Horizon scanning – balancing opportunities with reality

02 November, 2018

Organizations have long recognized the need for medium- to long-term planning. This remains ever more important if businesses want to take advantage of emerging trends and be well-prepared for what changes and impacts these may bring. Horizon scanning is a powerful technique used by some organizations to identify emerging opportunities, potential threats and risks. Most are balancing the opportunities of unprecedented scientific discovery and ground-breaking innovation with the realities of a changing consumer, a harsher regulatory environment and emerging disruptive business models.


A full horizon scan includes scanning for emerging issues in a political, economic, societal, technological, legislative and environmental – sometimes shortened to PESTLE – point of view that may be an opportunity or a threat to the organization. In general, legislation only changes after a development in one of the other PESTLE factors. For example, legislation does not change until a new technology has emerged or there is a shift in consumer preference which needs to be regulated. Therefore, it is vital that regulatory horizon scanning is coupled with looking for the true cause behind why a regulation may need changing.

Primary research – powerful tool

Very often, regulatory horizon scanning is undertaken by purely secondary research, looking at publicly available information. But a very powerful tool is to perform primary research, identifying the leader in the field and interviewing them. It is also very important to scan for what is happening globally. The global food regulatory environment is like a beautiful web, with each market in some way connected to another market.

Actionable outputs

Finally, identifying emerging factors is only the first step. It is also important to identify any opportunities, threats and risks for the business and be clear about the objectives for your organization and ensure that any horizon scanning has actionable outputs.

Full PESTLE horizon scanning

Here at the Science Group, we are helping companies prepare for future eventualities, allowing them to take best advantage of the emerging trends that will impact it. Leatherhead Food Research’s experts in food legislation scan food regulations globally, identifying potential future trends and changes that might impact the industry. This is enhanced by Oakland’s strategic expertise in undertaking full PESTLE horizon scanning, including interviews with key experts.

Read our papers here:

• Leatherhead Food Research – Regulatory horizon scanning: three things you need to know

• Oakland Innovation – What’s beyond the horizon?


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