FOCUS foresight methods

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FOCUS allows designing European security research to effectively cope with future EU roles responding to tomorrow's challenges resulting from the globalization of risks, threats and vulnerabilities. It does so through the elaboration of multiple scenarios based on IT-supported foresight in the form of alternative futures that are plausibility-probed, with scenario indicators, and not just threat scenarios.

The FOCUS method was developed based on a broad state of the art review. It is explained in detail in the Report describing and defining the methodology (Deliverable 2.1). It is also illustrated in the FOCUS project poster.

Scenario foresight in FOCUS included a broad number of different types of experts and stakeholders, and a variety of scenario information (such as online and on-site questionnaires, new social media information, workshops, studies, related projects’ results, etc.). In total (online and on site), FOCUS involved more than 600 external experts/stakeholders from more than 20 countries, both within and beyond the EU. Experts were identified in horizon scanning, in scanning of related projects, and by using partners’ lists of experts. Further experts were added based on project-related communication and turnout for project events. Participating experts represented EU bodies, national federal bodies and international bodies, industry, first responder organizations, think tanks, universities, NGOs, and other sectors. As far as its on-site work is concerned, FOCUS held more than 40 external and more than 30 internal foresight workshops.

FOCUS designed and applied an "embedded scenario" method to develop scenarios for security research (methodologically speaking: alternative futures) within scenarios for EU roles to respond to transversal challenges (methodologically speaking: context scenarios). The following illustration depicts the logic of the embedded scenario method that uses different processes as researched and described by the project:


Figure 1: Logic of the FOCUS embedded scenario method.


FOCUS conducted foresight on an inclusive basis, making maximum use of its IT support in order to integrate multiple stakeholders, experts from a broad range of fields and interested public in variably mixed Future Groups, composed so to address security in relation to other societal as well as to ethical values. This is especially important in the context of scenario planning in order to ensure that the selected policies and security technologies are responsive to the needs of citizens and that they create security approaches rooted in acceptance.

FOCUS scenarios are on the level of strategic forward thinking "on hold", to increase ability to cope with alternative futures in the world of 2035. The scenarios do neither predict future, nor do they state normative desired futures or "wishful thinking". They represent the results of the multiple foresight conducted by FOCUS. The level of application of the scenarios is strategic EU roles and strategic levels of research planning. According to the task at hand, the scenarios do not address end-user (such as first responder) postures with a view to specific crisis management missions. However, FOCUS includes the exploration of its scenarios foresight approach and products, including the IT-based Knowledge Management Platform, for possible use beyond the immediate scope of the project. In this context, end-user posture scenarios could be addressed.

FOCUS developed thematic scenarios for security research within scenarios for exogenous EU roles. Those EU role scenarios were developed along five Big Themes defined below. FOCUS chose these five Big Themes in order to represent the mixed problem space that the process of broadening the concept of security towards an all-hazard approach entails, referring to functional, sectoral and capability goals of the EU in providing security to its citizens:

  • Comprehensive approach.
    The comprehensive approach of the EU will not develop isolated from that of other actors and may even result in new vulnerabilities of the EU and its citizens (e.g. asymmetric dependencies). Scenarios therefore need to be embedded into alternative futures of the evolving concept of the "comprehensive approach", also as followed by EU Member States (including membership in relevant international treaties which affect the development of capabilities and/or establish linkages between the internal and the external dimension of security).
  • Natural disasters & global environmental change.
    Nature-related security challenges (such as climate change and environmental degradation) will both cause exogenous security threats (such as mass migration, border crashing and impact on the EU's supply chain) and directly affect EU territory and citizens (natural hazards, extreme temperatures and related tropical pandemics). The objective is to educe scenarios for security research supporting EU roles to master related threat multiplication scenarios and contribute to total disaster risk reduction.
  • Critical infrastructure and supply chain protection.
    The disruption of European Critical Infrastructure (ECI) will have significant cross-border impacts and/or cross-sector effects. Scenario planning so far has concentrated on the energy and transport sectors but should include other sectors, such as ICT (especially cyberspace protection). Scenario foresight will contribute to a common understanding of the sectors of ECI as far as the planning of security research for new methodologies for the protection of ECI is concerned, including technological aspects that support EU roles. Energy supply is a particular case in point where the EU seeks out new roles.
  • EU as a global actor based on the wider Petersberg Tasks.
    The nature and scope of change and insecurity will thrust global responsibilities on Europe. The extension of the scope of the Petersberg Tasks by the Lisbon Treaty ("The tasks referred in the course of which the Union may use civilian and military means, shall include joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilization. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories" - Article 43 paragraph 1 of the Treaty of European Union in the version of Lisbon) reflects growing awareness for this external dimension of European security in terms of action rather than vulnerability analysis or prevention. These Tasks are among the best examples to show that the EU will have to assure compliance between security research and political roles in order not to become externally dependent, remaining able to follow its own vision of comprehensiveness in crisis management. This also has to take into account domestic use of civil and military Petersberg-related capabilities, e.g. following the EU counterterrorism strategy.
  • EU internal framework and EU homeland security.
    Scenarios for new tracks of security research in support of EU roles also need to be embedded into scenarios for the evolution of the EU's internal framework and prerequisites (treaty foundations, coherence, harmonization, legitimacy, etc.) for assuming new tasks. This includes tasks resulting from a ramification of exogenous threats – especially disasters – into the Union, with a view to a common European approach to civil protection. This relates to illustrative new tracks of security research, such as addressing the need for the EU to support Member States in times of crisis.


The following illustration depicts the global structure of the concept, objectives and course of action of FOCUS:


Figure 2: Global structure of the concept, objectives and course of action of FOCUS.


FOCUS developed and used a methodology process and a combined analytical procedure to guide its foresight security scenario work. This essentially includes the following:

  • Composition of thematic Future Groups (experts of the consortium, members of the End-user Test & Evaluation Panel, external stakeholders and interested parties). The composition scheme will be defined according to the Problem Space Reports for each of the five Big Themes. These thematic Future Groups will take place both in real-world and virtual formats and be guided by selected scenario methods. They will, in addition to preparing and accompanying studies and research undertaken the project team, in particular perform the following tasks:
    • To explore the possible future roles of the EU (context scenarios);
    • To assess the impact of security research in those roles;
    • To delineate scenarios for security research (alternative futures) within the context scenarios.
  • Use of knowledge and assessments gained from the internet and new social media representations of FOCUS.
  • Development of a map of vulnerabilities focusing on "borderline" threats to the security of the EU and its citizens. This map of vulnerabilities will provide the structuring context for the development of scenarios for EU roles.
  • Checking of the security research scenarios for ethical issues following the criteria developed in relevant EU research projects, in particular with reference to the related projects that FOCUS has identified.
  • Accessible summary of scenario information in Common Analytical Framework Matrices (CAFMs). Completed CAFMs are available in an attachment to the Big Themes page. 
  • Integrating this knowledge and these results in the form of reference scenarios as basis for as roadmap proposal for IT-supported foresight scenario-based planning of security research 2035, i.e. beyond Horizon 2020.

As part of the FOCUS Toolbox, a repertory of scenario foresight processes and a repertory of scenario foresight tools and supporting tools were established during the project for use in the development of the FOCUS Big Theme scenarios.


The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 261633. This wiki reflects only the authors' views and the Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

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