It is important to be aware that in the design phase of a Foresight project, some choices are irreversible or costly to reverse. Therefore they need to be taken after a well thought-out process in interaction with the clients and stakeholders, taking into account the context and the resources available. To weight up the consequences, and affecting the whole course and the outcome of the exercise, different issues need to be addressed: The Focus of a Foresight project, the Objective, the Addressee, the expected Outcomes, the Scope, the Approach, the Time horizon and the Timeframe.

There are exercises that fail to live up to their original expectations. It can be helpful to bear the following points in mind during the design of a Foresight exercise are that take into account typical obstacles.

• Efficient and clear communication and management of the project
• The connection made between the approaches the objectives and the required outcomes
• Developing a methodological framework a to match the objective
• Identifying and securing the necessary skills and competencies early-on
• Determining the cost and the duration of the exercise to securing sufficient funding


The term addressee is a combination of the terms ‘user’, ‘sponsor or client’, ‘stakeholders’ and anyone else who has an interest in the outcomes. Because an outcome may be considered appropriate for one audience but inappropriate for another it is vital to consider who will be using the results and for what purpose when starting to design the exercise. A clear understanding of potential and actual addressees can help with the design of the exercise in a way that maximises the benefit from the outcomes.

It helps defining the format of the desired outcome in relation to the other addressees. The table below illustrates possible addressees for a variety of different focuses. The members of the groups can help to define the outcomes being aimed for.


The focus of a Foresight exercise binds the exercise as a whole together. Therefore, defining it carefully before starting is essential.
A Foresight exercise can focus for example on an issue. It usually sets out to tackle a certain core problem like “global warming”, the “ageing population” or the “competitiveness of the R&D system”. Such exercises are sometimes also referred to as “thematic Foresight”.

A Foresight exercise with territorial focus looks at future developments within certain geographical boundaries. Usually the development of a coherent vision for the future of this territory is a prime objective of the exercise. Territorial foresight exercises can have various different levels (International or multi-national Foresight, European Foresight, National Foresight, Regional Foresight, Local Foresight).

An exercise with a sectoral focus looks at future developments within a specific industry such as the “chemical industry” or the “aerospace sector”. Some examples of sectoral Foresight exercises can be found in the table of example cases.

Corporate Foresight focuses on a company and its environment. This type of Foresight is not primarily addressed in this guide, although many of the techniques and methods discussed here may be relevant.

Combining the dimensions

The different types of focus outlined above are not mutually exclusive. In practice there will usually be a lot of overlap between them. So for example a territorial Foresight exercise can be confined to one particular issue (e.g. the ageing population in region x). Exercises that focus on a sector or issue will also often set geographical boundaries (e.g. European manufacturing, the French health system etc.). However, usually one type of focus will generally prevail.

Defining the focus of an exercise

Usually, the focus of a Foresight exercise is roughly predetermined by the situation. There will be a prime motive for starting the exercise and various players, including the sponsor and coordinator, will have their ideas on what the exercise should primarily address. However, experience has shown that it is worth spending some time before starting the exercise to define the focus more closely together with the main actors. This will help to avoid misplaced expectations and to streamline the efforts from the outset. The result of such an initial phase could be a kind of mission statement or a guiding question for the exercise.

Starting from the analysis of the context and the definition of the focus it is possible to define the objectives for the exercise.

There is more information on defining the focus in some of the example cases:

• Vision 2023: Turkish National Technology Foresight Exercise
• Futur – the German Research Dialogue
• Eforesee Malta – Exchange of Foresight Relevant Experiences (Small Enlargement Economies)

Inter- and Multi-national Foresight

International Foresight can be described as Foresight with a territorial focus wider than one nation or Europe. It is aiming to inform policy making and decision making on all possible levels by elaborating future challenges or visions on a global level. Although this ambitious goal has rarely been attempted yet, it becomes more and more obvious that Foresight of any kind has to take into account developments on a global level. So for example a regional exercise on coastal flooding has to develop some ideas on global CO2 production. Foresight on the Future of manufacturing in Europe has to deal with developments of manufacturing and markets in China and India. Accordingly many current Foresight projects embrace an international or global dimension.

Multi-national Foresightrefers to multi-country studies providing a comparative view of an issue across a number of countries e. g as conducted by the APEC Centre for Technology Foresight: You will find some examples of international Foresight exercises in the table of examples.

Local Foresight is Foresight with a territorial focus aiming to inform and orient decisions that are taken at a local level. This may be a metropolitan area, a rural community or a village or any local system of actors. The important thing is for there to be a minimal degree of local identity and political leverage available. Similar to regional Foresight local exercises will usually be aiming at the development of a coherent vision for the local community embracing several aspects of the future. You will find some examples of local Foresight exercises within the table of examples provided in this guide.

National Foresight is Foresight with a territorial focus looking at a nation. It is aiming to inform and orient decisions that are taken at national level. Compared to regional Foresight it is less common on a national level to develop a fully-fledged vision for a whole nation. Rather, past national exercises have aimed at orienting national policy on specific issues like priority setting for national science and technology policy or shaping measures on how to enhance or preserve competitiveness of a nation in the future. Accordingly in a strict sense many of these Foresight exercises have been primarily focussed on an issue but tackling the issue on a national level. You will find some examples of national Foresight exercises within the table of examples.

Regional Foresight is Foresight with a territorial focus on a geographical region. It is aiming to inform and orient decisions that are taken at sub national level. This may be a region of a federal state or a region stretching across several nations. The important thing is for there to be a minimal degree of local identity and political leverage available.

Foresight, as it has emerged in recent years, has mostly manifested itself in the form of large-scale national exercises. However, such national Foresight tends to skate over many issues of central interest to regions. Where it does take up relevant topics, it is often too highly aggregated to give regions enough information to make their own decisions. Regional Foresight can fill this gap, going where national Foresight (if it exists) has held back. It can be justified in its own right as a means of effecting better-informed and future-proofed regional decisions and actions, which is the same rationale behind national Foresight. Also there may be specific challenges on a regional level like supporting regional innovation strategies (FOR-RIS) or transition towards knowledge based communities from traditional industry (UPGRADE). The particular combinations of Foresight tools and techniques that work at national level may not be automatically appropriate at regional level. We can learn from the experience of national Foresight, and from the pioneering exercises in regional Foresight, but we need to be sensitive to the diverse requirements of different regions, and the ways in which national and regional experiences can diverge.

Some key references for regional Foresight are:

• The FOREN Guide,
• The Blueprints for Foresight actions in the Regions,
• Günter Clar / Philippe Destatte: “Mutual Learning Platform – Regional Foresight Report” on the role of Strategic Policy Intelligence Tools in policy-making and regional development

Example cases of Regional Foresight
Region Objectives West Midlands (UK): To support the competitiveness of SMEs by demonstrating Foresight best practice and encouraging emulation.
Nord-Pas de Calais (FR): To initiate a more strategic approach to the preparation of the council’s regional plan.
Province of Liege (BE): To build a consensual view among experts on the region’s prospects for taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the Information Society.
Lombardy (IT): To identify the level of technological competitiveness of the region’s most important sectors.
You can find some more examples of regional Foresight exercises within the table of examples.

European Foresight is Foresight with a territorial focus on Europe. It is aiming to inform and orient decisions that are taken at European level. To date there is no example for a European Foresight exercise with a primarily territorial focus. However many Foresight practitioners have pointed out the need to carry out Foresight on a European level to build up visions of Europe in the future to orient EC policy. Some Foresight projects have been carried out with a sectoral focus or a focus on a specific issue but operating on a European level.

Time Frame

A Foresight exercise typically lasts between 6 months and 3 years. In some cases it can become a continuous activity.

Under certain circumstances, where the subject is quite narrow, Foresight projects have been completed within two weeks, based on two half-day meetings, especially in corporate Foresight exercises.

When deciding on the duration it is crucial to be realistic. There is a natural tendency to overestimate the amount of work that can be done within a given time span and to underestimate the difficulty of creating or moving things when various stakeholders with conflicting interests are involved.
Later on, when running the exercise, managing time is one of the major challenges.


Finding and securing resources in phase with the focus, objectives and scope is one of the major challenges -if not the major challenge- to face when designing an exercise. Resource considerations:

• Costs
• Funding
• Skills and competences


The cost of an exercise largely depends on the scope and approach, but is also affected by the methodological framework adopted. Factors influencing the cost include:

• The number of people in the project team – qualifications, experience and background
• The duration of the exercise
• The number of events (meetings, workshops, conferences, …)
• The travel and subsistence expenses of at least some of the participants
• The profile of the exercise (e.g. prestigious individuals expecting special treatment)
• The sub-contracting of some work-blocks (e.g. running questionnaires, websites, etc.)
• The location of the exercise’s activities (e.g. cost of venues)
• The publicity materials
• The publication of the results
• The mechanisms used for broad consultation (e.g. questionnaires, surveys)
• The methods applied

Usually participants in the Foresight exercise, such as members of the steering committee, the panel and survey respondents are not paid. However, in some cases expenses such as the travel costs or accommodation are reimbursed. Also some exercises have decided to pay small allowances to participant groups who have taken on a substantial part of the workload, such as writing up panel reports. Usually some events are organised to make participating in the exercise more attractive (dinners, guided tours, attractive venues, well-known speakers). Although these measures can be a useful way of keeping up the momentum of the exercise, the main motivation for participating must arise out of an interest in the exercise, that is, a desire to take part in its decisions, help shape the visions, or to be involved in the networking and learning effects. If participants are not motivated, no financial incentives will make up for it. High-ranking stakeholders in particular will not be induced to give up their precious time unless they have a real interest in the exercise.
There is more information on costs in some of the example cases:

• Vision 2023: Turkish National Technology Foresight Exercise
• Futur – the German Research Dialogue
• Eforesee Malta – Exchange of Foresight Relevant Experiences among Small Enlargement Economies

It will be necessary to calculate the cost in the early stages of the exercise. This will have to be done on the basis of the implementation plan. This plan will need to give clear details of the total duration of the activity, the ways and means by which it will be updated, and the relative financial requirements. It should also include the consequent hypothesis of identification of resources.
See also: The Implementation Plan

Structural resources

A Foresight exercise needs to build on a number of resources that cannot be assessed in terms of time and money such as:

• Local institutions
• Business structure
• Knowledge infrastructure
• Social capital


To carry out a Foresight exercise you will need money and other resources. In most cases there will be a main sponsor initiating and financing the Foresight exercise. However, it can also be the other way round: A team of people convinced of the usefulness of Foresight in a certain field or area looking for support to carry out an exercise. In this case you might want to look at a range of possible funding sources some of which are mentioned below.

Who can be a sponsor?

The sponsors can be from either the public or private sector and are sometimes from both.

The most common types of public sponsors are national, regional and provincial authorities, some municipalities particularly interested and involved in the project, universities and large national research centres, and centres of innovation. Special contributions often come from organisations and institutes whose mission is the promotion of development and innovation activities, i.e. foundations whose aims are to analyse and study the development of socio-economic scenarios. Further important contributions may come from national and European Community public programmes set up to finance studies and analyses. Such contributions are often disbursed through the activities of the EC’s RTD Framework Programme or the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as well as through national research programmes, such as those set up in many EU countries to explicitly focus on Foresight activities.

More information: You can find regular updates in the Foresighting Europe Newsletter (EUROPA – Research – Foresighting Europe Newsletter – home) on the activities within the European Commission’s RTD Framework Programmes.

Private sponsors may include large enterprises particularly interested in the results of the activity and promotion of the territory involved, banks and other financial institutions, business associations (especially in the case of Foresight activities specifically oriented towards enterprise), research centres and centres of innovation (such as science and technology parks), business innovation centres, etc. In some cases, contributions from private sponsors may be offered in the form of co-financing of activities promoted by the European Structural Funds.

There is more about sponsors in some of the example cases:

• Vision 2023: Turkish National Technology Foresight Exercise
• Futur – the German Research Dialogue
• Eforesee Malta – Exchange of Foresight Relevant Experiences among Small Enlargement Economies

Skills and competences

Carrying out a Foresight exercise requires a number of skills and competencies from both the core project team and the wider circle of people contributing to the exercise.

The willingness and ability of actors in the field to learn from one another (mutual learning) and conduct future oriented reasoning is another important resource of a Foresight exercise.

You need to compare the skills and competencies needed to run the exercise with those available to be able to assess realistically what the exercise can achieve.

Identifying necessary skills and competencies

Skills and competencies are needed on various levels:

• First of all a range of competencies within the core team carrying out the exercise (as described in “building the project team”)

• In addition – depending on the methods to be used – a number of competencies during the process such as facilitators for workshops, rapporteurs for panel discussions, designers for online-surveys, etc. (Some advice on these points are to be found in the description of the respective methods)

• Thirdly, certain competencies from participants in Foresight events such as those described in “identifying participants”

• Finally, you will have to identify latent Foresight potential that can be mobilised with the right stimuli, such as existing sensitivity of the various players (businesses, authorities, research- technology-transfer and innovation-support) towards future-oriented analysis or a readiness to engage in participatory approaches within certain sectors of society

It is advisable to think carefully from the start about what competencies you will need on the various levels and what strategies you will use to recruit the people with the requisite profiles.

Mapping available skills and competencies

Knowledge may be either explicit (such as books, papers, journals or other sources) or tacit (such as individuals’ experience and know-how). When mapping the available skills and competencies it is important not only to look at resources that are explicitly flagged as “Foresight” but to consider also how to make best use of skills and competencies from other fields.

There are a variety of activities where valuable expertise could be located:

• Participatory undertakings such as citizens boards, open consultation processes
• Attempts to gather anticipatory intelligence (e.g. planning processes)
• Academic studies aiming at deriving anticipatory intelligence by applying formal methods (Futures Studies)
• Technology assessment community
• Strategy building in public bodies like ministries and other groups of actors (citizen initiatives, professional organisations)
All these fields should be carefully surveyed to identify people able to contribute to the exercise
• See also: Analysis of the context

Securing the necessary skills and competencies

If the expertise needed to carry out the exercise is not available, other strategies will have to be employed such as:
Building the necessary skills and competencies inside
The skills needed for the successful completion of the exercise can be developed by training the project team or by bringing external competencies into the project (e.g. using external support for specific tasks) and ensuring that such skills are learned by members of the team so that external assistance is not needed in the future.
Recruiting necessary skills and competencies from outside
Another approach to bringing into the exercise the skills needed is to outsource parts of the project, such as using professional consultancy for facilitating workshops or panel discussions, among others.