Back to 'the future': assessing Britain in 2010

Prediction is very difficult, especially about
the future.

In January 1991, the Policy Studies Institute cast its eyes towards the future by publishing an assessment of where Britain might be in 2010. The report attracted widespread media interest with the Guardian highlighting the anticipated ‘widening gap between rich and poor’ and the Times featuring the expectation of ‘tough action to cut emissions of greenhouse gases’. Within three years the UK government launched its Foresight programme which sought to incorporate forward thinking more explicitly into policy.

On 12 May 2010 at the RSA in London, contributors to the original report reflected on how it has stood up to the test of time in discussion with contemporary policy researchers.

You can listen to the discussion here:
session one
session two


Matthew Taylor
Chief Executive of the RSA since November 2006. Prior to this appointment, he was Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to the Prime Minister. He was the Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research between 1999 and 2003. Matthew is a frequent media commentator on policy and political issues, and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Observer, New Statesman and Prospect.


Jim Northcott
Project leader and principal author of the PSI Britain in 2010 report. He was Principal Research Fellow at the Policy Studies Institute specializing in technology and longer-term change.

Terry Barker
Authority on the theory and application of large-scale economy-energy-environment (E3) models, which he has developed for the UK and the EU. He is the Chairman of Cambridge Econometrics, having helped to found the company in 1985. He contributed economic forecasts to the PSI Britain in 2010 report.

View Terry Barker's presentation

Fred Steward
Professor of Innovation and Sustainability in the Policy Studies Institute Environment Group, since October 2009. Seconded to NESTA in 2008, he has advised government departments in the UK, Europe and China on innovation and sustainability. His primary research interest is in ‘transformative innovation’ - pervasive, radical, system-wide social & technological change.

View Fred Steward's presentation

Malcolm Rigg
Director of Policy Studies Institute since October 2004. He was previously Managing Director of the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB). Before joining BMRB he was Director of Research at COI Communications and has also been Head of Public Interest Research at Consumers’ Association (now Which?).

View Malcolm Rigg's presentation

Ben Martin
Professor, Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex. Pioneered the notion of “foresight” as a tool to identify areas of strategic research and emerging generic technologies likely to yield the greatest economic or social benefits. Member of the Steering Group for the UK Foresight Programme from 1993 to 2000.

View Ben Martin's presentation

Joe Ravetz
Co-Director of Manchester University’s Centre for Urban & Regional Ecology. His study ‘City-Region 2020 – integrated planning for a sustainable environment’ draws on a major case study of the long-term future of a large conurbation. Currently exploring possible futures in ‘City-State 21 – pathways and signposts for the 21st century’.

View Joe Ravetz's presentation

Read the report

The full PSI report, Britain in 2010 is available with the original press release and summary here.