MAC-Team

Food-Net / food-MAC network

food-MAC study 5: Foresight & Anticipation tools in agro-food sector

poster ForesightThe European food industry is operating in a challenging operating environment in which companies must be able to analyse and identify their own competitive edges in a more efficient way. Foresight provides enterprises with a useful tool to analyse the future of their socio-economic environment. Foresight can be used for wide variety of purposes, as it can support strategic decision-making on the national, regional, industry or company level.

 

 

 

In foresight, several different methodologies and approaches have been developed to help companies and other actors to govern their own future. The quantitative methods have lost some of their popularity as these methods typically rely on historic data which may not provide a sufficiently versatile basis for the analysis of future trends. As the future developments may be highly unpredictable, different scenario-type methods, Delphi studies and foresight projects based on panels and task forces, have clearly gained popularity. However, it is important to notice that different methods serve their own purpose and therefore there is no need to unduly emphasise the differences between various methods.

The analysis of the future of the European food economy shows the following three focal areas:

  • Biotechnology and its application in food production,
  • GMO – genetically modified organisms used in a food production and
  • Future technological solutions.

The following case studies illustrate how the different foresight tools have been used in order to help actors of the European food economy to govern their own future:

Biotechnology Foresight in Estonia-project concentrates on developing innovation and policy measures and elements of long-term (10-20 years) development in biotechnology and related industries in Estonia.

Anticipating commercial introduction of new GMOs in the (enlarged) EU-project aimed at anticipating which GMO’s in the agricultural field will request authorisation for commercialisation in the coming decade.

LiFT – Future Technologies for Food Production-programme , which aims at supporting the Swedish food industry by developing competencies and generating the knowledge needed for the development of future food technology.

Recommendations
The European food industry is facing tremendous challenges. Foresight activities can help different actors to build up a common base for the collection of different skills and views needed for the establishment of a jointly-accepted development path. However, when building development programmes on the company level, we should remember that:

  • Foresight activities should be integrated into other forms of business development
  • The corporate management should be able to clearly identify the added value of foresight activities in comparison to already existing strategic planning systems
  • the introduction of different foresight methods and tools should be actively promoted by developing foresight training programmes

All these aspects should be carefully taken into account while planning foresight activities. Otherwise there is a risk that foresight and the methods that are applied in their implementation are interpreted at company level merely as “academic inanities” and/or “nice to know” information. This would mean that foresight activities would remain as something involving only a small group of experts and in which companies operating in the food industry and their personnel would remain only as the objects of different studies – instead of being actors themselves, which is the objective.


The study report is available in the library.