Sunrise over UK town
21st April 2024

Future places: strategic foresight for the UK’s towns and cities

Strategic foresight to support innovation opportunities


The final report from our work with Innovate UK exploring the future of innovation in UK towns & cities is now available online.

Innovate UK commissioned a strategic foresight programme from Urban Foresight to learn more about the trends affecting UK towns and cities. This knowledge will guide their future policymaking to support a robust urban innovation market.

Strategic foresight is a participatory process that provides a framework for identifying and evaluating potential futures and determining the best course of action. It is used for solving complex problems that include a high degree of uncertainty.

Our expert practitioners used a variety of foresight tools to determine three common enablers of place-based innovation:

  • Data: The future of urban systems depends on the effective collection, sharing, and use of data on their performance.
  • Community engagement: Towns and cities must be developed with the communities that live, work and visit there.
  • Place-led experimentation: Solutions to challenges need to be defined by the specific needs of the place, rather than pushed by a technology capability.

Our first report, Future Places: Horizon Scan, produced a list of over 300 trends affecting the future of the UK towns and cities. These are available to view in our interactive online tool.

Using scenario planning, we created a proprietary classification framework to ground this foresight process in the unique characteristics of the UK’s different towns and cities.

A co-creation workshop involving place stakeholders from across the UK carried out a ranking process, identifying which future trends will have the greatest influence on the different types of places around the country. Four visions for the future were identified as areas with a high potential for innovation.

The recently released second report introduces the categorisation framework. The report contains actionable recommendations for UK place leaders to shape innovations that create towns and cities with thriving economies, population’s and environments.

Read the key findings from our research and the recommended actions to support innovation for current and future challenges here: Future Places.

Our talented consultants are experts in futures thinking and place-based innovation. Read more about our previous projects, including developing a smart city strategy for Scotland’s seven cities for the Scottish Cities Alliance, tracking key developments in UK’s smart cities for the Future Cities Catapult, and developing a framework for digitally connected communities for the London Borough of Southwark.

To find out more about this project, contact Principal Consultant, Emma Clement.

More Stories