Future-forming interdisciplinary research

We welcome partnerships and collaborations with organisations outside the academy. Our expertise combines rigour from a range of disciplines and openness to experimental approaches that frame ‘problems’ differently.

Just some of the research questions that drive our work include:

What is the nature of northern English identity, and how does it affect planning for the region’s future?

How will ancient and medieval heritage be relevant to communities in the future?

What are the challenges and opportunities facing publishing?

What is the future of work in the green/blue bio-economy?

What do future labour relations look like in the environmental service-based economy?

Do get in touch if this sounds of interest. We are keen to discuss how we turn the future into something more social, with anyone, anywhere.



Stewart Wallis is an Honorary Professor and is working with ISF to develop work on the socioeconomics of the Anthropocene. He was the Director of the New Economics Foundation until early 2016 and is now leading a major initiative to create a global New Economics Movement. Read more about Stewart here.

Research Theme: Developing new economic paradigms for/in the Anthropocene.



Selected Collaborations to Date


DELL Technologies

Richard Harper joined an expert panel discussing the future of homes in this episode of trailblazing ideas hosted by DELL Technologies ‘There’s No Place Like a Smart Home’.

We’ve been using technology to make our homes more comfortable, more secure and more entertaining for decades – with varying degrees of success. In this episode, we’ll discuss a history of smart technologies used inside the house, and analyze just how smart they really could be.

You can find out more about the episode here and listen to the podcast.


Bristol Festival of Ideas

Nick Dunn was invited by the Bristol Festival of Ideas to present his research on how future cities have been depicted over the last 100 years. The festival aims to stimulate people’s minds and passions with an inspiring programme of discussion and debate throughout the year. His presentation, as part of the Festival of the Future City, considered what these depictions sought to communicate and why; what types of city visions have had the most influence on UK cities; and the important role they have in shaping our thinking on cities and our future urban strategies. Nick explained the research he undertook as author for the Government Office for Science’s Foresight Future of Cities project, ‘A Visual History of the Future’, and some of his ongoing work in this field and the questions it raises. By way of concluding, he then described current patterns and trends in city thinking and outlined what the implications for Smart Cities, Happy Cities and Individual Collectivism may mean for us all.

The report may be downloaded here.


Rochdale Borough Council

Nick Dunn was appointed by the Foresight: Future of Cities project to help design, develop and lead an innovative workshop in collaboration with Rochdale Borough Council, to inform their future vision strategies. Working with the Foresight team, the workshop was devised to provide the town and borough with a unique opportunity to get input into its future-forming strategy, policy and specific development opportunities through direct engagement with stakeholders and decision makers.

The overall aims of the day for Rochdale Borough Council were to:

  1. Assist Rochdale Borough Council in engaging with visioning and thinking about its long-term future.
  2. Share a sample of futures-based techniques that Rochdale Borough Council could continue to use post-workshop.

By creatively and carefully facilitating the group to work through a series of specific acitivities, the participants identified a series of aspirations, which were then linked to goals and priorities. These were subsequently explored through a process of designing options, which culminated in a ‘roadmap’ for the next fifty years to examine the actions and events necessary for the long-term future of Rochdale to be successful in relation to the original set of aspirations.


Alliance for Healthy Cities and the World Health Organisation

Invited to contribute to a plenary session co-organised by both the Alliance for Healthy Cities and the World Health Organisation, Nick Dunn described foresight techniques and their application in understanding values and goals for the future of cities as well as demonstrable drivers for change. His presentation, ‘Images of Future Cities and UK Foresight Initiatives’ explained the role and significance of how visualisations for future cities contribute to society and collective aspirations for better living. The conference, 7th Global Conference of the Alliance for Healthy Cities held in Wonju, Republic of Korea, had the theme, “Our Cities, Our Health, Our Future”. Under this theme, the conference sought to provide participants with an excellent opportunity to share research and projects and to contribute firmly towards establishing the health city movement in Western Pacific region and further expand and scale up the WHO’s vision of healthy cities in cooperation with all the participants.