Drivers of Economic Recovery

The economic recovery has been a central topic for our latest book Aftershocks and Opportunities – Scenarios for a Post-Pandemic Future (published June 1st), the associated Launch Summit, and our regular Sunday evening webinars. What’s clear is that the picture could differ significantly from nation to nation. Across the book chapters and webinars, there has been a lot of discussion about the overall shape and nature of the economic recovery, the underlying factors that could play the most significant influencing role for different countries, and the scenarios that could result. Here we provide a short overview of each of these elements.

Shape of the recovery – The decline in GDP has been predicted to reach up to 6% globally, with a fall of up to 40% in the worst hit nations, and contractions of 10-30% in the more developed economies. Many government leaders around the world have argued passionately that the bounceback will be just as strong – with a V shaped recovery curve. Others suggest that the period at the bottom of the curve could last longer – giving rise to a U shaped recovery curve.

Some are suggesting that the downturn could be longer and deeper – turning into an elongated U or L shaped curve – the latter apparently having no recovery path for the foreseeable future. The most common view is that many countries could be looking at an initial bounceback, followed by a decline, and then potentially a series rises and declines until there is eventually enough commitment, momentum, and government support to sustain the rise back out – giving a potential W, WW, or WWW shaped recovery.

Baseline scenarios – The opening chapter of the book examines four possible scenarios for how these factors could come together and how different economies could evolve as a result in the next 2–3 years. The four scenarios could play out globally and at national level – with different countries being in each scenario at the same time:

  • The Long Goodbye (poorly contained pandemic, deep and prolonged downturn)
  • The VIP Economy (poorly contained pandemic, vibrant economic rebound)
  • Safe but Hungry (eradication of the pandemic, deep and prolonged downturn)
  • Inclusive Abundance (eradication of the pandemic, vibrant economic rebound)


The critical underlying forces identified as having the most relevance in determining the possible paths to recovery include:

Consumer spending – In the relatively near term as the lockdown lifts, we will get a sense of the scale of the spending recovery and how long it might last. What’s critical here is that while many have had their incomes savaged, across different countries somewhere between 30-70% of people haven’t had their incomes affected at all and their behaviour will be key. Many will be tempted in by retailers offering deep discounting in summer sales to make up for lost revenues in the lockdown. If the resulting initial burst of activity is followed by sustained consumer spending, this could drive business confidence and accelerate the path out of the downturn. However, any signs of nervousness could spread rapidly and have a dampening effect.

Employment – The extent to which furloughed jobs are reinstated or turn into redundancies is critical here – alongside the return to employment of those made redundant during lockdown. In April, the International Labor Organization estimated that lost working hours worldwide equated to 305 million jobs and warned that up to half the global workforces was at risk. There are also concerns that, in many countries, these losses seem to be disproportionately impacting women, minorities, and those on the lowest incomes.

The picture varies worldwide, for example, having lost over 40 million jobs to COVID-19, the US is experiencing signs of hope, with 2.5 million new jobs being added in May 2020. In the UK, around 8.7 million are furloughed and up to 2 million of these jobs are considered at risk, alongside hundreds of thousands of self-employed workers and small firm owners whose businesses may not return.

Savings rates – The level of uncertainty over jobs and incomes and the extent to which that drives people to save are both being monitored closely. Savings levels have indeed risen in several places. Many governments and central banks have looked at the idea of negative interest rates as a way of positively discouraging savings and influencing citizens to spend instead. This drives associated concerns over the potential for inflation and people being left with no financial security blanket.

Business recovery – Close attention is being paid to how the most affected businesses bounce back and whether this drives job creation or further redundancies. Some countries are anticipating up to 40% failure rates as firms discover that they are no longer viable – particularly with social distancing rules in effect. Major firms from airlines to oil companies and financial services are already starting to announce worldwide job cuts – which could further dampen consumer spending.

Sectors such as hospitality, entertainment, travel, aviation, and tourism are seen as particularly vulnerable. The question here is what the impact might be of government stimulus investments and private investment in new science and technology growth sectors – and how quickly they might come through. The risk is one of a skills mismatch between those losing their jobs and the new opportunities emerging.

Business budgets – The level of business spending and investment as we come out of lockdown will be central – as it is in every economic downturn. The recovery is very reliant on optimistic businesses that are willing to commit to investments, maintain operating budgets, and continue hiring. The risk is that lower expense budgets and delayed investments in both 2020 and 2021 will have deep knock on effects across the economy. A natural reaction for firms seeing declining order books is to put a brake on their own spending – which then ripples through their own supply chains. A key factor here will also be the access to capital and in particular bank lending. Any reluctance to lend could have a very clear and rapid dampening effect on economic recovery.

Automation – A trend towards business automation and adoption of artificial intelligence was already underway prior to the pandemic. The lockdown has seen an acceleration, with a particular focus on deploying physical robots, the use of robotic process automation of many administrative tasks, and generally removing human involvement in service roles – driving the growth on contactless and paperless processes in everything from airports to retail. Such developments could improve efficiency and profitability, create new specialist roles for those devloping and deploying the solutions, but potentially drive higher unemployment due to job displacement.

Retraining – Major job opportunities are emerging in new sectors. These require people to be retrained into the required skills – the speed at which this can happen will be crucial. There are clear questions over who funds such training – with many areguing that for governments, the short term retraining costs would be greatly outweighed by the long term savings on unemployment benefits and the inflow of new incomes taxes.

Government spending and action – Perhaps the single biggest factor of all will be how governments choose to steer the recovery and handle the costs of the health and economic emergency. From unemployment benefits and healthcare to education and infrastructure – the pressure will be on governments to spend and invest heavily to drive economic activity, build business and consumer confidence, and encourage banks to lend more readily. Hence, some governments may look to spend their way out of the downturn.

A government spending led recovery could see major investment in physical and digital (e.g. broadband) infrastructure, business support, R&D programmes, green growth initiatives, and training and education at every level. This could extend to heath and care systems, and enhanced preparedness in resilience and contingency preparation for future health and environmental shocks. Funding this will require some mix of debt, quantitative easing / the printing of money, and public-private finance initiatives. All of this would be predicated on the hope that growth will deliver the necessary tax revenues to pay the interest bill and start chipping away at the levels of accumulated debt.

Concerns will grow over nations with the most precarious of economies and the long term social, economic, and environmental cost of any deals they might sign with those willing to bail them out. Of course, some may decide that the markets must take care of themselves and focus instead on austerity measures designed to reduce the scale of debt and associated interest payments. The extent to which the wealthiest nations and donors might collaborate to support those in most need will have a crucial bearing on the extent to which a truly sustainable global recovery can be affected.


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Press Release New Study: Safety, Trust, and Innovation Critical to Air Transport Sector Revival

Passenger safety, trust building, digital transformation, automation, and customer experience lead strategic priorities for airlines, airports, and partners amid COVID-19 disruption

As they plan their journey out of the pandemic, airlines, airports, and other air transport industry stakeholders are emphasising total safety and trust building as central to their recovery strategies. From an investment standpoint, they will prioritise digital transformation, automation, sustainability, innovation, and customer experience following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report jointly undertaken and released today by Fast Future, Future Travel Experience (FTE), and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

The COVID-19 Air Transport Near Term Impacts and Scenarios report, which is the first instalment of the four-part Air Transport 2035 series, explores how air transport industry stakeholders expect the COVID-19 crisis to impact passenger volumes and investment strategies. It also highlights four possible scenarios for how the industry might emerge from the pandemic.

A global survey conducted as part of the report found that over the next two years 68.4% of respondents expect investment in digital transformation to increase; 60.3% expect investment in automation and the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to rise; and 54.2% expect spending to increase on sustainability and environmental initiatives. More than half (53.5%) expect investment in innovation to increase during the same period, and 48.5% expect to see an upturn in customer experience and service spending, with less than a quarter (22.9%) expecting investment in this area to fall.

At the other end of the scale, three-quarters (75.5%) of survey respondents expect investment in aircraft orders to decrease over the next two years, while 55.3% expect to see a decrease in terminal design and construction spend.

Air transport facing two to three-year recovery period

During a webinar on April 23rd, which included the unveiling of the initial survey results, a live poll of the 900-plus attendees found that 44% of respondents expect it to take up to two years for the air transport industry to return to 2019 levels of business, and a further 36% expect it to take three years. Only 6% expect the industry to recover to 2019 levels within 12 months.

Another live poll during the webinar found that 39% of respondents expect the public to feel comfortable flying again once new procedures are introduced to protect passengers. 32% expect consumer confidence to return once a COVID-19 vaccine is disseminated; 11% expect people will only fly if they have to; and 10% expect World Health Organization (WHO) advice to dictate when people will feel comfortable flying again.

Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future, and lead author of the report said: ”The findings highlight that the industry is experiencing and anticipating devastating impacts on flight volumes, passenger numbers, and revenues. The sector’s recovery is dependent on government policy, health factors, passenger confidence, the nature of the economic recovery, and the extent of collaboration between industry players. We developed four scenarios exploring the interaction of these latter two driving forces and tested them on the webinar attendees.

‘Survival of the Safest’ (Deep Recession / Fragmented Industry Response) was ranked the most likely by 32% of respondents. This was followed by ‘Love in Cold Climate’ (Deep Recession / Co-ordinated Industry Response) with 30% of the votes and a further 20% selected ‘Hope and Glory’ (Robust and Integrated Economic Recovery / Fragmented Industry Response). The scenario considered least likely and selected by just 18% was the most optimistic one of ‘Sealed and Secure’ (Robust and Integrated Economic Recovery / Co-ordinated Industry Response).”

Daniel Coleman, Founder & CEO, Future Travel Experience, commented: “There is no doubt that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for some time to come and it is more important than ever that airports, airlines, and their partners take steps now to prepare for the new reality. Prioritising health and safety efforts is a given, but all stakeholders must also commit to delivering a contactless, queueless, and fully sanitised end-to-end travel experience that is as automated as possible. Some radical new approaches, and collaboration between all parties, are essential to achieve this vision and support the survival of the air transport industry.”

Joe Leader, CEO, Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and International Flight Services Association (IFSA), added: “Over 75% of survey respondents still believe in five key areas where airline and airport spending will grow or remain the same despite the COVID-19 headwinds. The winners during this challenging time include digital transformation, automation, sustainability, innovation, and customer experience and service. That’s positive news for APEX and IFSA member airlines and suppliers.”

Download the full report

The COVID-19 Air Transport Near Term Impacts and Scenarios report can now be downloaded via the Fast Future website. As part of the study partners’ commitment to the sector in these difficult times, airlines, airports, and government aviation agencies can download the report for free, simply email with a formal organizational email.

For all others it costs just $50 . All four reports can also be pre-ordered at a discounted rate. Visit the Fast Future website for full details:

Two further surveys are currently being undertaken as part of the continuing study:

The Aviation Impacts of COVID-19 – Innovation and Digital Transformation

The Future of Air Transport of 2035



  • Total number of survey respondents: 269 respondents in 47 countries.
  • Respondent groups: The four largest groups of respondents were from the categories of airline (19%); airport (17%); industry consultant, analyst, service provider (16%); and information technology and communications supplier (14%). The remaining 34% of responses came from other players across the air transport ecosystem.
  • Date of survey: 17th March to 17th April, 2020.

About Fast Future

Fast Future is a research, insights, consulting, and executive education business that specialises in the use of foresight applied to explore the future of key sectors such as Air Transport. Through speeches, webinars, studies, and books, Fast Future explores, experiments with, and creates powerful future ideas and scenarios. The goal is to deliver critical insights to the individuals and businesses that want to consider and create a better future. Fast Future’s books and newsletter provide insightful and thought provoking content and profile the latest thinking of established and emerging futurists, foresight researchers, and future thinkers from around the world. Fast Future’s forthcoming book ‘Aftershocks and Opportunities: Scenarios for a Pot-Pandemic Future’ will be published on June 1st, 2020. To learn more, visit:

About Future Travel Experience (FTE)

Established in 2006, Future Travel Experience is an online media, events, and industry change leader in the air transport sector. As a part of the APEX family, FTE is dedicated to enhancing the end-to-end passenger experience and business performance of all air transport industry stakeholders. FTE hosts acclaimed conferences and expos around the world – FTE Global, FTE APEX Asia EXPO, FTE EMEA, and FTE Ancillary – as well as virtual events and webinars. Through its website, weekly e-newsletter, and think tank projects, as well as the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub, FTE is an important industry reference for all things relating to innovation, customer experience, and business performance. To learn more, visit:

About the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX)

The Airline Passenger Experience Association is the only non-profit membership trade organisation comprised of the world’s leading airlines, industry suppliers, major media groups, and related aviation industry leaders. APEX is dedicated to elevating the passenger experience for more than 80% of global passengers, while driving industry initiatives and desired regulations. The association offers members a wide range of opportunities to excel in the airline passenger experience industry by keeping them current with the latest industry news, trends, and developments and by helping them develop relationships with clients and colleagues from around the world.

Rohit Talwar


Fast Future

Mob +44 (0)7973 405145

Government and Society on The Brink

By Rohit Talwar

The current crisis has surfaced a number of critical fragilities at the individual, societal, national, and international level. These have either been well understood but patchily addressed in the past, or are issues to which some or all are genuinely blindsided. Here are ten of those key issues that we think will have to be part of the recovery agenda at national and global level.

Individual Financial Security – The crisis has highlighted that some people literally do not have enough savings to see them through the next month, week, or day. Whilst for many, there was a vague acknowledgement of this as we went about our daily lives, it didn’t truly seep into our consciousness or influence our behavior. Now, the massive expansion of people using foodbanks, coupled with the sight of mass population feeding programmes in developing countries, has highlighted the scale of the problem and how far we have to go to resolve it – if that is seen as a priority.

Making real impact on these first two UN Sustainable Development Goals of ‘No Poverty’ and ‘Zero Hunger’ implies achieving a level of long term individual sustainability. Governments will come under intense pressure to rethink social policy and to assess the suitability of welfare payments against broader questions of how long an individual or family can last with the money on offer. As a result, the debate about the need for some form of universal basic incomes and services will inevitably rise in volume and intensity.

Health Access – The poor state of people’s finances has left many with little or no ability to pay for care and limited access to emergency public provision. The funding of, and access to, healthcare for all could become an issue on which governments rise and fall.

Health and Elder Care Systems – The crisis has highlighted multiple issues around the level of provision, health and care worker salaries, resourcing levels, personal protective equipment, testing, logistics and distribution, managerial preparedness, resilience, and emergency planning. Every system globally will need to rethink its strategies, funding models, structures, early warning systems, and crisis protocols for a world where the awareness of the range of impending health risks has been heightened.

Personal Physical Safety – There has been a clear, and in some cases massive, rise in reported cases of domestic abuse, calls to helplines, and the unseen suffering of those not in a position to call out. Once the recovery starts, non-interventionist governments in particular are going to be challenged to determine the priority placed on such matters. The resulting choices will have far reaching implications for funding of support services from social services and policing through to healthcare and education.

Mental Health – The number of cases of stress and other mental health conditions has seen a continuous rise in the last few years. The cost to society across multiple dimensions from healthcare to business interruption had already been estimated in the trillions of dollars. The loss of jobs, businesses, and freedoms amongst the old and young alike are reported to be driving up the volume and severity of stress and other mental health issues across society. For governments, there will be issues around the extent to which they want to intervene, ensuring access, the capacity to serve growing demand, and the funding of such services.

National Preparedness – The crisis has put a spotlight on the huge differences in the level of preparedness and capacity for rapid action in different nations around the world. Some had well tested procedures to mobilise travel restrictions, mass testing, tracing, and quarantine measures. They also had systems and policy options in place to be able to carry out a diverse range of measures from calling up reservist health workers and making direct payments to the population, through to mobilising volunteers and communities at scale. Others seemed, and still appear to be, incapable or leaden footed in their actions. This will raise the debate about the need for national mechanisms for horizon scanning and foresight, risk assessment, anticipatory contingency and disaster planning, and resilient resourcing to enable rapid scale up in emergencies.

Funding – Most nations have looked to debt and the printing of money / quantitative easing to fund their way through the emergency medical and economic response programmes they have had to implement. The question is how, or if, these bills will be paid. The general trend over the last two decades or more has been to drive down taxes in the hope that greater wealth in the economy will raise everyone’s living standards. The crisis has highlighted that this isn’t really working anywhere near as well as policy makers might have hoped in many countries across the globe.

The crisis has been expensive, the cost of recovery is as yet unknown as we face the prospect of prolonged national recessions or even a global depression. Nations my be forced to reverse taxation policy as they look to corporations, higher earners, and the wealthy to provide more of the funding to restart economies currently stuck in reverse gear. The alternative could be massive cuts in public services and government spending and prolonged periods of austerity – with all the social consequences such measures bring.

Global Institutions – The World Health Organization has come under severe criticism from some quarters and been seen by others as an essential resource and partner in navigating the crisis. The United Nations and global financial institutions such as the World Bank have been visible, but the question is how impactful they have been. The remit and ‘rules of engagement’ for these institutions are set by their member and donor states. The key questions now are whether those rules are the right ones and whether these global organizations are truly fit for purpose when it comes to global crisis where co-ordinated solutions are required? If the answer is at least a partial no, then how do we go about modernizing or replacing them, who will fund them, and how can we ensure greater effectiveness than the existing entities they are replacing?

Weak and Failing Nations – There is growing concern that the crisis will cause chaos in nations already on the brink of collapse such as Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. Some estimates suggest that these and other under resourced and over stretched nations could see three million or more deaths from the pandemic. The question is how such nations can map a path to the future – do they effectively seek protection from other states, merge into larger entities, or become the testbed for radical new models of post-conflict, post-crisis government and governance?

Co-ordination of Global Power – Many would argue that in the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, the worst case scenario of total economic collapse was avoided through the co-ordinated efforts of the wealthiest nations in the G7 and G20 groupings. However, this time round, they have been noticeable by their absence and their inability to even issue joint communiques over how they are coming together to tackle what is a truly global problem. Without the wealth, resources, and mobilization capabilities of these nations acting together, the crisis could stretch out far longer than the 12-24 month window that many are predicting.

The crisis is raising fundamental questions at every level and creating ‘once in a lifetime’ challenges for those in power. Many are still wrestling with the challenges of containment and exit strategies and have little bandwidth for broader medium term considerations. Others are beginning to understand that the crisis represents both a turning point and a time for fundamental reflection about the goals for human life, society, nations, and the globe that we want to enable on the other side of the pandemic. Fortunately. We have the SDGs as a start point for that reflection – the question will be how big our appetite is to use this opportunity to drive fundamental changes in our destiny.




The Economic and Social Footprint of Coronavirus, Part 3 – Exploring National and Societal Futures

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington


The COVID-19 virus is now truly global – having spread to 210 countries and territories around the world. While some countries such as Spain have started to ease lockdown conditions, others are extending theirs or refusing to commit to an exit strategy. Globally, concerns are mounting over the depth of social impact, unemployment for some countries is rising to levels higher than in the Great Depression, dire warnings are being issued on the global economic outlook, and here in the UK, the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility is warning that the economy could shrink by 35% by June. In the midst of this unending stream of bleak news, countries are also having to think about the mechanics of recovery and how they can balance attending to an immense agenda of short term priorities with the need to ensure a path to a sustainable and viable medium to long term future.

In this third and final article in our series, we examine five critical areas in which robust, bold, and innovative thinking will be required to map a path forward on these challenges.


I. Country Viability – Prior to the pandemic, many countries were already in economic and social intensive care. Some nations will inevitably be pushed to or over the brink by a combination of the health and social costs of dealing with the situation coupled with the bill for economic support to businesses, individuals, and financial markets. This is being further exacerbated by the loss of tax revenues, declining foreign earnings, the level of business failures, and the growth in long term unemployment. Richer nations may coalesce around institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and OECD to try and effect bail outs for some badly effected countries. However, for some, there may be no viable future as independent nations. Tough choices may be required about whether they seek to merge or effectively be taken over by others with better governance, operational capacity, infrastructure, and resources.


II. The Social Fabric – Governments will need to think hard about the goals for society in a post pandemic world and the actions required to get there. Across the globe society is feeling the impacts in different ways. Some people are clearly finding new levels of inner peace and purpose with a calmer, less disrupted pattern to daily life. However, for others we see a rise in problems such as mental health issues and domestic violence. The generational divide could become a critical focus of policy making. Could the lockdown exit strategies further reinforce tensions, with the young and healthy being given preference over the old, the infirm, and those with complex health conditions? Will some countries opt to drive down retirement age to help accelerate this process and seek innovative new solutions for how to fulfil their pensions responsibilities going forward? Finally, some may also look to accelerate advances in the field of human augmentation to effectively engineer more resilient and disease resistant humans.

Health and care systems will also need to be reimagined, drawing on the lessons of the pandemic. In the short term, once the crisis starts to subside, an already frazzled health sector will be hit with a wave of pent up demand from those whose consultations, diagnostic tests, and treatments had been put on hold. The new design will need to think about how to engineer in greater flexibility, how to mobilize testing for future diseases, and how to drive the population to use data, science, and technology to improve self-care.

Education systems may also never be the same again. Those who adapted well to electronic delivery and were able to continue delivering lessons and enabling learning in the digital realm could emerge with far richer models that blend the physical and digital more effectively. This will be greatly enabled by the rapid improvement in digital literacy for many teachers and parents. However, for those less well resourced, the process of catching up on missed months of learning could create major challenges. These could have adverse knock on effects for public examinations for some time to come. This could indeed deepen educational divides in and between countries.


III. Incomes and Unemployment – Despite the media noise, in practice no country has implemented an unconditional basic income (UBI). Instead a complex mix of temporary payments, minimum incomes, payment of furloughed workers, loans, and a variety of other mechanisms have been implemented. The issue of what to do next is put into sharp focus by the steep rise in unemployment, coupled with the potential for further job losses through business failures and automation. At present the debate continues to rage over whether a UBI is politically and socially desirable, how it can be funded, whether it makes sense to pay to it to those who don’t need it, and the potential impact on people’s willingness to work. With a prolonged recession or depression in the cards for many nations and indeed the entire planet, the need to think about UBI and other alternatives is already on the agenda and will be rising up it fast.


IV. The Business Ecosystem – Governments will need to plan for a range of scenarios around business failure and the resulting employment impacts. Many of the clear potential winners and losers at the sectoral level have been discussed elsewhere. The challenge is understanding the possible scenarios for that middle ground of businesses that have effectively been put on hold for now – in sectors ranging from hotels and aviation to luxury goods, entertainment, and dining. As yet, the number of clear business failures has been relatively limited. However, the longer the lockdowns continue, the more the viability of some or many of these firms is called into question.

Furthermore, even when the recovery starts, business revenues may not return to pre-crisis levels for many – particularly given increased unemployment and uncertainty on the part of those still in jobs. Hence, government planning has to prepare for several possibilities – starting with an immediate wave of business closures once lockdowns end. This will likely be followed by a second wave of failures as spending levels become clearer in the months after lockdown and the starts ups that look the least promising in the new post COVID-19 order fail to secure follow on funding. These could then drive further successive waves of closures and the impacts ripple through supply chains.

Of course, these failures need to be set against the potential for job creation by those who see the opportunity to start new ventures. Downturns provide an environment where investment capital may be cheaper and a range of government incentives may be on offer to start a business. The issue will be around the potential skills mismatch between the needs of these new ventures and those of the people losing their jobs in failing and shrinking businesses.

The drastic hit to revenues that many businesses are taking now will inevitably impact their targets and budgets for the current financial year. A poor current financial year will in turn drive spending budgets for the following financial year. Hence, the knock-on impacts for business spending will again hit firms further down the value chain. The pain will be unevenly spread – for example we can expect to see higher levels of investment in process automation and artificial intelligence as firms seek to increase their ability to continue operating irrespective of potential future pandemic impacts on their workforce.


V. National Economic Development Plans – The last few years have seen many developed and developing nations alike from the Middle East and Africa through to Asia and Latin America laying out bold visions for the future. These range in scope from 2025 to 2050 and many contain blueprints for the type of society, economy, and industry sectors they want to evolve. The crisis has put a lot of that thinking on hold. However, the same bold thinking and imagination will be required to map a slightly different path to the future – and to potentially accelerate ideas that were previously considered a decade or more away.

We believe these plans now need to address three separate timeframes and their associated challenges:

The next two years – This is about the recovery plan, building resilience, and reducing exposure to future shocks. In a world of disrupted supply chains, the old logic of industry specialization and import reliance may come under challenge. Hence many nations may look to become more self-sufficient and build up their own capabilities across the entire gamut of products and services they might previously have sourced from overseas. This means building small footprint factories using the latest technologies and looking to accelerate techniques such as 3D printing on an industrial scale.

This will also be a period of accelerated capacity building, developing domestic skills across the board for both the public and private sector. Competition for the best talent globally will also increase as nations seek to build local expertise centres in areas ranging from rapid construction and vertical farming to synthetic biology and new materials. New partnerships will be required with IP owners and expertise centres around the world. At the same time, many manufacturers may be looking to contract their geographic footprint and may be happy to enter into such IP focused arrangements which reduce their reliance on having to manufacture in uncertain times.

The next three to five years – Here the focus should be on building from the foundations laid in the previous two years. Turning the R&D investments and capacity building into viable businesses that create local jobs and drive the economy. Done well, this will allow greater focus on investment in the R&D that will drive the next decade of growth, initiating deep transformation of lifelong education systems, and developing new civil society infrastructure and governance mechanisms. Whilst the actions may not start for two or more years, planning for them and laying the foundations needs to start alongside the near-term recovery actions.

The next six to ten years or more – This is the period in which many of the most promising ideas in science and technology could bring about transformative developments. From Hyperloop transport systems and driverless vehicles to truly artificially intelligent systems and engineering more robust and disease resistant humans – the possibilities are immense and mind blowing. These developments do not move at a linear pace and some nations are keen to make them happen on a faster timescale. Hence, in the next two years, nations need to be driving the R&D that will allow for the capability development in the following few years that in turn will drive the commercialization of these fields in the six to ten year frame – or earlier.

Many may think their plate is already full with just navigating the day to day of the current crisis. However, with crisis comes the opportunity to pursue a bold and innovative rethinking of the core mechanisms across society, the economy, and government. Now may well be the best time to start that thinking.


This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.


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Global Perspectives on the World After COVID-19 Webinar April 9th, 2020 Report and Follow Ups

This was the first in a series of Fast Future webinars on the theme of Aftershocks and Opportunities – Scenarios for a Post-Pandemic Future, hosted in partnership with IORMA. Over 800 people registered for the event with 490 signing in.


Aftershock and Opportunities

The context for the webinars is that the world is grappling with the twin challenges of tackling the unfolding COVID-19 crisis and trying to prepare for an uncertain future on the other side of it. In this unprecedented situation, a growing number of politicians and business leaders are beginning to acknowledge the advice of future thinkers, futurists, and scenario planners on how important it is to also be thinking about the next horizon and beyond.

A forward thinking approach can help ensure that the decisions we make today don’t lay the foundation for a new set of problems over the horizon. Equally, understanding the types of future that might emerge post-crisis can help us plan and prepare for those possibilities as we reshape our current strategies. Finally, such future insights might help us spot, train for, and adapt to the new opportunities, challenges, and risks that could arise as a post-pandemic world unfolds.


Global Perspectives on the World After COVID-19

In this opening seminar, futurists and scenario thinkers from around the globe highlighted possible scenarios of how things could evolve over the next two to five years. They went on to explore the possible regional differences in both the potential impacts and opportunities that could emerge. Key topics explored included:

  • The Economy– How might the global economy and regional markets be reshaped?
  • The Operating Environment– Are we looking at a complete reboot of the system or more gradual change?
  • Consequences – Who might the biggest beneficiaries and victims be?
  • Society – How might values and behaviours evolve?
  • Action – What should leaders, politicians, and individuals be doing now to prepare themselves for such an uncertain future?
The key outputs from the session are summarized here for those who want to follow up:
  1. Video– you can see the video of the webinar here.
  2. Next Event– You can find the details for the next event on April 16th here.
  3. Survey– You can take the survey on The Social and Economic Impacts of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic here.
  4. Jerome Glenn’s Literature Review – The list of resources that Jerry and his team have been reviewing for the American Red Cross can be found here.
  5. Pero Micic’s Scenarios – You can find the link to Pero’s paper here.
  6. Rohit’s Articles – You can find my related articles here:
  1. Social Media Groups– we have set up groups exploring Post-Pandemic Futures – Scenarios and Projections for our World After COVID-19 on both LinkedIn and Facebook:
  2. Forthcoming Book– We will be publishing Aftershocks and Opportunities – Futurists Envision our Post-Pandemic Future on June 1st, 2020. The closing date for submission of 1,000 word chapters is April 19th, 2020. Full details are available here.
Panel Members
Puruesh Chaudhary – Member of the World Economic Forum Network of Global Future Councils, Pakistan

Jerome Glenn – Executive Director and CEO – The Millennium Project, USA

Tanja Hichert – Scenario Planner – Hichert and Associates, South Africa

Pero Micic – CEO – FutureManagementGroup AG, Germany


We will post updates on future events. If you are interested in being a panellist on a future event, please contact us.

Rohit Talwar
Fast Future
Mob +44 (0)7973 405145
Twitter: @fastfuture


The Futurist Perspective – Ten Key Messages on Navigating a Crisis

By Rohit Talwar, Alexandra Whittington, and Steve Wells
How can we draw on the work of futurists and foresight professionals to enhance our responses to the current crisis and increase resilience against future shocks?

Within the futurist community there is much hand wringing and frustration at the extent to which leaders, decision makers, and policy advisors have ignored past advice and countless preparedness studies for governments, businesses, and civil society. Since the 1960’s the stock in trade of much futurist work has been to advise on both the range of risks on the horizon and also, more importantly, the response strategies to mitigate the impacts and after-effects. From health pandemics and extreme weather events through to infrastructure shocks and financial fault lines – there has been no shortage of foresight and preparedness advice.

So, what lessons can we learn from the past and apply to both our current pandemic responses and our future scenarios? Here are ten messages that we believe need to be factored in by governments, businesses, and civil society:

1. Genuinely Global Response Mechanisms – Futurists have long since argued the centrality of co-ordinated international action to address many of our biggest global issues – as articulated well in the Millennium Project’s 15 Global Challenges. For example, recovery from the global financial crisis is attributed in part to well co-ordinated international action. In contrast, the failure to make the desired progress on climate change is blamed on weaknesses in the global policy and response mechanisms currently in place. COVID-19 has focused attention on the fact that, until this largely “aircraft borne” disease has truly been brought under control everywhere, it remains a risk for all. The solutions for these global health, humanitarian, and economic crises will required co-ordinated and consistently executed action across the planet. From testing and treatment through to economic recovery, nations will need to work together to address the current challenges and ensure more robust future anticipatory and response mechanisms.

2. Develop Scenarios for a Range of Shocks – The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of developing scenarios for a range of possible types of shock from health emergencies to weather disasters, terror incidents, and infrastructure breakdown. Not every risk can be covered but the broad types of underlying impact can be addressed to help inform preparedness strategies and plans. These risk / shock scenarios should either include or drive a subsequent set of scenarios which focus on the possible social and economic impacts and aftermath. Thinking the unthinkable on a regular basis should become part of the training of every leader and manager and embedded in the governance processes of every organisation – public and private.

3. Strategies, Plans, and Testing: Focus on Broad Categories of Impact  A follow action is to develop strategies and plans and test them against a range of the underlying scenarios. The aim is to highlight where response mechanisms are robust and identify key points of weakness or omission. The testing needs to start with an intellectual “red teaming” exercise to assess robustness, followed a practical one involving all the agencies and resources to see what happens when strategies and plans meet reality.

We cannot plan for every possible event, but we can prepare for the types of impact – be that a health crisis that impacts the whole country or an accidental or deliberate failure that disables critical transport, communications, or utilities infrastructures. So, for example, we don’t need to know all the possible causes to plan for situations where large numbers of businesses are unable to operate with the resultant impacts on the workforce.

Knowing that such events might happen allows governments to think through and put in place the responses mechanisms, such as the ability to make payments to every business and individual. For example, it would allow alternative models of guaranteed basic income and service provision to be evaluated and delivery mechanisms to be established in advance of their need. These may never be needed but having them ready and tested means they can be mobilised rapidly.Much of what is being rushed through in the midst of the crisis today around the world would fall under this category.

4. Assume Emergency Powers Will be Required – Many governments are rushing through emergency powers to allow them to maintain public order and address the crisis. The speed of implementation leaves little time for the normal mechanisms of scrutiny by politicians, civil society organizations, the media, and the public. A more forward-looking approach would be to draft, debate, and agree such measures in advance of any emergency and then simply enact the already approved measures during the crisis. Clearly, not every eventuality can be covered – but most can.

5. Resilience Through Distributed Capability and Resources – The current crisis has highlighted the challenges of trying to do everything centrally in the middle of a crisis – from COVID-19 testing through to distribution of personal protective equipment. Countless preparedness exercises have highlighted the importance of having people and physical resources distributed across the nation to ensure action can be enabled quickly. At the simplest level this means ensuring medical facilities have sufficient stocks of equipment to last them three months or more and everyone involved already knows exactly what to do in the absence of central guidance.

6. Enable Self Organizing Systems and Networks – The current crisis has highlighted the innovative power and impact of self-organizing systems. These range from the recruitment and mobilization of hundreds and thousands of volunteers and new cross-sectoral collaborations through to solution hackathons and global data and computing capability sharing initiatives. Again, we cannot predict the exact nature of a crisis, but we can expect that self-organizing systems will be an essential part of the solution. The speed with which such initiatives can get going can be accelerated by putting in place such enabling mechanisms in advance to support network convenors and co-ordinators.

7. Mobilize at the Earliest Warning Signals – The current crisis has highlighted huge differences in the approaches taken by different governments. Interestingly, those with some of the most sophisticated horizon scanning and risk planning mechanisms such as Singapore were able to act quickly and comprehensively. Key actions taken by such countries included closing transit borders with affected regions, implementing rapid and widespread testing and contact tracing, resourcing medical facilities, ordering additional medical supplies and equipment, and contacting retired and reservist personnel to alert them that they might be needed.

Across every broad category of risk from health to the environment, there are equivalent measures that can be taken early and pre-emptively. Whilst there is a cost involved in maintaining higher stock levels, it is significantly lower than that now being experienced by those who are trying to resource such requirements at the same time as everyone else and in a more chaotic and uncoordinated way. The cost in human terms of unnecessary exposure is incalculable.

8. Explain the Underlying Science, Models, Assumptions, and Plans – People crave information. Authoritative government communications can help dispel misinformation and rumour and enable organizations and individuals to plan. For example, some governments have been exceptionally clear about which models they are using, the assumptions, they are making, how long they expect things to last, and the response mechanisms they are putting in place. Of course, there are caveats because no one knows for sure how long a particular crisis might last.

Hence, it is crucially important to clarify whether you are anticipating a two-week disruption or a six month one. This helps businesses to plan more effectively and enables firms and individuals to assess the potential financial impacts and act accordingly. People are far more willing to forgive timeline changes from a government that communicates clearly than one that has obfuscated, presented mixed messages, and hedged its bets. Official, comprehensive, and regularly updated websites are critical to ensuring people are drawing from a single source of government information and advice.

9. Minimize the Crisis Agenda – The actions outlined above all help ensure better forward planning, greater resilience, and a faster speed of response. Critically, they allow governments to build public confidence and support by allowing rapid and co-ordinated action. They also minimize the range of crisis specific actions and decisions that need to be made at speed. This in turn reduces the risk of poorly thought through, uncoordinated, and badly communicated crisis response measures.

10. Learning and After Action Review – However well governments address the actions outlined above, not everything will work perfectly, unexpected and unpredictable issues will still arise, and previously tested systems will fail in unanticipated ways. Hence, a willingness to acknowledge, share, and learn from these issues and mistakes is essential both to refine current response strategies and to the updating of plans for future emergencies. Once the crisis has passed, a more rigorous “after action review” is vital – taking inputs from across society. This can only help improve future strategies, plans, and overall resilience.

The crisis has highlighted the flawed nature of some nations’ crisis response strategies and resilience plans. This need not be the case. Not every crisis can be anticipated, but the impacts of most can be prepared for with well-constructed scenarios, robust strategies, and regularly tested and well-resourced plans. There have never been more people around the world involved in foresight, future studies, risk anticipation, horizon scanning, scenario planning, and other forms of futurist activity. Now, might be quite a good time to start listening to what they have to say.



  • What use does your organization make of scenario planning and horizon scanning to prepare for possible future shocks, crises, and dramatic economic disruptions?
  • How robust are your business strategies and disaster preparedness plans against the range of scenarios that might play out at the global, national, and market level?
  • How open is your organization to hearing difficult messages and considering previously unthinkable scenarios that could overturn your current assumptions and business plans?
  • How often do you undertake horizon scanning and scenario thinking exercises – how do the feed into strategy development and operational planning?
  • How do you go about training managers and leaders to think about the future and factor in possible developments that are not on their current radar? 
  • How well prepared do you feel to share the level of uncertainty we are experiencing with your teams?
  • Do you have the skills and organizational support to cope with the additional responsibility on you as a leader?

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.


How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.

Image: by intographics

Summary of Politico Magazine Article: How Might Coronavirus Change our World?

Politico Magazine surveyed more than 30 macro thinkers – here are the key messages:


1. The personal becomes dangerous.

2. A new kind of patriotism.

3. A decline in polarization.

4. A return to faith in serious experts.

5. Religious worship will look different.

6. New forms of reform.



7. Regulatory barriers to online tools will fall.

8. A healthier digital lifestyle.

9. A boon to virtual reality.


Health / Science

10. The rise of telemedicine.

11. An opening for stronger family care.

12. Government becomes Big Pharma.

13. Science reigns again.



14. (US) Congress can finally go virtual.

15. Big government makes a comeback.

16. Government service regains its cachet.

17. A new civic federalism.

18. The rules we’ve lived by won’t all apply.

19. Revived trust in institutions.

20. Expect a political uprising.



21. Electronic voting goes mainstream.

22. Election Day will become Election Month.

23. Voting by mail will become the norm.


The Global Economy

24. More restraints on mass consumption.

25. Stronger domestic supply chains.

26. The inequality gap will widen.



27. A hunger for diversion.

28. Less communal dining—but maybe more cooking.

29. A revival of parks.

30. A change in our understanding of ‘change.’

31. The tyranny of habit no more.

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.


How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.





Aftershocks and Opportunities – Futurists Envision our Post-Pandemic Future Call for Chapters Target Publication Date: June 1st, 2020

By Rohit Talwar

While the world grapples with the current unfolding crisis, as futurists we know how important it is to also be thinking about the next horizon and beyond. This can help ensure that the decisions we make today don’t lay the foundation for a new set of problems over the horizon. Equally, understanding the types of future that might emerge post-crisis can help us plan and prepare for those possibilities as we reshape our strategies today. Finally, such future insights might help us spot, train for, and adapt to the new opportunities that could arise as a post-pandemic world unfolds.

Here at Fast Future, we are starting to ask what the possibilities and opportunities are for a post-pandemic future – and we want to engage a global community of future thinkers in that dialogue. Hence, we want to develop a fast track, widely accessible, and affordable book to be published on June 1st, 2020 – providing individuals, leaders, and organizations with foresight, insight, challenge, visionary thinking, and navigational guidance on what might lie ahead. This is a fast track opportunity to put your latest thinking in front of a world hungry for ideas, hope, and inspiration.

We are inviting people from across the globe with a perspective on the issue to explore how the world might look after the COVID-19 pandemic. Aftershocks and Opportunities – Futurists Envision our Post-Pandemic Future (working book title) will portray diverse perspectives on economic, cultural, organisational, political, social, scientific, technological, commercial, and ecological evolution over the coming two to five years. Chapter submissions will be accepted until April 19th, 2020.

We want contributions from people who can write about some aspect of the emerging possibilities and opportunities in the form of scenarios, stories from the future, development timelines, or exploring how particular domains might play out. The book launch date is scheduled for June 1st, 2020.

Please use the link below to see the full details of the project and how to submit a chapter:…/post-pandemic-future/

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


Image: by geralt

Navigating Covid-19 Impacts and The Coronavirus Tech Handbook

By Rohit Talwar

We are increasingly being asked to advise and comment on scenarios and response strategies in relation to Covid-19 and its possible implications in the short, medium, and longer term for individuals, society, government, and business. Our advice is that clients need to be thinking about three separate time horizons:

  • The next three to six months – how do we deal with the immediate impacts on and protection of our staff, travel and events, our supply chains, operating locations, demand for our products and services, cash flow, pricing, marketing, and brand reputation.
  • The next twelve months – How do we revisit every aspect of our business and operating model – encompassing all of the above – if the virus and resulting economic impacts might continue to effect us over the coming year.
  • The next one to three years – How might we change the shape of our business, location footprint, sourcing, routes to market, product and service offerings, staffing models, and use of technology if the knock on effects have a more dramatic impact on our markets and the economy more widely.

As mentioned in a previous article on the topic of Responding to the Coronavirus Disruption, scenarios can be a powerful tool for exploring how the key factors might play out and in determining alternate response strategies. To be useful, such scenarios need to go beyond narrow considerations about our immediate market and look more broadly, considering the dynamics of Covid-19 and a range of economic, business, and societal factors including issues such as:

  • The dynamics of Covid-19 – speed and extent of its spread, potential for secondary and subsequent infection waves, infection and mortality rates, emerge of reliable tests, vaccines, and cures
  • Economics – alternative scenarios and impact on GDP, supply chains, global markets, travel, financial markets, country stability, consumer behaviour, interest rates, availability of finance, insurance costs, company failures, and levels of corporate and individual debt
  • Business responses – cost cutting, headcount, recruitment, physical location footprint, pursuit of new markets, development of new products and services – where are the growth opportunities with Covid-19, innovation, investment, and overall confidence
  • Societal impacts – food chain security, capacity and resilience of health services, transport systems, policing, security, and public order, general wellbeing and mental health, environmental outcomes, education, and political stability.

To help understand the multifaceted nature of Covid-19, we found the Coronavirus Tech Handbook to be an incredibly valuable resource.  Initiated by The London College of Political Technologists at Newspeak House, this crowdsourced resource is aimed primarily at technologists building things related to the Coronavirus outbreak. However, we find the resource is far more generally applicable covering topics such as datasets and international visualisations, diagnostic tools, the emerging research infrastructure, national dashboards, countering misinformation, prediction markets and forecasting, communities, models, remote working and online conferencing resources, technical tools, graphics, public service announcements, practical projects, and project ideas. This excellent resource is being updated continuously and growing in content and value.


This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.


Image: by The Digital Artist

COVID-19 Impacts: The Really Important Stuff – Rescheduling the Premier League

By Rohit Talwar

Although it might seem trivial in the broader context, the English FA Premier League is facing the challenging issue of how to complete the current 2019-2020 season. These are difficult times which call for radical solutions.

Why is this important? As a form of entertainment, football plays an important role in many people’s lives and is an outlet for their passion and energy. It is also a major employer, an economic contributor, and has an underlying structure of professional, semi-professional, and amateur leagues that together touch hundreds of thousands of people. So, as the richest and most economically important league in the world, how the Premier League decides to complete an unfinished season is important, with wide ranging implications for the game and other sports in the UK and around the world.

The basic facts are that we have 20 teams in the league playing 38 games in the season that normally runs for about nine months from early August to early May. Most teams currently have either nine or ten games left to pay. This season, Liverpool have had an incredible season and are 25 points ahead of their nearest rivals – Manchester City. Barring a miraculous collapse in form, Liverpool are on course to win the league, which has currently been suspended until April 3rd.

The Premier League clubs are due to meet on Thursday to decide what to do with the season. Their decision will have wide ranging ramifications for those involved directly and in terms of influencing the decision making of other sports.

A number of options are being proposed. One is to render the season null and void and then start the 2020-21 season as soon as is practicable. A second is to effectively end the season now and award the title to Liverpool. In that scenario, there are various views as to whether any teams would be relegated based on their current position. One option is not to relegate anyone, enlarge the league to 22 clubs, and promote the top two sides from the Championship (the next league) – and repeat that process all the way down through the feeder leagues.

This could lead to a lot of litigation with clubs arguing that it works against their interests. For example, teams like Manchester United, Wolves, and Sheffield United are currently just outside the four Champions League qualifying slots in fifth to seventh position. They might argue that their form is better than that of Chelsea in fourth place, that they have a relatively easier run in for some of them, and hence are more likely to finish in the top four.

Another option is to finish the season with the games being played behind closed doors, televised live with no fans in attendance. This rather defeats the role of the game as live entertainment. Furthermore, while it makes money for the top teams, it would be financially catastrophic for teams in lower leagues that rely on matchday revenue for survival.

The final option is to simply delay the end of the season and complete the games in front of live attendees. This would allow Liverpool to receive the title as a rightful acknowledgement of their remarkable season. All of the other promotion and relegation issues would be resolved in the normal manner. My proposal would be to schedule the games to be completed between December 2020 and Mid-February 2021 – when the first and possible second waves of COVID-19 infection are likely to have subsided. The remaining European Champions League and UEFA Cup fixtures could be completed in that period. Co-ordination with the other European Leagues could ensure that they also completed their seasons in the same period. The European Championships could be moved from June 2020 to March 2021.

The next season could then start in May 2021 and run until December 2021. The following season could then run from the start of April 2022 to the end of April 2023 – allowing a mid-season break from Mid-October to the end of December 2022 for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which takes place from November 21st-December 18th, 2022. The league could then go back to an August start for the 2023-24 season. Alongside this, the Premier League clubs will need to act as long-term guarantors of loans to ensure the financial viability of the teams in the lower leagues.

There is no ideal way through this and I’m sure there will be a number of issues to resolve. However, we need a fair, imaginative, and forward-looking approach that allows fans to continue enjoying the game, takes account of player welfare, and secures the viability of clubs throughout the league system.



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