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Constructing transformative scenarios for research and innovation futures

Lorenz Erdmann (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Karlsruhe, Germany)
Elna Schirrmeister (Competence Center Foresight, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Karlsruhe, Germany)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 13 June 2016




This article aims to advance the state of the art in constructing transformative scenarios by building upon Boudon’s social theory and to reflect its application to research and innovation futures.


The scenarios are based upon a particular multi-level perspective for research and innovation. They are developed around two time horizons: an explorative scenario stage by 2020 (exploring tensions) and a transformative scenario stage by 2030 (tracing the mechanisms of transformation).


Five scenarios provide comprehensive images of research and innovation regimes and practices, how research and innovation is embedded in society by 2030, and what plausible pathways of evolution toward the transformation of our research and innovation landscape may look like.

Research limitations/implications

The methodology “from explorative to transformative scenarios” provides a meaningful, complementary perspective of standard scenario methodology rather than replacing it.

Practical implications

Foresight practitioners can use the methodology to advance the construction of transformative scenarios. The approach from “explorative to transformative scenarios” is best suited when policy measures are to be addressed.


There has been little guidance on how to construct transformative scenarios. Insights from social theory are leveraged to develop a more consolidated approach. The approach of two time horizons, encompassing an explorative and a transformative stage, is novel and applied to research and innovation futures.



Erdmann, L. and Schirrmeister, E. (2016), "Constructing transformative scenarios for research and innovation futures", Foresight, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 238-252.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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