Phase 2 – Identifying trends


The gradual shaping of futures knowledge is a continuous process of discussion with a broad range of participants, to ensure the collection of various and diverse perspectives as well as the joint structuring of these perspectives into a meaningful vision.

At this stage, a selected group of key experts is gathered and interviewed to have their say on emerging technology trends, developing directions, barriers and enablers, interests, opportunities, tensions and conflicts.

Experts are individuals whose specific knowledge is wanted, and they are typically representatives of organisations (e.g. firms, universities, research and technology organisation, national and local government agencies) and interest groups (chambers of commerce and industry, manufacturing associations, etc.).

Toolkit case

An expert panel was constituted to support the Regional Technology Foresight process. The panel was multidisciplinary and composed of diverse actors, with the aim of making knowledge located outside and inside the region available for the use of local actors. Experts were members of regional innovation networks, which are typically formed of heterogeneous groups of actors including representatives of firms, universities, technology centres, public organisations and non-profit organisations. They have an orientation for science and engineering and originate within and outside the region to avoid path dependency and technological lock-ins.

The ‘Manufacturing Futures’ report presents the results of the interviews with both firms and industrial technology and policy experts. The advantage of semi-structured interviews for this purpose is that they broadly follow the same questions for all interviewees but allow ample space for topics of interest to emerge throughout the conversation. This prevents closing off discussion of any potential areas that may be of interest to firms and industrial technology and policy experts.

Interviews with regional manufacturing firms assessed technological needs and challenges to determine if there are any new technological developments that might help to overcome problems or to exploit business opportunities

Interviews with industrial technology and policy experts explored in more depth some of the issues and challenges raised by regional firms. This related either to specific technological problems that firms noted they were facing, or wider problems related to technology adoption.

Phase 3 – Assessing the impact of trends

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.