Future places: A horizon scan of future trends for the UK's towns and cities

Understanding the trajectory of future developments enables Innovate UK to prepare for and understand the forms of technology and innovations that are likely to be most influential in the future.

Posted on: 22/02/2024

The UK’s urban places are facing a diverse and complex set of challenges into the future, for people, the environment and the economy.

Innovate UK commissioned a strategic foresight programme from Urban Foresight, to learn more about the trends affecting UK towns and cities. This exploratory piece of research used horizon scanning, scenario planning and backcasting to explore and analyse potential future challenges. The results will provide Innovate UK with an actionable set of recommendations to enable innovation for UK urban areas. The report is divided in two parts.

This report introduces the research conducted to gather intelligence on urban futures through horizon scanning. Horizon scanning is a strategic foresight activity that informs recommendations on actions to create robust, future-ready innovation opportunities. The report also presents a database which can be used to explore the potential futures of UK urban areas. The second report, Future places: Scenario planning, introduces a proprietary classification framework created to ground this foresight process in the unique characteristics of the UK’s different towns and cities.

Key findings 

The database of nearly 300 trends has produced seven overarching themes that will affect the future of towns and cities in the UK. These are:

  • Investing in healthy futures
  • Regulations and innovation
  • Computing power
  • Network patterns
  • Sharing spaces
  • Safety and security
  • Resilient systems

The database can also be explored as an interactive online tool.

Related programme

Net Zero Living

Net Zero Living

Innovate UK’s £60 million, three-year Net Zero Living Programme aims to help places and businesses across the UK to accelerate the transition to net zero.


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