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Experiences with Scenarios

Scenarios are one of the main tools of foresight. They provide a structure to discuss possible and preferable futures, they inspire dialogues about options for action, and they are broadly used as well by companies and by organisations for supporting strategic planning and decision making. In the last two decades, Karlheinz was involved in more than ten projects that generated either semi-narrative historiographical or fully fledged narrative scenarios. In a recent paper, he relates some of the experiences with scenario generation and scenario writing:
“Writing Narrative Scenarios: Experiences from Technology and Security Foresight”.
The paper has been published in: Nora Dahlhaus and Daniela Weißkopf (eds.) Future Scenarios of Global Cooperation – Practices and Challenges (Global Dialogues 14). Duisburg 2017: Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research (KHK / GCR21).

A download of the complete book is available at: 


2016 Workshop on Terrorism

In July 2016, Karlheinz Steinmüller participated in a NATO Advanced Research Workshop on the “Identification of Potential Terrorists”, organized by The Millennium Project in collaboration with Bar Ilan University, Israel, and supported by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme. The workshop brought together about forty futurists and security experts. Screenshots of Karlheinz’ presentation “The world in 2040. Framework Conditions for New Kinds of Terrorism” can be seen in a posting by Rohit Talwar at Facebook.

2015 World Conference of Futures Research

On June 11 and 12, 2015 the Finland Futures Research Center and the World Future Studies Federations organized this year's world conference of futures research "Futures Studies Tackling Wicked Problems". I had the honour to chair one of the methodology sessions, and I presented two papers, one about quality standards for futures studies (see below) and one about "dark scenarios" at the example of the FESTOS scenarios (see below). Both presentations are available at the conference website.

In conjunction with the conference, the Foresight Europe Network (FEN) met to discuss the work plan for the next year. The FEN originated from the merger of the European Regional Foresight College (ERFC) and the European Millennium Project Initiative. During the Turku meeting on June 13, we had the pleasure to welcome Jerome C. Glenn, the Executive Director of the Millennium Project, who gave an insprining presentation about "Future Dynamics of Work & Technology. Alternatives to 2050".


Quality Standards for Futures Studies

What distinguishes “good” foresight from bad? Are there common standards and criteria for quality? And how is it possible to improve the quality of foresight under practical restrictions with respect to time, budget, team size etc.?


Since 2010, a task force of the Netzwerk Zukunftsforschung worked on that topic. The seven members – among them K. Steinmueller – established a catalogue of 18 standards and invited colleagues to describe them according to a given template with guidelines, common pitfalls and a practical example for each standard. The book has now appeared in Springer Fachmedien.


The editors and the authors hope to inspire a debate about quality in futures studies in Germany and elsewhere.

A short list of the standards can be found here.


Scenarios for the European Transport Sector

The European transport sector is facing many challenges from the lack of infrastructure investments to global competition. How will the main actors react? And what will be the future of transportation in Europe?


Within the project RACE2050, an international consortium took stock of existing foresight studies in the field and identifie key success factors for a sustainable growth of the European transport industry and for policies which can increase its strength in a long perspective up to 2050. In this framework, two sets of scenarios were developed: "black" pessimistic, cautionary scenarios for 2030 and "pink" optimistic, pro-active scenarios for 2050.


Karlheinz Steinmüller contributed in writing the scenario narratives. The scenario report, published in January 2015, is available from the RACE2050 website. The scenarios were presented at the RACE2050 final conference "Between dark scenarios and a bright future" on Jan. 29, 2015 at Brussels.

The Value of Foresight Studies

K. Steinmüller has been interviewed for the EU project FORCE on the “Value of Foresight Studies”.

FORCE (FOResight Coordination for Europe) has the aim to review Security foresight studies in Europe. All methods applied within these studies will be compared with each other and assessed regarding the appropriateness for detection of upcoming security threats. Based on this work, FORCE is developing a Foresight Model and corresponding Intelligent Decision Support system. The Foresight model will be designed to identify the most promising methods for different tasks.

The interview can be found in the first FORCE Project Newsletter.


Post Crisis: Europe and the World in 2025

During 2013, K. Steinmüller and Z_punkt supported The German Marshall Fund of the United States with its EuroFuture Project. A final report has just been published by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, who accidently left the GMF to become the head of policy planning and speechwriting at the Office of the President of Germany.
Within the EuroFuture Project, twenty-five experts from Europe and the United States developed four scenarios about the outcomes of the eurocrisis for foreign policy:


1. Complete Fragmentation. The European Union moves toward disintegration. On the world stage, a divided Europe declines as a global actor.

2. Partial Fragmentation. Europe moves toward polycentricity. Several competing Europes emerge. The European Union becomes less reliable, predictable, and powerful as a foreign policy actor.

3. Partial Integration. Incremental progress toward better policy coordination within the eurozone re-establishes the European Union as a reliable partner for its neighbors. The transatlantic relationship fades, and NATO slowly withers away.

4. Full Integration. The Economic and Monetary Union is completed in the European Union. It takes several years, but eventually Europe becomes a more ambitious foreign policy actor with a global outlook and an increased military capacity.

The final report is available here at the GMFUS website.


Regional Foresight 2.0 Launched

The European Regional Foresight College (ERFC) and the European Millennium Project Initiative met on November 21 and 22, 2013, in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss plans for improving regional foresight in the framework of the EU horizon 2020 strategy. The meeting was hosted by 4CF, a Polish consulting company specialised in business foresight. An open workshop on the second day - on the occasion of the 19th COP Climate Conference - was held under the auspices of the University of Warsaw.

The main aim of the ERFC is to push European regional foresight activities forward to a new level, which we may call Regional Foresight 2.0, with a closer integration of foresight and regional strategy building, with a stronger combination of foresight and innovation, a broader involvement of stakeholders, better understanding of regional cultural peculiarities and in general more creative components. The report “Regional Foresight 2.0 Experiences: Gipuzkoa / Wallonia / Danube Region” is now available here at the ERFC website.

Global Europe 2030 / 2050

In November 2011, the EU Expert Group “The World and Europe up to 2030/2050: EU policies and research priorities (Global Europe 2030/2050)” concluded its work with a conference at Brussels. The Expert Group, in which K. Steinmüller participated, developed three scenarios about the long-term future of the EU in the global framework:

A Report Summery is available on the EC website.


In December 2011, the project “FESTOS - Foresight of Evolving Security Threats Posed by Emerging Technologies” was finalised with a conference at Brussels. The foresight study, financed by the European Commission, was aimed at the „Dark Side of Technology“. Looking ahead to the year 2030, new risks posed by nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, and information technologies were identified in a scanning process. Based on this, the FESTOS team outlined in an “out of the box” brainstorming four “threat scenarios”.

K. Steinmüller was invited to write the scenarios – just like short science fiction stories. More information about the project is available in a (German language)  paper by Roman Peperhove.


The FESTOS scenarios were used within the project FORCE in three workshops to test the IDSS (Intelligent Decision Support System). After the workshops, two of the scenarios were enlarged. The report on the scenario exercise can be downloaded here.


New Papers 

Sorry, most papers are available only in German language.

Since 2003, Robert Gaßner of the IZT and K. Steinmüller wrote 12 scenarios about useful applications of high tech. Finally, they have been published as a Report of the IZT - with an appendix about the applied methodology:


During 2008 Karlheinz Steinmüller published several papers to different foresight issues. Three of them, written with German and international colleagues, appeared in a book of the European Foresight Monitoring Network (see

A fresh look at wild cards provides a paper written for the Singapore "Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning" Program:


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