Future places: Scenario planning for the future of the UK’s towns and cities

The actions innovators take today will determine how prepared UK places are for new challenges and opportunities.

Posted on: 22/02/2024

Innovate UK commissioned a strategic foresight programme from Urban Foresight, to learn more about the trends affecting UK urban places. The first report, Future Places: Horizon Scan, produced a list of over 300 trends affecting the future of the UK towns and cities. Using scenario planning, a proprietary classification framework was then created to ground this foresight process in the unique characteristics of the UK’s different towns and cities.

A co-creation workshop involving place stakeholders from across the UK, carried out a ranking process, identifying which future trends will have the greatest influence on the different types of places around the UK. Four visions for the future were identified as areas with a high potential for innovation based on the place classification framework and the themes of the horizon scan’s future trends. The results helped develop recommendations for place leaders, stating the areas that they should focus on to support the creation of innovation environments to deliver these ideal futures.

This second report introduces a proprietary categorisation framework for UK towns and cities developed by the stakeholder workshop and using the findings from the horizon scan. The report contains actionable recommendations for UK place leaders to shape innovations that create towns and cities with thriving economies, population’s and environments.

Key findings

The strategic foresight process found three common enablers of place-based innovation in the UK. These are:

  • Data: The future of urban systems depends on the effective collection, sharing, and use of data on their performance
  • Community engagement: Towns and cities must be developed with the communities that live, work and visit there
  • Place-led experimentation: Solutions to challenges need to be defined by the specific needs of the place, rather than pushed by a technology capability

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.


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.