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Foresight shows the Swedish Transport Administration the way forward

At the moment, aviation is, to say the least, a hive of activity. To get help looking into the crystal ball and seeing where this development could lead, the Swedish Transport Administration turned to RISE.
“We needed to draw up a research plan for the administration’s areas of responsibility, which meant that we needed an external environment analysis,” says Lars Spångberg, a strategist at the Swedish Transport Administration.

Will we fly less in the future to save the climate? Or will we fly just as much but in small electric aircraft landing at small airports in small towns? Or will we mostly travel by train, flying only between continents in large supersonic planes? If so, what fuels will these planes use and what investments will they require? And so on, and so on. There are currently many questions to consider when it comes to the future of aviation.

In Sweden, the responsible authority for some of this research field is the Swedish Transport Administration. However, just like all other organisations, their research budget is limited. Regardless of how interesting these questions are, the administration cannot devote itself to all of them, it has to prioritise.

“We needed to draw up a research plan for the administration’s areas of responsibility, which meant that we needed an external environment analysis,” says Lars Spångberg, a strategist at the Swedish Transport Administration. “And it doesn’t hurt to get an outside opinion.”

Turned to RISE for help

Moreover, since there was not enough time to perform the analysis internally, the Swedish Transport Administration turned to RISE, with the matter being handed to Johan Granberg and Björn Persson, experts in future analysis and foresight.

“The brief was to look at what might happen within aviation, in both five-to-ten and twenty-year perspectives,” says Björn Persson, an innovation and process manager at RISE. “Allowing us to conduct an external environment analysis made it easier for them to decide how to prioritise their research budget moving forward.”

It’s also at least equally important to identify what we don’t know, to provide an understanding of the uncertainty

Both breadth and depth

The initial work involved broad studies of various trends and development paths, with the findings combined and then studied in greater detail with the help of various experts at RISE.

“We knew, for example, that drones will be important, but not how. So, in that area, we looked at possible developments, how technology and regulation can drive development and, in turn, what that might lead to. Foresight, the method we used, is very much about first identifying the main features, then breaking them down into their component parts and looking at the different aspects,” says Persson.

The advantage of this approach is that it results in a number of possible future scenarios while also clearly indicating the paths they may follow.

“It’s also at least equally important to identify what we don’t know, to provide an understanding of the uncertainty. If you make a conventional prediction, you get a clear picture of how something might develop in the future. However, at the same time, there’s a risk that new things will come into play from the sidelines, uncertainties that will affect the outcome. And if you haven’t considered them, you have no understanding of the possible alternatives,” says Johan Granberg, an analyst at RISE.

Broad expertise for a nuanced picture

On behalf of the Swedish Transport Administration, RISE has determined a number of areas in which to recommend in-depth research while also identifying the most significant uncertainties to monitor.

“The major advantage we offer in such studies is the great breadth of expertise at RISE. We brought thirteen people on board, all from different fields spanning everything from alternative fuels to policy issues, to get their opinions on aviation. And it’s this breadth that enables us to produce such a well-nuanced and credible picture,” Granberg ends.

Björn Persson

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Björn Persson

Innovations- och processledare

+46 10 516 65 54

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Johan Granberg

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Johan Granberg

Analytiker

+46 10 516 69 92

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