Horizon scanning (HS) or horizon scan is a method from futures studies, sometimes regarded as a part of foresight.[1] It is the early detection and assessment of emerging technologies or threats for mainly policy makers in a domain of choice.[2][3][4] Such domains include agriculture,[5] environmental studies,[6] health care,[7] biosecurity,[2] and food safety.[8]

Some sources mention HS as an alternative name for environmental scanning (ES),[9] or view HS as a subset of ES,[10] or at least suggest ES to have a similar goal to HS.[11] In summary, ES has key differences to HS.[12] ES is rather concerned to provide industry specific information for short-term decision making in a competitive environment.[13][14][15]


One of the first usages of the term horizon scanning as related to futures studies appeared in 1995 in a paper discussing trends in information technology and forecasting the year 2005.[16] Then, horizon scanning was used to name detection and early evaluation of health care technologies in a European workshop in September 1997, whose participants were 27 policy makers and researchers from 12 countries.[7] This workshop was organized as a part of the European health technology assessment project (HTA).[7] Policy makers and planners of health services were the main target groups for knowledge produced by horizon scanning.[7]

Definitions of Horizon Scanning
Year Source Definition
2002 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Horizon scanning is "the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely future developments which are at the margins of current thinking and planning’ and, continuing, horizon scanning ‘may explore novel and unexpected issues, as well as persistent problems or trends."[17]

2004 UK Government's Chief Scientific Advisor's Committee "Horizon scanning is the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely future developments including – but not restricted to – those that are at the margins of current thinking and planning. Horizon scanning may explore novel and unexpected issues, as well as persistent problems or trends."[18]
2015 Report by Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland for the European Commission "Horizon Scanning is the systematic outlook to detect early signs of potentially important developments. These can be weak (or early) signals, trends, wild cards or other developments, persistent problems, risks and threats, including matters at the margins of current thinking that challenge past assumptions."[19]
2019 OECD

Horizon scanning is "a technique for detecting early signs of potentially important developments through a systematic examination of potential threats and opportunities, with emphasis on new technology and its effects on the issue at hand."[20]

Phases and techniques

A 2013 systematic study of 23 formally established health technology HS programs from different countries identified following common phases in a horizon scanning process:[21]

Horizon scanning shares common methods with future-oriented technology analysis.[22][23] Horizon scanning includes following techniques:[6][21]

Technique Example
Interviews Environmental Research Funders Forum Horizon Scanning Study[24]
Issue tree Foresight project on Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs[25]
Literature searches and state-of-science reviews Medical Technology Horizon Scanning[26]
Expert workshops Horizon scan of conservation issues in UK.[27] Assessment of 100 ecological questions of highest priority to global conservation.[28]
Open fora Future Wiki[29]
Delphi questionnaire 50 key issues for the future of Mediterranean wetlands[30]
Trend analysis HSTOOL – semiautomatic discovery of scientific trends from clusters of publications[31]
Scenarios[32] Wildlife Conservation Societies’ Futures of the Wild[33]
Systems/Maps Foresight project on Tackling Obesities: Future Choices[34]

Governmental bodies

European Union

European commission developed the Transport Research and Innovation Monitoring and Information System (TRIMIS) in 2017, an open-access transport information system supporting the implementation of the seven Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA) roadmaps.[35] In 2021, a horizon scanning module was added to TRIMIS.[36] This horizon scanning framework developed by Joint Research Centre within TRIMIS uses news media, scientific publication sources, patent data sources, EU funding datasets and other sources as basis for text mining.

Joint Research Centre's "Tool for Innovation Monitoring" augments horizon scanning with text mining of available literature.[37] This tool is developed in 2020. Among the used data sources are Scopus, PATSTAT and Cordis.


Umweltbundesamt applies horizon scanning since 2012 along with trend analysis.[38]


In the Russian Federation, horizon scanning is performed by Higher School of Economics and financed by Ministry of Education and Science.[39] In 2012, Putin stated that "[a] Foresight exercise for Russia’s science and technology towards 2030 is due to be completed. It highlights specific ways to both revitalize traditional sectors and penetrate into new high-tech markets…". Russian horizon scanning team consisted of 15–20 members and conducted an online survey of 2000 experts.


Swedish Defence Research Agency has developed a software tool named HSTOOL for HS of scientific literature in 2019.[40] The scientific literature is searched, clustered in groups that correspond to subject subfields and evaluated based on the bibliometric numbers. The clustering is performed using Gibbs sampling Dirichlet multinomial mixture model algorithm. The citation statistics are provided derived from Thomson Reuters' Web of Science.


In order to centralize horizon scanning, UK has founded the English Horizon Scanning Centre (HSC) in 2005.[41] The Cabinet Office's Horizon Scanning Secretariat and the Government Office for Science's Horizon Scanning Centre were combined to the Horizon Scanning Programme team in 2014.[42]


In 2010, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) established the first publicly funded Healthcare Horizon Scanning program of the US.[43]

See also


  1. ^ Cuhls, Kerstin E. (2020). "Horizon Scanning in Foresight – Why Horizon Scanning is only a part of the game". Futures & Foresight Science. 2 (1): e23. doi:10.1002/ffo2.23. ISSN 2573-5152.
  2. ^ a b "Continuity Central". www.continuitycentral.com. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  3. ^ Sutherland, William J.; Aveling, Rosalind; Brooks, Thomas M.; et al. (January 2014). "A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2014". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 29 (1): 15–22. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2013.11.004. PMC 3884124. PMID 24332318.
  4. ^ Smith, J; Ward, D; Michaelides, M; et al. (September 2015). "New and emerging technologies for the treatment of inherited retinal diseases: a horizon scanning review". Eye. 29 (9): 1131–1140. doi:10.1038/eye.2015.115. PMC 4565944. PMID 26113499.
  5. ^ Text Mining for Horizon Scanning: An Insight Into Agricultural Research and Innovation in Africa. Publications Office of the European Union. 2020. ISBN 978-92-76-21446-5.
  6. ^ a b Sutherland, William J.; Woodroof, Harry J. (1 October 2009). "The need for environmental horizon scanning". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 24 (10): 523–527. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.04.008. ISSN 0169-5347. PMID 19660827.
  7. ^ a b c d Carlsson, P.; Jørgensen, T. (1998). "Scanning the horizon for emerging health technologies. Conclusions from a European Workshop". International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care. 14 (4): 695–704. doi:10.1017/s0266462300012010. ISSN 0266-4623. PMID 9885460. S2CID 1184587.
  8. ^ "Horizon Scanning and Foresight: An overview of approaches and possible applications in Food Safety" (PDF). FAO. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  9. ^ Schultz, Wendy L. (1 January 2006). "The cultural contradictions of managing change: using horizon scanning in an evidence-based policy context". Foresight. 8 (4): 3–12. doi:10.1108/14636680610681996. ISSN 1463-6689.
  10. ^ Miles, Ian; Saritas, Ozcan (2 November 2012). "The depth of the horizon: searching, scanning and widening horizons". Foresight. 14 (6): 530–545. doi:10.1108/14636681211284953.
  11. ^ van Rij, Victor (1 February 2010). "Joint horizon scanning: identifying common strategic choices and questions for knowledge". Science and Public Policy. 37 (1): 7–18. doi:10.3152/030234210X484801. ISSN 0302-3427.
  12. ^ Rowe, Emily; Wright, George; Derbyshire, James (1 December 2017). "Enhancing horizon scanning by utilizing pre-developed scenarios: Analysis of current practice and specification of a process improvement to aid the identification of important 'weak signals'". Technological Forecasting and Social Change. 125: 224–235. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2017.08.001. ISSN 0040-1625.
  13. ^ Choo, Chun Wei (2002). Information Management for the Intelligent Organization: The Art of Scanning the Environment. Information Today, Inc. ISBN 978-1-57387-125-9.
  14. ^ Miles, Ian; Saritas, Ozcan (2 November 2012). "The depth of the horizon: searching, scanning and widening horizons". Foresight. 14 (6): 530–545. doi:10.1108/14636681211284953. ISSN 1463-6689.
  15. ^ Ramírez, Rafael; Selsky, John W. (February 2016). "Strategic Planning in Turbulent Environments: A Social Ecology Approach to Scenarios". Long Range Planning. 49 (1): 90–102. doi:10.1016/j.lrp.2014.09.002.
  16. ^ Gates, William H. (1 January 1995). "Horizon Scanning: Opportunities Technology Will Bring by 2005". Journal of Business Strategy. 16 (1): 19–21. doi:10.1108/eb039676. ISSN 0275-6668.
  17. ^ Könnölä, Totti; Salo, Ahti; Cagnin, Cristiano; et al. (1 March 2012). "Facing the future: Scanning, synthesizing and sense-making in horizon scanning". Science and Public Policy. 39 (2): 222–231. doi:10.1093/scipol/scs021. hdl:11475/8386.
  18. ^ Palomino, Marco A.; Bardsley, Sarah; Bown, Kevin; et al. (24 August 2012). "Web-based horizon scanning: concepts and practice". Foresight. 14 (5): 355–373. doi:10.1108/14636681211269851.
  19. ^ "Models of Horizon Scanning How to integrate Horizon Scanning into European Research and Innovation Policies" (PDF). Fraunhofer ISI. 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  20. ^ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2020-01-14). HORIZON SCANNING AND FORESIGHT METHODS. National Academies Press (US). Retrieved 22 June 2021.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ a b Sun, F; Schoelles, K (2013). AHRQ Health Care Horizon Scanning System A Systematic Review of Methods for Health Care Technology Horizon Scanning (PDF).
  22. ^ Eerola, A.; Miles, I. (1 April 2011). "Methods and tools contributing to FTA: A knowledge-based perspective". Futures. 43 (3): 265–278. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2010.11.005. ISSN 0016-3287.
  23. ^ Tagiew, Rustam; Witzler, Sebastian; Portier, Martin (14 July 2022). "Towards Assessing Digital Technologies for the Future of Mobility". Social Science Research Network. SSRN 4151745. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ "An Environment Research Funders' Forum Report: Horizon Scanning Study". ERA Visions. 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Brain science, addiction and drugs". GOV.UK. 2005. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  26. ^ Brown, I.; Smale, A.; Verma, A.; Momandwall, S. (December 2004). "Medical Technology Horizon Scanning". Australasian Physical & Engineering Sciences in Medicine. 27 (4): 294–295. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  27. ^ Sutherland, William J.; Bailey, Mark J.; Bainbridge, Ian P.; et al. (2008). "Future novel threats and opportunities facing UK biodiversity identified by horizon scanning". Journal of Applied Ecology. 45 (3): 821–833. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01474.x. ISSN 1365-2664.
  28. ^ Sutherland, William J.; Armstrong-Brown, Susan; Armsworth, Paul R.; et al. (2006). "The identification of 100 ecological questions of high policy relevance in the UK". Journal of Applied Ecology. 43 (4): 617–627. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2006.01188.x. hdl:2318/123675. ISSN 1365-2664.
  29. ^ "Futura Wikia". Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  30. ^ Taylor, Nigel G.; Grillas, Patrick; Al Hreisha, Hazem; et al. (2021). "The future for Mediterranean wetlands: 50 key issues and 50 important conservation research questions". Regional Environmental Change. 21 (2): 33. doi:10.1007/s10113-020-01743-1. PMC 7982080. PMID 33776560.
  31. ^ Karasalo, Maja; Schubert, Johan (September 2019). "Developing Horizon Scanning Methods for the Discovery of Scientific Trends". 2019 International Conference on Document Analysis and Recognition (ICDAR). pp. 1055–1062. doi:10.1109/ICDAR.2019.00172. ISBN 978-1-7281-3014-9. S2CID 207977849. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  32. ^ Palomino, Marco A.; Bardsley, Sarah; Bown, Kevin; et al. (1 January 2012). "Web-based horizon scanning: concepts and practice". Foresight. 14 (5): 355–373. doi:10.1108/14636681211269851. ISSN 1463-6689. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  33. ^ Futures of the Wild: A Project of the Wildlife Conservation Society Futures Group. Wildife Conservation Society Futures Group and Bio-Era. 2007.
  34. ^ "Reducing obesity: future choices". GOV.UK. 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  35. ^ European Commission. Joint Research Centre (2018). JRC Publications Repository. Publications Office of the European Union. doi:10.2760/331714. ISBN 9789279773570. Retrieved 23 January 2022. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  36. ^ Tsakalidis, Anastasios; Boelman, Elisa; Marmier, Alain; et al. (1 September 2021). "Horizon scanning for transport research and innovation governance: A European perspective". Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives. 11: 100424. doi:10.1016/j.trip.2021.100424. ISSN 2590-1982.
  37. ^ Borchardt, Steve; Estreguil, Christine (2020). Text mining for horizon scanning : an insight into agricultural research and innovation in Africa (PDF). Luxembourg. ISBN 978-92-76-21446-5.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  38. ^ Lehmphul, Karin (24 May 2016). "Horizon Scanning / Trendanalyse". Umweltbundesamt (in German).
  39. ^ Cuhls, Kerstin E. (2020). "Horizon Scanning in Foresight – Why Horizon Scanning is only a part of the game". Futures & Foresight Science. 2 (1): e23. doi:10.1002/ffo2.23. ISSN 2573-5152. S2CID 212853499. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  40. ^ "HSTOOL for Horizon Scanning of Scientific Literature". foi.se. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  41. ^ Miles, Ian; Saritas, Ozcan (2 November 2012). "The depth of the horizon: searching, scanning and widening horizons". Foresight: The Journal of Future Studies, Strategic Thinking and Policy. 14 (6): 530–545. doi:10.1108/14636681211284953.
  42. ^ "Horizon Scanning Programme team". GOV.UK. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  43. ^ "Horizon Scanning: Identifying and Estimating Future Impact of Emerging Innovations on US Health Care" (PDF). www.ispor.org. Retrieved 26 February 2021.