Horizon Scanning

Horizon Scanning in brief

Horizon scanning is a structured activity whose objective is to detect and analyse at an early stage emerging ‘game changers’ that could have significant impact on society and policy. Beyond seeking and identifying emerging trends, horizon scanning helps assess and prioritise early signals for decision-making or for further examination and analysis.

Aiming to build on existing early warning mechanisms across the EU institutions, agencies and bodies, the ESPAS horizon scanning project has a two-fold goal. On the one hand, to establish a rolling process to produce reports that engage colleagues across the ESPAS institutions and bodies in a continuous, longer-term, cross-cutting reflection around emerging and potential future trends. On the other hand, to create an EU community of practitioners and experts (‘future scanners’) able to identify and inform about emerging signals of change.

Contact us: To learn more about the ESPAS Horizon Scanning project or be part of it, please email to Horizon Scanning team.

Horizon Scanning publications

  • New ‘OPECS’ for minerals and other resources
  • The dark biosphere
  • Artificial moral agents

March 2024

  • De-Dollarrisation
  • AI-Generated worlds
  • In-Space manufacturing

November 2023

  • BRICS expansion alternatives to multilateralism
  • New sources of extreme inequalities
  • Radical food production methods

June 2023

  • End of the peace dividend and the cost of geopolitics
  • Governance of global commons exploitation
  • Silent citizenship

November 2022

  • Chinese narratives in international politics
  • Radical transparency
  • Rights-based approaches to resources and environment

July 2022



The ESPAS horizon scanning activity is led by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and the European Parliamentary Research Service in cooperation with other EU institutions. An iterative methodology was rolled out at three successive levels, involving experts in a variety of policy areas and across several EU institutions.

  • Firstly, at the outset, this exercise aimed to build a wider EU community engaged in horizon scanning. Their task at a first level has involved looking for future developments that sit at the margins of current thinking and planning, the so-called ‘signs of new’.

  • Secondly, sense-making workshops are organised on a monthly basis to consider through new lenses the identified ‘signs of new’ collected over the month and find links and interconnections among them across policies and sectors. The aim of these second-level workshops is thus to imagine possible impactful future developments, ‘signals of change’, using the collected signs as prompts.

  • Thirdly, future impact workshops, conceived as exploratory and prioritisation workshops are organised after conducting a few sense-making workshops. These workshops also include the participation of officials across all ESPAS institutions and aim to prioritise the three potentially most impactful ‘signals of change’ from among those identified at an earlier stage.

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