Case Studies

We use innovative methods and critical thinking from today to shape robust decisions for tomorrow.

Examining future transport scenarios to drive innovation in the UK

The challenge

The UK’s roads, railways and airports are some of the most congested in the world. In the past, countries have addressed such problems with additional infrastructure investment.

However, this strategy has its limits: land is finite, government resources are constrained, and the literature has shown that it is not possible to build one’s way out of congestion.

With these considerations in mind, we examined how emerging technologies might help to make the UK transport system more efficient and effective.

Our approach

We used a futures methodology that takes a systematic view of travel activity, looking at scenarios that incorporate insights from key activities that generate travel.

Drawing on expert interviews, we identified six technologies that were likely to have an impact on transport network. We then developed three future travel scenarios, incorporating these technologies and social and economic factors that may influence future travel.

The scenarios were used as a basis for consultations to determine which technologies and innovations will be most valuable across a wide range of future scenarios.

Autonomous self-driving driverless vehicle with radar on the road

The result

Drawing on insights from policymakers, industry and academia, the scenarios helped to identify key policy and investment interventions to support their innovation.

There is no clear relationship between the amount of popular interest a technology generates and its potential to create value. We highlighted that decision makers should know how to assess technology advancement, and potential impact, including in the appraisal of transport investments, to ensure new technologies have the best outcomes for society.

Read the full story on future transport scenarios in the UK

Helping to inform the future of research and innovation In Norway

The challenge

The Research Council of Norway (RCN) has five core strategic areas within which to deliver high-impact research and innovation (R&I): health and welfare; oceans; green transition; technology and digitalisation; and cohesion and globalisation. All five areas are intrinsically linked to societal challenges, both within and outside Norway.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact it has had on a global scale, has served as a stark reminder that these challenges need to be urgently addressed, not least to ensure that countries—and R&I systems—are better prepared for the future and to help build resilience.

RAND Europe and DAMVAD Analytics conducted a foresight study to provide evidence for the RCN’s input to the 2022 revision of the Long-Term Plan for Research and Higher Education 2019-2028, which specifies the Norwegian government’s ambitions, key objectives and priority areas for research and higher education.

Our approach

We adopted a mixed-methods, participatory approach to the research, involving a variety of methodologies, such as trend analyses, literature reviews, stakeholder interviews, focus groups, an online survey of the public, crowdsourcing ideas and information from experts, future scenario analyses and workshops.

The core foresight work involved future scenario analyses and workshops that allowed us to examine what might happen in the next 20 years in the different strategic areas and wider R&I system in Norway.

Scenarios of distinct and plausible future states were used as the basis for workshop discussions to explore and validate potential missions and structural measures that the RCN and other stakeholders could consider developing and implementing in the future.

Geirangerfjord in Norway, a Unesco World Heritage site, photo by MyWorld/Adobe Stock

The result

The study examined the trends shaping developments in the five strategic areas, analysed the important barriers and enablers, and identified uncertainties and policy challenges associated with potentially transforming the strategic areas.

To help address some of the societal challenges related to the strategic areas, we articulated 20 priority ‘missions’ (or targeted, challenge-based policy actions) and associated focus areas representing a range of potential areas of emphasis in relation to the missions, for further consideration by the RCN and other stakeholders.

We also proposed a set of 10 underpinning, system-level structural measures to help develop a resilient R&I environment in Norway and also address the wider performance of the Norwegian R&I system in terms of the RCN’s overarching objectives.

The work contributed to the development of a robust evidence base for the RCN’s input to the revision of the Norwegian government’s Long-Term Plan for Research and Higher Education. The study also helped inform the RCN’s internal decision making, strategies and organisational activities.

Read the full story on future research innovation in Norway

Horizon scanning for the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory

The challenge

Modern society is increasingly complex, dynamic, and rapidly changing. Through globalisation and interconnected technologies, these trends are also becoming increasingly disruptive by blurring the boundaries between defence and the private sector, effectively placing much research and development (R&D) and radical innovation outside the control of governments and defence.

As such, the UK Ministry of Defence commissioned RAND Europe to undertake horizon scanning of science and technology (S&T) developments to identify early signs of potential disruption.

Our approach

In this ongoing project, we developed a bespoke horizon scanning framework that provides the MOD with a monthly update of S&T developments. We seek to go beyond the typical hype to ask the “so what?” question in a robust, evidence-based manner. This allows the MOD to develop a deeper understanding of current and emerging S&T trends and their implications for UK Defence and Security.

As part of this project, we also prepare and implement on-demand thematic or technology-specific workshops to further examine S&T developments and their implications for the MOD or wider HMG.

Man in a field looking at the horizon, photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

The result

The monthly S&T feed has informed MOD’s strategic technology priority areas. Drawing from S&T items reported by RAND, the MOD has also commissioned further research on other areas of inquiry (e.g. emerging technologies with utility for logistics or horizon scanning for future threats).

We have also supported futures research capability development within Dstl by sharing lessons learned from RAND’s horizon scanning projects to help Dstl conceptualise novel and bespoke horizon scanning concepts.

Read the full story on how horizon scanning can give the military a technological edge