Scenario Planning for a changing environment and transport future

Scenario Planning for a changing environment and transport future
15 July 2020

DigitopolisRicardo’s vision is to enable a world fit for the future, where people can live sustainably. While you cannot predict the future, you can certainly plan for it. Scenario plans can be created to reflect different outcomes for the environment, automotive and transport industry. This scenario planning process can help Ricardo’s partners plan more effectively by considering some of the possible ways the world around us will develop in the coming decades.

The full scenario planning whitepaper download is exclusively available within RiCK™.
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In mid-2019, Ricardo conducted an internal scenario planning project to help inform the future Ricardo plc strategy. As part of this project, we created four scenarios, each one describing the world around Ricardo in 2035. Scenarios are not predictions; they represent possible futures and predict critical uncertainties. In the scenario process, decision-makers are challenged to ‘think the unthinkable’, free of the restrictions inherent to rigid forecasts. The 2035 Ricardo Scenarios were developed by a diverse team of technology and business strategists, using inputs from across Ricardo’s global businesses.

Scenarios should be engaging and provocative. Our Digitopolis scenario describes a future where we all travel less; where remote working is the norm. We didn’t expect this change to become a reality within a few months of creating the scenarios, but it wasn’t a complete surprise.

The Digitopolis scenario describes a reduction in travel due to a chronic issue (climate change); the current reduction in travel in early 2020 is due to an acute issue (COVID 19). All of the four Ricardo 2035 scenarios contained climate-related risks and opportunities, and indeed other potential future challenges including pandemics, water, and cyberterrorism.

The Axis of Uncertainty

The four Ricardo 2035 Scenarios – ‘Creative Scavengers,’ ‘Technopolis,’ ‘Digitopolis,’ and ‘Ecopolis’ were built using interviews with multiple stakeholders. They also employed a standard process which varied according to the ‘Axis of Uncertainty’, i.e. the degree of unknowns in the future world.
Axis of uncertainty scenarios

Future Scenario Planning

In this sample whitepaper, our future research specialist considers the possibilities of how the complex world around us will play out in the coming decades. To write useful scenarios, you need to engage with different people and capture potential driving forces that could shape the world around you.

Fortunately, at Ricardo, we have an imaginative, informed, and diverse team who are willing to contribute ideas. The scenarios feature events that directly relate to climate risks and opportunities and cover issues such as transportation shifts, water shortages and pandemics. Currently, we are combining our skills in scenario planning and climate science to develop our capabilities in TCFD (Task force on Climate related Financial Decisions) applications – for both internal and external projects. Scenarios built for TCFD applications are compelling because they reflect both the certain and uncertain, along with systems thinking and consideration of consequence.

Scenario planning can help businesses:

  • Identify high-level strategic actions that would be successful in multiple future scenarios.
  • Develop ideas for successful future products and services.
  • Gauge real-world direction via the development of signposting

This whitepaper describes our scenario planning methodologies and innovations. It also provides examples of our scenarios and outlines key applications.

Scenario Planning Process

As Koehler discusses, the “art of scenario planning lies in blending the known and the unknown into a limited number of internally consistent views of the future that span a very wide range of possibilities” (Derek J. Koehler, 2008). The methodology builds scenarios using a matrix which ensures that each is qualitatively different in a logical and deductive way. The steps in the process include establishing a decision focus, considering key driving forces and plotting them on a matrix to capture importance and uncertainty, and clustering themes. We work with stakeholders and experts like economists and climate scientists to build assumptions, a narrative and assign quantitative values for each scenario. We developed four 2035 Ricardo Scenarios, including the one in this whitepaper, Digitopolis. The scenario planning process is captured within the whitepaper.


In this example scenario, developments in cost-effective digital technologies have further revolutionised the world. As the positive features of online communities started to exert dominance, the resulting Digital Earth (effectively, a twin of our physical world) has emerged, changing the way we do everything. Download the whitepaper featuring the Digitopolis scenario now.
Download Digitopolis sample

How can Ricardo help with Future Scenario planning?

The future is complex and can’t be predicted, but it can be explored. An increasing level of uncertainty surrounds the questions our experts are asked. For instance, mobility is a topic that involves many driving forces and high levels of change. Environmental legislation is accelerating, and vehicles are becoming more electrified, connected and autonomous. Scenarios help to paint coherent visions of the future complete with challenges, risks and opportunities. Scenarios can be constructed to reflect different outcomes relating to electrification, data security, mobility as a service (MaaS), and autonomy.

You can download the whitepaper featuring summaries of all four future scenarios with a RiCK subscription. The RiCK™ database combines the power of intelligence and information specialists to help your team locate the knowledge and insight they need.