Scenario construction

The main step in the construction of the scenarios was a workshop involving the INFU consortium team. During this workshop, the team identified and sketched a portfolio of scenarios for future European innovations landscapes based on the main uncertainties in the evolution of innovation in Europe. Scenario construction was supported by a specific scenario software which supports the search for sets of projections with high overall consistency (“projection bundles”).

Five scenarios were identified by combining different projections of the nine key factors with the aim to build coherent and plausible pictures of the future. These scenarios capture very different future options for the European innovation landscape.

As a time horizon, the project team selected 2025, a year which is close enough to the present to make the scenarios relevant for today’s decision making yet remains far enough in the future to make major changes in innovation patterns imaginable and even probable.

The different future projections of these key factors systematically map relevant and possible alternative developments of the framework conditions for innovation and they include also new promising concepts of innovation. The illustration below shows the scenarios in the so-called “morphological box”. The headers list key factor names, the boxes below give the names of the respective projections. Lines connecting the projections belong to a specific scenario.


Scenario 0: In Nothing Changes

The baseline, or reference, scenario shows an almost unaltered future as regards present structures and present innovation patterns. The challenges resulting from an ageing and shrinking population, global competition, environmental issues and resource scarcity are inadequately met. Ultimately, muddling-through politics lead to decline. In the global innovation race, the European Union falls behind.

This scenario is based on the assumption that key factors remain virtually unchanged. As there are major conflicts and interactions between these factors, the project team considered the scenario to be little likely and providing little insight. It is used here as a backdrop for the other scenarios.

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Scenario 1: Unleashing the Creative Spirit. Europe’s Innovative Societies

By 2025, the European Union has become energised by a new spirit of creativity and has turned into the world’s innovation centre. The EU is a main global innovation hotspot offering excellent research conditions and providing the world with sustainable innovations, helping it to cope with the grand challenges of our times. European societies have become a highly valued source for new product and services ideas, but above all for social innovation. In addition, sustainable business and consumption patterns have become the norm – economic growth and social welfare are no longer exclusively defined in monetary values.

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Scenario 2: The Exhausted Giant. European Innovation Fatigue

Demographic aging, inadequate policy responses, high competitive pressure from other extremely innovative world regions, and a certain “innovation fatigue” of its population cause the European Union to lose most of its innovation capacity by 2025. Faced with this situation, policymakers and entrepreneurs stick to obsolete models of growth and welfare, education and innovation. The few remaining innovation activities are exclusively business-driven and not embedded in systemic approaches to sustainable development.

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Scenario 3: Locally-Driven Innovation

In 2025, Europe’s innovation landscape has changed significantly. Cities, agglomerations, and regional governments have replaced European or national bodies as the most important mediators and facilitators of innovation. They made up for the lack of national and EU guidance and the entrepreneurs’ growing reluctance to innovate. Thanks to local citizen initiatives, Europe’s innovation capacity has returned to a high level while companies play only a moderate role for pushing innovations. In 2025, innovation is realised and organised at the local micro level and provides solutions mainly, but not only, for urban challenges.

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Scenario 4: Prometheus Unbound: Innovations for Innovation’s Sake

Europe has set the course for innovation and competitiveness. All major actors – from commerce, politics, and society as such – collaborate to open and streamline innovation processes, overhaul rigid administrative systems and promote innovation at every level, financially and by providing good framework conditions. Europeans are highly motivated to contribute ideas. However, since innovations are guided mostly by an economic rationale, environmental problems are not addressed in a comprehensive and effective manner. Moreover, parts of the population drop out of this fast-paced lifestyle.

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Limitations and scope of scenarios

Scenarios are not forecasts. They do not describe “the future”,rather, they depict consistent and plausible images of possible futures, of alternative future situations and the development path towards them: “This is how it could happen”. They are based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about key relationships and driving forces. Which of these alternatives will be realised remains uncertain. Possibly, elements of all scenarios could materialise, perhaps to different degrees, or radically new aspects, i.e. elements of the future situation, will arise, such as new developments and trends, unpredictable innovations, impacts of disruptive events: “Something else entirely could happen.” Thus, scenarios are not primarily intended to answer questions but their aim is to raise questions and to tell conceivable “stories” to inspire thinking about and debates on the future.

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