Successful completion of the 2021 MIOIR-VTT Executive Course on Foresight Methods

February 26, 2021 Leave a comment

Tuesday 23rd – Thursday 25th February 2021 – MIOIR (UK) and VTT (Finland) worked together to deliver a three-half days, online, short course delivered over three afternoons on the topic of Foresight Methods. The course comprised six lectures delivered by Dr Rafael Popper (MIOIR & VTT) and three interactive sessions designed and jointly facilitated by Jouko Myllyoja (VTT).

The course helped participants better understand important aspects about Foresight Methodology and explore the following Foresight Methods: Cross-Impact Analysis, Critical Issues Analysis, Delphi Surveys, Wild Cards Analysis, Weak Signals Analysis, Scenarios, Action Roadmapping and Robust Advice Framing.

The course was delivered using Zoom for the lectures and discussions, Miro for the interactive sessions and Dropbox for file sharing. Twenty-Two participants from 13 different countries attended representing the EC JRC, EC Secretariat general of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, UKRI, Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, DC, Dubai Police, Research Institutes and Universities attended the course.

Professor Jonatan Pinkse gave a short introduction to the course on the first afternoon. Feedback from the participants during the course was extremely favourable and, as a result, we will run the course again online next year. The course was facilitated and supported by the MIOIR/SCI admin team.

VTT Technology report: The Future of Forest-based Bioeconomy Areas

February 1, 2021 Leave a comment

The Future of Forest-based Bioeconomy Areas: Strategic openings in Uruguay and the World by 2050

This VTT Technology report on ‘The Future of Forest-based Bioeconomy Areas: Strategic openings in Uruguay and the World by 2050’ is the result of a multistakeholder and multi-disciplinary foresight exercise commissioned by the Government of Uruguay in 2018 and completed in 2019.

The overall goal of the project was to contribute to Uruguay’s National Development Strategy 2050 through the following specific objectives:

  • To identify key global forest-based bioeconomy areas by 2050;
  • To identify needs and gaps in the prioritised FBA in Uruguay;
  • To develop a shared vision for the forest-based bioeconomy in Uruguay by 2050; and
  • To develop a strategic Action Roadmap to achieve the shared vision for the forest-based bioeconomy in Uruguay by 2050. 
How to cite?
Popper, R., Rilla, N., Niemelä, K., Oksanen, J., Deschryvere, M., Virkkunen, M., & Loikkanen, T. (2020). The Future of Forest-based Bioeconomy Areas: Strategic openings in Uruguay and the World by 2050. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. VTT Technology No. 379

The most important outcomes of the project include: a shared vision for key foresight-based bioeconomy areas (FBAs), as well as five consolidated Action Roadmaps with 511 concrete short-medium-to-long-term actions related to Forest management (FBA1), Mechanical wood processing (FBA2), Fibre-based biomaterial processing (FBA3), Biorefining (FBA4), and Bioenergy (FBA5). In addition, the report provides more detailed recommendations addressing a wide range of research, education, innovation and institutional needs related to the Top 3 Opportunity Pathways (OPs) of the five FBAs. The methodology of the project involved systematic critical issues analysis (drivers, barriers, threats and opportunities), a multi-stakeholder Delphi-like survey, global value network and business news analysis, visioning workshops and action roadmapping.

This report is valuable for government, business, research and civil society actors interested in the state-of-the-art and the future of key forest-based bioeconomy areas in the world. Foresight researchers and practitioners will also find interesting methodological approaches, such as the consolidated action roadmaps.

Finally, taking a worldview perspective, while the project provided an opportunity for foresight knowledge transfer from Europe to Latin America, both the findings and methodology are equally relevant for other world regions and countries concerned with the future of the forest-based bioeconomy.

EU-SPRI 2021 Conference Track on Transforming ‘wicked-problems’ into ‘moonshot-opportunities’

January 26, 2021 Leave a comment

10th Annual EU-SPRI Conference: “Science and innovation – an uneasy relationship? Rethinking the roles and relations of STI policies”

A couple of decades ago, the concepts of science and innovation became steady partners, especially in policy. Countries, regions and the EU developed policies and support instruments for science and innovation – indicating that there is a close relationship between these two activities and therefore also policy areas. Although this is certainly sometimes the case, the Eu-SPRI 2021 conference invites participants to a more critical and reflexive discussion of this link. What are the problems of seeing science and innovation as two sides of the same coin? Is the merger of the two policy areas in some cases a barrier to solving societal challenges as much as it represents a solution? When is it helpful to look at science and innovation, and when do we need to keep them apart? Such questions are not just important for society, but also for developing the community interested in science and innovation policy studies.

The Eu-SPRI 2021 conference aims to discuss the boundries and linkages between these two sets of practices and how it can be usefully conceptualized to inform future and address current and future societal challanges. This will also allow the interdisciplinary community that studies science and innovation policies to join the conference to reflect upon their own history, trajectory and frameworks.

Although, many different topics are useful for understanding and elaborating the science-innovation boundry, the conference will primarily address three important themes: (1) Addressing the role of research and innovation in times of crises; (2) Impact, excellence and Beyond: Reframing the science-society relationship; and (3) Technology push or societal change – the widening scope of STI policies in sustainability transitions.


In the theme focused on Addressing the role of research and innovation in times of crises we are organising a track on Transforming wicked-problems into moonshot-opportunities.

Transforming ‘wicked-problems’ into ‘moonshot-opportunities’: The role of research and innovation in the responsible and sustainable assessment and management of ‘catastrophes’, ‘wild cards’ and related ‘weak signals’

  • Convenors: Rafael Popper, Raija Kovisto, Jari Kaivo-oja, Toni Ahlquist and Joe Ravetz.
  • Session type: Full paper session and speed talk sessions.
  • Click here to visit Track webpage at the EU-SPRI2021 website

The Covid pandemic has brought the importance of foresight and wild card analysis to the forefront of the research and innovation (R&I) policy debate. A decade ago the European Commission devoted considerable resources to the so-called Blue Sky research initiatives, to better position wild cards and weak signals analysis in the foresight realm, as well as in science, technology and innovation (STI) policy circles, with the help of collaborative research efforts such as the iKnow project. The world faces complex and interconnected Grand Challenges that require complex and interconnected responses, calling for creative action based on strategic thinking. Over 20 years of research and policy on sustainable development and innovation, we have seen that the need is as clear as ever – we need a step change in the quality of foresight-driven shared intelligence at every level – communities, organisations, networks, economies and societies, from local to global. How to go about this? This track calls for theoretical, methodological and practical contributions supporting the systematic and timely interconnection of social and technical knowledge, developing forward-looking tools and methods for addressing ‘wicked problems’ (including grand challenges, wild cards and related weak signals) by providing relevant frameworks and knowledge on potential ‘wicked solutions’ or grand responses.

The proposed session will focus on frameworks for theory and practice interconnecting the four ecosystems associated to what could be referred to as the ever growing ‘Knowledge Diamond’ (see also Unger and Polt, 2017), consisting of: Research ecosystems, Education ecosystems, Innovation ecosystems and Regulation ecosystems.

It has become recognised that R&I programmes should be addressing the ‘wicked problems’ or societal challenges that confront Europe and the world. A huge amount of information has been generated concerning such challenges, creating a knowledge management problem even for those working within one problem area. The problem is even greater when we take into account the need for understanding of the possible interactions or synergies between societal challenges. The volume of information is continuously increasing with studies at various levels of granularity, and considerable controversy associated with many of the topics. The notion of societal challenges and related crises is not just indicating that these are “wicked problems” that confront our societies. They are understood as presenting challenges that can be addressed through RTDI and the creation of conducive environments for adoption of innovations. Challenges may be rooted in economic, social or scientific goals but share a need to demonstrate their relevance, feasibility, and a clear research dimension.

The session will seek new methods for systematic assessment of crises, catastrophes, wild cards and related weak signals, as well as their management with the help of R&I (policy). Contributions are expected to extend this approach to a more general process of foresight, horizon scanning and critical issues analysis with concrete applications to grand challenges and the ultimate goal of devising ‘wicked’ or ‘grand’ solutions and responses. The rationale for this is a simple one: without a wide-ranging assessment of factors that may impinge upon the trajectories of grand challenges and the outcomes of grand solutions – especially factors that are generally overlooked, or only manifest currently as “weak signals” – it is very likely that analyses and prescriptions (also in the form of R&I policy) will be too linear and insufficiently robust. As with other aspects related to crises, relevant knowledge is widely dispersed, and appropriate action crucially requires inputs from many stakeholders. Resilient societies can confront change more effectively when informed stakeholders are better able to understand the nature of these changes, and the likely responses of their partners. This effectively means that foresight-driven strategic intelligence (including wild cards and weak signals analyses) should be widely distributed, and regularly co-produced and applied in multi-stakeholder settings. The session can be linked to ongoing political discussions of economic and social stress tests of the Member States of the European Union.

In summary the track themes would include:

  • State-of-the-art frameworks for the mapping of catastrophes, wild cards & weak signals
  • State-of-the-art approaches for the assessment of catastrophes, wild cards & weak signals
  • State-of-the-art approaches for the management of catastrophes, wild cards & weak signals

This track aims to include a mix of full paper sessions, speed talks for work in an early stage as well as roundtable sessions. We are open to collaborate with other scholars in the field to organise the track.


Ariffin, A., Maavak, M. and Miles, I. (2018). ‘Managing Uncertainties via an Embedded Foresight Regimen in the National Policy Planning Architecture’. International Journal of Engineering Technologies and Management Research, 5(6), pp. 1-14. DOI:

Kaivo-oja, J. (2012) Weak Signals Analysis, Knowledge Management Theory and Systemic Socio-cultural Transitions. Futures. The Journal of Policy, Planning and Futures Studies. Vol. 44, Issue 3, pp. 206–217.

Kaivo-oja, J. & Lauraeus, T. (2018) The VUCA Approach as a Solution Concept to Corporate Foresight Challenges and Global Technological Disruption. Foresight. The Journal of Future Studies, Strategic Thinking and Policy. Vol. 20 Issue: 1, pp. 27-49.

Koivisto, R., Kulmala, I., and Gotcheva, N. (2016). Weak signals and damage scenarios – systematics to identify weak signals and their sources related to mass transport attacks. Technological Forecasting & Social Change Vol. 104(2016) March 2016, pp. 180 – 190. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2015.12.010

Mendonca, Sandro, Cunha, Miquel P., Kaivo-oja, Jari and Ruff, Frank (2004) Wild Cards, Weak Signals and Organisational Improvisation. Futures. The Journal of Forecasting, Planning and Policy, Vol. 36, Issue 2, pp. 201-218.

Pajula, T. and Popper, R. (2020) ‘Towards a Hybrid Framework for Sustainable Innovation’ in Martini, M., Holsgens, R., Popper, R. (2020) (Eds), Governance and Management of Sustainable Innovation: Learning from Experience to Shape the Future, Springer.

Popper, R., Popper, M., and Velasco, G. (2020) ‘Sustainable Innovation Assessment and Management Framework: Principles, Methodology and Practice’ in Martini, M., Holsgens, R., Popper, R. (2020) (Eds), Governance and Management of Sustainable Innovation: Learning from experience to Shape the Future, Springer.

Popper, R. and Butler, J. (Eds) (2011) iKnow Policy Alerts, Report of the Blue Sky iKnow Project for the European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities, Manchester: The University of Manchester. ISBN 978-0-946007-22-6.

Ravetz, J, (2020): Pandemic-3.0 – from crisis to transformation – Exploring the COVID-19 Challenge. Journal of Future Studies.

Ravetz, J, Miles I, Popper R (2011) iKnow ERA Toolkit: European Research Area Toolkit – Applications of Wild Cards and Weak Signals to the Grand Challenges & Thematic Priorities of the ERA: Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester. ISBN 978-0-946007-26-4. Availble online at

Unger, M. and Polt, W. (2017), ‘The knowledge triangle between research, education and innovation – a conceptual discussion,’ Foresight and STI Governance, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 10-26.

Top 20 highlights from 2020

January 1, 2021 Leave a comment

Happy New Year to all!

2020 has been surprisingly productive in multiple fronts. The following one minute video shows some 20 highlights:

  1. Universal Foresight Observatory (UFO)
  2. Universal Foresight Research and Innovation Ecosystem
  3. Hat-trick in Top 10 most cited foresight works between 2000-2020
  4. UAE Space Agency White Paper
  5. VTT Technology Report
  6. New customer project in China
  7. New strategic project in Poland (1KTS4Lukasiewicz)
  8. New Springer book on Governance and Management of Sustainable Innovation
  9. Three chapters (Ch 1, Ch 9 & Ch 10) in Springer book
  10. Edward Elgar Book project (The Handbook of Universal Foresight)
  11. Edward Elgar Book project (The Handbook of Foresight Methods)
  12. Book project on Foresight in Ibero-America
  13. Honorary Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester
  14. Director of Executive Education on Foresight in Action at The University of Manchester
  15. Director of Executive Education on Foresight Methods at The University of Manchester
  16. Director of course (Guest Professor) on Foresight for STI (Chile)
  17. 11,150 blog visits from 117 countries and territories
  18. Lifelong title of Professor of Fun given by 120+ representatives from 22 countries
  19. 1st birthday of our 3rd son
  20. Baby Popper number 4 expected in the Summer 2021
Rafael Popper’s 2020 highlights

UAESA-VTT White Paper: Towards a Roadmap for Future UAE Deep Space Missions and the Sustainable Settlement of Humans on Mars

December 21, 2020 Leave a comment

In 2018, the UAE Space Agency conducted an expert panel and a workshop on the prospects for the UAE Space Agency and its future space exploration plans and wanted to widen and reach out to international experts by adopting an open approach.

To do so, UAESA commissioned VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd to conduct a short foresight exercise supported by an expert workshop at the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2019) in Washington DC and a wide range of activities, including a multi-stakeholder mobilisation and mutual learning workshop in Abu Dhabi (September 2019) and several focus groups with VTT space experts in Finland (see also methodology section below).

The foresight study, on which this White Paper is based, is built on the continuous effort of the UAE to shape its space sector, through the identification of critical issues (barriers, drivers, opportunities and threats) enabling human settlement on Mars.

The study contributed to a better understanding of the critical issues lying ahead of the Mars Missions and to a more informed priority setting that allows the UAE to improve investment-related decision-making and acquire, over short-term, what is necessary to assist achieving the medium- and long-term goals.

UAE Space Foresight

The main objective of the foresight exercise was to kick-off a national and international dialogue that would support the production of this White Paper and provide an agenda for future activities aligned with the National Space Strategy 2030. Overall, the main objective of the White Paper is to serve as a stepping-stone and provide inputs for a bigger UAE Space Agency foresight exercise on the sustainable settlement of humans on Mars.

Source: Popper et al. (2020)

Opportunity Pathways (OPs)

The project led to the development of seven Opportunity Pathways (OPs), which, although specifically focused on space related developments, are relevant and can at the same time be used to address challenges that we face, or are yet to encounter, on planet Earth. With this in mind, the following opportunity pathways, as well as other outcomes of the project, will be used to further shape the UAE’s Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) roadmap, development of future missions, criteria setting to ensure programmatic self-sufficiency, and positively influence relevant policies to create an enabling environment for investments and operations in space activities.

  • OP1: Mixed reality system for training operation
  • OP2: Earth/Mars-like virtual experience
  • OP3: Smart Mars sensing
  • OP4: Construction of airtight underground structures
  • OP5: Plant cellular agriculture for food production in space
  • OP6: Gut microbiome and virtual biosphere management
  • OP7: Self-growing biosensing material

Key Technology Areas

The project also led to the identification of key technology areas that the UAE could be focusing on while leveraging existing stakeholders in relevant adjacent industries including Energy, Additive Manufacturing, Robotics and Remote Operations, and others. These are reflected in detail in the critical technology areas of the report. Six areas that stood out as worthy of further exploration and consideration by experts from both the UAE and the rest of the world (RoW) are:

  • Space Power and Energy Storage
  • In-Space Propulsion Technologies
  • Software and Applications
  • Modelling, Simulation, Information Technology and Processing
  • Thermal Management Systems
  • Assembly, Integration and Testing facilities

For a more detailed account of the findings, please click here to download the White Paper

Executive Online Course on Foresight Methods

December 3, 2020 Leave a comment

Course overview: 3 half days | 9 sessions | 9 Hours

  • Next date: 23-25 Feb 2021; 1.00pm-4.00pm GMT.
  • Delivered by: Dr Rafael Popper and Jouko Myllyoja.
  • Teaching: Lectures, practical exercises, case studies.
  • Location: Zoom (This is a virtual course).

View the course brochure

We are taking a new methodology and methods-based approach to short executive courses to provide agile and rapid training on common methodologies and methods used in foresight and futures studies. Our method-based approach will be beneficial for anyone interested in designing, implementing, coordinating, managing or evaluating (both ex ante and ex post) processes related to foresight projects or the application of specific foresight methods. 

Together with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd we are launching a new set of online courses focused on foresight ‘methods’. The course is structured around six lectures and three interactive sessions delivered in a 3-half day programme (including optional individual and group practical exercises).

Course certificate from The University of Manchester will be provided.

You may register for one half day, two half days or the full course.  Costs are shown in the brochure. To book your place, please contact the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIOIR) manager Deborah Cox.

Course programme

Half-day 1

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

  • Session 1: Foresight Methodology and the Foresight Diamond 
  • Session 2: How are foresight methods selected?
  • Practical: Interactive group session for Q&A and practical discussions
Half-Day 2

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

  • Session 3: Cross-Impact and Critical Issues Analysis 
  • Session 4: Exploratory and Normative Delphi Surveys
  • Practical: Interactive group session for Q&A and practical discussions
Half-Day 3

Thursday, 25 February 2021

  • Session 5: Scenarios, Wild Cards and Weak Signals Analysis 
  • Session 6: Robust Advice Framing and Action Roadmapping
  • Practical: Interactive group session for Q&A and practical discussions

Successful 2020 course on Foresight in Action

December 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Truly engaged participants and excellent discussions at the Foresight in Action course organised by the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIOIR) in alliance with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Many thanks to everyone taking part in this joint success!

Participants of our 1st Executive Course on Foresight in Action

Looking forward to our next Executive Course focused on Foresight Methods (23-25 Feb 2021).

Stay tuned!

Executive Online Course on Foresight in Action

November 23, 2020 Leave a comment

Course overview: 3 half days | 9 sessions | 9 Hours


  • Next date: Monday, 30 November; Tuesday, 1 December; and Wednesday, 2 December, 8.00am-11.00 am GMT.
  • Delivered by: Dr Rafael Popper and Jouko Myllyoja MSc.
  • Teaching: Lectures, interactive group exercises, case studies.
  • Location: Zoom (This is a virtual course).

View the course brochure.

We are taking a new case study-based approach to short executive courses to provide agile and rapid training on common rationales, approaches, frameworks, methods and types of outcomes related to iconic and recently completed foresight projects in multiple application areas.

Our case-based approach enables a more intense interaction between course participants as they gain insights and new knowledge on state-of-the-art foresight practices related to successfully completed foresight projects.

Together with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, we are launching a new set of online courses focused on foresight ‘best practices’. The course is structured around six case study sessions and three assessment sessions delivered over a 3-half day programme.

Course certificate from The University of Manchester will be provided.

You may register for one half day, two half days or the full course.  Costs are shown in the brochure. To book your place, please contact the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIOIR) manager Deborah Cox.

Course programme

Half-day 1

Monday, 30 November

  • Case 1: Foresight on wicked-problems, wild cards and moon-shots
  • Case 2: Foresight on health technologies and workforce strategies
  • Assess: Interactive group session for Q&A and practical discussions
Half-Day 2

Tuesday, 1 December

  • Case 3: Foresight on governance and management of sustainable innovation
  • Case 4: Foresight on technology areas and roadmaps in cutting-edge sectors
  • Assess: Interactive group session for Q&A and practical discussions
Half-Day 3

Wednesday, 2 December

  • Case 5: Foresight on opportunity pathways for the forest-based bioeconomy
  • Case 6: Foresight on science, technology and innovation priority-setting
  • Assess: Interactive group session for Q&A and practical discussions

Transforming or shaping the future is not just a professional choice but a way of life

November 19, 2020 Leave a comment

Once again on my wife’s birthday (Monika Popper), her only wish was to continue helping the most vulnerable. So this year we are organising a number of activities to send another dose of love and hope to orphan children in Mombasa (Kenya), with the help of gifts channeled through The Kindness Tribe initiative.

The Kindness Raffle

The Kindness Raffle offers some cool prizes for those based in Finland but Prizes nr 2, 4, and 5 can be delivered worldwide too (e.g. via Skype, Zoom, etc.). Note: All prizes are to be redeemed by 19 November 2021. For more detailed information on how to enter the draw please go to the bottom of this post.

Prize nr 1: 50 EUR voucher for an amazing birthday cake from @pieceofcakebydora Some examples of Dora’s art can be found here

Prize nr 2: Digital drawing of your choice (such as the one in our profile picture) by the talented artist and illustrator Mikko Sinervo @studio_sinervo

Prize nr 3: Latin dinner at the Poppers, with a variety of Latin dishes on the menu + a basic salsa dancing course, e.g. Peruvian and Colombian cuisine

Prize nr 4: Insights from the future by Universal Shaman 😜 (based in Espoo). This is a unique opportunity to discover in an unconventional, non-scientific way, how the forces of the stars and the Universe can shape and guide your personal, professional, and family life in years to come.

Prize nr 5: One in a lifetime opportunity to win a 2-4 hrs private party entertainment service from the “Professional Amateur” Dj Pj (adults party) and/or Dj Lion (kids party). He has over 10 years experience as an amateur with guaranteed non-improvement in the field of mixing music.

Prize nr 6: Authentic Venezuelan brunch at the Poppers, with introduction to Venezuelan food culture.

Prize nr 7: 6-hour pizza making workshop with wine tasting while proofing the dough.

Prize nr 8: Heavy-duty gardening/landscaping, including rock lifting (up to 6 tonnes collectively). Important note: refreshments in the form of single malt whisky, rum, and/or good red wine must be provided during and after each working day.

Prize nr 9: A dozen of the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies baked with love by a rising (13 years old) star Emma.

Prize nr 10: A copy of our 2020 Springer book on Governance and management of sustainable innovation: Learning from experience to shape the future.

Raffle details

Step 1: Choose the prize you are interested in from the 10 options above.

Step 2: Get raffle tickets in person from us or by donating to The Kindness Tribe at

Step 3: Send your preferred “prize(s) number(s)” in a private message to Monika Popper via LinkedIn.

Step 4: Donate 10 EUR for 1 raffle ticket (Note: according to the school teacher, this is sufficient to provide school meals to 1 child for a month) or get 2 tickets for 15 EUR.

Step 5: Check this post on Sunday 22 November as we will record the draw, share the video and announce the winners in this post.

Important Note: When donating through you will be prompted to include a tip but you DON’T need to do so. Simply choose “other” from the list of options and put 0.00 in the amount box