How can 9.5 billion people live well with the resources of one planet? This is how we think about sustainability at the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) where we have a mission to accelerate business-led innovation to improve quality of life and grow a sustainable economy. Given this aim, we asked ourselves what a ‘sustainable economy’ should look like and embarked on a journey with Forum for the Future to really understand this. The result is Horizons.
Find out why we created Horizons in this short film
Through a series of cards, Horizons describes the safe environmental limits an economy must operate within, the social and political foundations that enable our societies to flourish and the essential needs for humans to survive and thrive. These factors will drive market changes and without taking those into account, investments are more likely to fail.
What Horizons does best, is stimulate debate around what sustainability risks might affect your organisation, and how you should respond to them and seize any opportunities. TSB started by using Horizons to look differently at our own strategy by using the cards as we refresh programmes and develop business plans. First up, was the Energy strategy and using Horizons was vital in building the evidence and defining clear parameters for the strategy, such as specifying criteria around a low carbon, affordable and secure energy supply. It helped them to think through how to work within environmental limits and make the most of existing skill sets for example, by translating offshore expertise and knowledge of seabed into developing offshore renewables in UK.
The Catapult centres are also using Horizons to 'future proof' their work. I’ve relished witnessing ‘ah hah’ moments, as with the Satellite Applications Catapult when they spotted an opportunity to double up the function of satellites so commercial flights could deliver valuable services like earth observations and monitoring civil unrest at the same time.
The Future Cities programme and Catapult team know that a lot of cities are good at identifying their relationship with the limiting environmental factors but less so at identifying the social ones. Using Horizons, they thought about empathy and trust in relation to urban innovation. With a focus on integration of city systems (energy, water, waste, health etc) it’s vital to not lose sight of the need to design citizen-centred and empathetic city solutions to ensure uptake and acceptability of new ways of doing things.
Find out how it works via this short animation
Equally, when using it with the Digital team in TSB, it reaffirmed that they are doing some great stuff at the moment in thinking through the importance of trust and transparency to digital innovation. It also highlighted the greater power of using disruptive innovation that is successful commercially and can help address some of our key environmental and social challenges. Sometimes, you just need to take the time to reflect, value the work you’re doing, and build on that.
We think it’s a great tool and so want to share it widely. There is now an online version which contains the cards, as well as supporting information, facts and case studies. It’s a beta version, we’ll be adding case studies and refining it. We’re keen to understand how you’ve applied sustainability thinking to your organisation, and how we can make it work better for you.
This blog was co-authored by Nicky Conway from Forum for the Future, and Mike Pitts, from the TSB.