Futures, Foresight and Emerging Technologies

Policymaking that stands the test of time.

Who we are

We support civil servants to think about the future through our resources, training, advisory service, networks, reports on specific issues and technology horizon scanning service. We are part of the Government Office for Science (GO-Science).

Keep up to date with our work via our blog

What is futures and why does it matter?

Everyone in the Civil Service has a responsibility to think about the future in the work they do. Policy decisions made today have long-term consequences. However, the future in which these decisions have an impact is uncertain.

Futures thinking can be applied to strategy development, risk analysis, and organisational development too.

  • ‘Futures’, Futures studies or Futures thinking refers to systematic approaches to thinking about the future.

  • ‘Foresight’ refers to the specific act of applying futures tools, processes or methods. ‘Foresight’ is also the brand the Government Office for Science uses for our long-running series of projects looking at the evidence around big cross-cutting issues, and exploring future possibilities.

  • ‘Horizon Scanning’ is one specific technique to systematically identify potential threats, risks, emerging issues and opportunities. You can find out more in our Futures toolkit.

Futures approaches can help you to:

  • spot patterns of change, emerging trends, surprises, and disruptors earlier, giving us more time to respond

  • focus on the external context within which we deliver policy, taking account of the ‘big picture’

  • bring in alternative points of view, as futures is a collaborative process

  • create a narrative of the future, based on structured frameworks and evidence

  • explore multiple versions of the future

To find out more about futures approaches, the benefits, and where to start, check out our brief guide to futures thinking and foresight.

Resources and projects

Our Foresight projects take a big, cross-cutting issue, summarise the evidence, and explore future possibilities

Emerging technology (EmTech) horizon scanning is part of our wider Technology and Science Insights capability. We are developing GOSInsights, a web application where civil servants can access our data and analysis on emerging technologies and our EmTech library, a repository of technology reports. Contact the EmTech team for access.

We have created a range of resources to help civil servants apply futures tools and approaches:


We deliver training for civil servants, from junior new entrants to senior leaders, to introduce futures and develop foresight capability in government.

We offer online and in person training. It builds on materials such as the Futures Toolkit.

To find out more about our current offer, please contact the GO-Science Futures team.


  • Heads of Horizon Scanning Network for public servants with a responsibility for or interest in futures, foresight, horizon scanning and strategy. We host quarterly meetings to share updates and good practice. To join, email the HOHS network or sign up to our online community and resources hub here using your government email address and request access to the HOHS group.

  • EmTech Community of Interest: A platform for government technology teams to collaborate, network and share insights. We hold quarterly events where teams can present their work and discuss technology policy issues. To join the mailing list contact the GO-Science EmTech team.

  • Knowledge Mobiliser Network: We help civil servants to access diverse and high-quality expertise in science and technology across industry and academia to underpin policymaking. For more information contact the GO-Science EmTech team.

Advice service

We run a monthly ‘Introduction to Futures’ session for public servants, with bookable slots afterwards to discuss individual projects. To come along, contact the GO-Science Futures team.

We are sometimes able to offer more in-depth support to priority government projects.

Future Procurement Framework

We’ve worked with a range of suppliers to give government departments and public bodies easy access to a variety of services to help them think about the future.

Access the Framework and further information about the services available.

Other Futures support available in government

Many departments have their own Futures or Horizon Scanning teams. You can connect with others from across the public sector with an interest in Futures by joining our Heads of Horizon Scanning Network.

To support strategic long-term thinking in government, GO-Science collaborates with the Cabinet Office through the Foresight team in the Joint Data and Analysis Centre (JDAC). The JDAC Foresight team works across government departments on major cross-cutting issues, provides Foresight expertise within the Cabinet Office and incubates analysis in JDAC.