What will the EU look like in ten years’ time? Will other countries besides the UK leave the European Union? Or perhaps the United Kingdom will not leave the union after all, but Poland or Hungary will? The Foresight Strategy Cockpit (FSC) software developed as part of the Austrian security research funding programme KIRAS – an initiative of the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit) – can help answer these questions by creating future scenarios. “Today, it is no longer enough to be able to react quickly and only at short notice to events. It is much more important to be prepared and to understand change comprehensively in order to be able to actively shape the future yourself,” says Thomas Kolonko, Managing Director of 4strat, which offers the software to authorities and companies as a companion for complex future analyses.
In use at ministries
The software is used in public sector organisations that are faced with particularly complex, long-term issues and very strategic decisions, as well as in large companies in Germany and Austria. All organisations that have to deal with long-term procedures and processes should have an interest in analysing possible development paths, says Kolonko: “Authorities and corporations have to think very far into the future and therefore need such tools.” For one customer, for example, trends and developments in crime in urban areas were analysed. This means that new options can be offered for the design of future framework conditions. “The more concrete the future topic is, the easier it is for us to work on it,” says Kolonko. “It’s not a case of pressing a button and then seeing the future,” says Kolonko. It’s about keeping an eye on all plausible futures and supporting futurologists, who increasingly find themselves in a flood of data when analysing possible developments, in structuring the information and their work.
As the system is based on data, the software helps to reveal possible visions of the future that are not expected or are otherwise a taboo subject. The aim is to open up one’s own and the organisation’s future space. Kolonko explains that special analysis methods, which are modules of the tool, can also help with risk management, i.e. identifying risks, evaluating the probability of occurrence and reducing points of attack, as well as recognising trends and collecting and evaluating ideas. “Our advantage is that we can link everything together.” One of several foundations for creating the future scenarios is a set of more than 50 data sources, ranging from statistical data, including from Statistics Austria, the World Bank, Eurostat and the UNHCR and articles from Austrian and international media, to real-time data. “In order to better anticipate possible future developments, they need to be recognised at an early stage, which requires above all a good, up-to-date picture of the situation,” says Kolonko.
Wide range of topics
The software can offer a wide variety of methods that can be used to cover different topics, ranging from predicting crises and migration movements to analysing the development of the actual and perceived security situation. Newspaper reports are also included in the analysis of future scenarios, as are statistics on unemployment or fishing in African regions. “If fishing collapses in a region where many people live from it, migration pressure may increase,” explains Kolonko. “We collate relevant data in the tool and analyse it together with experts via the digital platform or in workshops. After all, conclusions always have to be drawn by people who are ultimately responsible for decisions. The tool is not supposed to do that itself.” The Foresight Strategy Cockpit is being further developed by 4strat, a German-Austrian joint venture. The software technology for 4strat is supplied from Austria by the TU spin-off RISE. 4strat wants to give organisations new access to the future so that they can help shape change in a sustainable way, says Kolonko: “We have noticed that there is a growing need for a solution that not only shows trends, but also systematically links different data – including real-time data.”
The Berlin-based company not only offers foresight software, but also future coaching, training and traditional consultancy services. The company chose Berlin as a location because it has good access to innovation labs and the futurology degree programme, which makes it possible to exchange ideas with new industries and academia and to recruit a team of futurology experts. 4strat is also keen to encourage the formation of networks in futurology. When it comes to future topics, it makes sense for several companies to conduct research together in order to better assess developments together. Kolonko: “Questions about future drive systems or when self-driving cars will be on the roads in large numbers are not only of interest to suppliers in the automotive industry.”