will there be a new paradigm?
  1. The organising principle of geography or virtuality. Particularly in relation to financial services, does geography matter in the new paradigm e.g.:
  • Will city states replace many functions of the nation state? Or
  • Will markets be global and virtual, replacing geography with other organising structures such as affinity groups?



1. Second Hand: This presents a scenario where democracy is still important, western values and institutions are still present, the Washington Consensus still prevails and capitalism is the dominant paradigm. Geography and the nation state still matter, but their significance is weaker than today. International structures decay as they don’t reflect the worldview of the powerful BRIC nations.

What could cause this scenario: This scenario is predicated on the assumption that the earth manages to provide enough food and water for its nine billion people without there being major shortages. It also assumes the rise of individualism and increased mobility of people who will seek better economic conditions.


What could prevent this scenario: A potential global crisis and/or the breakdown of the Washington Consensus.

Features of FS in 2050:

  • Ecology of FS: more diverse
  • Investment:  investors aligned with more than one region to shelter from volatility
  • Aging Society: pensions and security high on the agenda; a need for private insurance to augment state systems
  • Trading: commodity trading reduced, most commodities controlled by a single/ few companies. Equity trading declines as the there will only be a few major corporations, many of these privately owned
  • Asset classes: Mirrors today, but land based assets and permits for citizenship and reproduction may be the most highly valued
  • Leading financial centres: Singapore overtakes London and New York as a financial hub

2. Visible Hand: This scenario depicts an explicitly homogeneous global governance structure. The current political, social and economic regimes are still recognizable. The world will have evolved and taken advantage of new technological capability. It will be more educated with a ‘pervasive’ global culture.

What could cause this scenario: It will emerge if the world manages to satisfy the needs of 9 billion people and if it is able to deal with its ecological, environmental and energy problems. It assumes that the West has recovered from the financial crisis and will avoid future ones.


What could prevent this scenario: Western economies failing to recover from the financial/ economic crises and suffering further shocks.

Features of FS in 2050:

  • This scenario is not thought to be stable. A homogenised international regime is unlikely to be able to handle the volatility it creates and will suffer further financial crises. Hence this scenario is likely to evolve into either ‘Long Hand’ or ‘Many Hands’ by 2050.

3. Long Hand:  The scenario describes a world where a complete meltdown has followed the financial crisis in Western countries. Virtual connections based on ethnic and religious affinity groups will become the main global organizing structures.  Religious or ethnic communities will exercise power remotely.


What could cause this scenario: This scenario could follow a breakdown in world order after a crisis.


What could prevent this scenario: An evolution of the Washington Consensus towards more diversity in order to decrease volatility and handle potential crises.


Features of FS in 2050:

  • Ecology of FS: up to 50 or so loosely coupled trans-national systems with diverse regulatory regimes
  • Investment: discouraged outside the home affinity group
  • Banking: Retail FS transactional only. IFAs replaced by ‘Intelligent Financial Advisors’; traditional banking replaced by individual to individual lending
  • Trading: traders focused on bartering within trusted affinity groups
  • Asset classes:  the value of assets will vary across communities –   either IP and permits for reproduction, land based assets or gold will be most valuable depending on the type and structure of a community
  • Leading centres: London and New York

4. Many Hands: In this scenario, globalisation has failed, democracy is unwieldy and western value systems are inadequate. The concept of the ‘nation state’ has disappeared and has been replaced by numerous city-states. The city state communities will have very different strengths, weaknesses, wealth levels and brands. Mobility across states will be the norm.

What could cause this scenario: One of the main drivers for this scenario will be the progressive failure of globalisation to deliver its promised advantages and benefits beyond a restricted circle of countries.


What could prevent this scenario: Measures to avert a food or financial crisis could possibly prevent this scenario.


Features of FS in 2050:

  • Ecology of FS: very diverse, city states offer different regulatory regimes and software systems. Very loose linkages between states
  • Aging society: a major concern, prime focus on pensions and security
  • Banking: traditional banking replaced by individual to individual lending regulated by each state
  • Trade: bilateral trade and barter will increase. The supply of fundamental resources depends increasingly on financial markets. Security of supply is a valued asset and is linked to credit supply
  • Asset classes: permits to live or operate in desirable cities will be highly valuable assets – they will be traded directly between individuals or corporations and mediated by ICT
  • Additional: insurance markets are fragmented and there is no mechanism for global risk insurance. Intelligence gathering and analysis is a key source of competitiveness
  • Leading centres: 50 city states dominate financial services, one of which is Istanbul



The role of scenario planning is to help us consider a range of plausible futures that could evolve – in this case over the period to 2050. A number of key drivers could combine either to create these scenarios, or prevent them from happening. I think that perhaps the greatest value of the four scenarios outlined in the report is to help us think about what each of them tells us about our approach to planning and decision making in the world we inhabit today. They highlight the need to think about the long term consequences of current decisions and to ensure that we are defining solutions that can evolve and adapt in a rapidly changing world.

Most people who read the report could most probably imagine the Second Hand and Visible Hand Scenarios as a plausible evolution from where we stand today. However, many may find it more difficult to conceive of a Many Hands or Long Hand world.  Human nature is such that we are uncomfortable thinking about reversals in our development, but the last two scenarios suggest that these are possible. Overall, the four scenarios suggest that we need to take a longer term, open-minded and anticipatory approach to designing our financial services infrastructure if we want to understand and respond to the complexities that could shape the future and the choices that lie ahead.