Greater Manchester 2040+ is one of the UK Foresight Future of Cities projects.

The national programme on ‘Future of Cities’ is run by the Foresight Unit at the Government Office of Science: A regional Network is in progress with Newcastle, Liverpool and Cardiff, and there are 21 other cities with futures / foresight activities.  A national survey will be reported here shortly.

Here the Greater Manchester 2040+ project is a demonstration of the ‘success’ method of foresight.  This is work in progress in a fast moving context.  So, all materials on this site are for the moment:


To debate wider questions of foresight in cities in an age of austerity and devolution – the CURE Forum on Foresighting a Future with Cities is on 24th June 2015, details on CURE&cities forum – foresighting a future – 24-June


that our great cities can re-emerge as ‘powerhouses’. But behind the rhetoric there are deep concerns: lack of political trust: low productivity: divided and insecure society: crumbling infrastructure: growing regional disparities, and so on. Cities may shortly have more aspiration but less resources. Building their ‘Foresight’ capacity for learning, collaboration, strategic thinking and shared intelligence may be the only option.


there was Manchester in 1965….. Smoky factories and rows of coal-fired terrace houses: dial-up telephones were luxuries, but most neighbours stuck together and most front doors were open. If we’d known then what we know now, could we have managed it better? all the industrial shakeout and waste, social and community change, housing clearances and redevelopment and clearance again …. some would say, reinventing the same old wheels.

farnworth sewer collapse

GM2040+ looks a similar distance forward, to a far horizon of 2065, with a midway staging-post of 2040.

Led by the University of Manchester, GM2040+ aims to stimulate discussion between different sectors and policy themes. Using the University’s foresight expertise, it aims at ‘long term thinking’, exploring the potential drivers of change and uncertainty, and mapping out alternative future conditions.  From these we will build ‘success scenarios’, which take on board the challenges and opportunities, and link them to possible strategies and actions.

digital brain pic

Greater Manchester 2040 is a city-region level foresight, following the ‘success scenario’ method.  This is work in progress, in a fast changing political situation, so all materials on this site for the moment are –


The outputs include:

  • Draft synthesis report  – ‘GM2040 pathways’: GM2040+ pathways summary
  • Parallel project with young people at Loreto CollegeGM2040 – Generation2040 report
  • Visual thinking was a key part of the method: GM2040+ visual thinking
  • Working papers on ‘drivers of change’ and ‘alternative scenarios’ (see next tabs)
  • Sectoral applications, so far in ‘energy/climate’ and in ‘transport’ (work in progress)
  • Follow up dialogue in public, private and civil sectors.
  • A general brochure is here: GM2040+ SUMMARY


The ‘Future of Cities in the UK’, is a national program run by the Foresight Unit at BIS (Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills) – details on

This GM2040+ is one of a set around the UK, which will help to inform the national program. GM2040+ is also working with parallel university projects in Newcastle, Liverpool and Cardiff, and a national Network promotes and shares best practice (coordinated by Newcastle University).

Here we build on the national program, with 4 main objectives:

  • develop a ‘Success Scenario’ to feed into future work, which helps to understand how GM can ‘survive & prosper in a turbulent future’.
  • Establish links to current policy / business agendas in GM (economic, social, environmental, urban etc).
  • Stimulate discussion amongst various parties around foresight and strategic intelligence.
  • include alternative viewpoints, such as the youth perspective.

Area Scope: the Greater Manchester 10 authorities, together with the wider city-region / Economic Development Area: this is based on the travel-to-work area, and includes adjacent areas in Cheshire, Derbyshire & Lancashire.

Area Scope: we are looking at the functional economic geography of Greater Manchester, i.e. the 10 AGMA authorities together with adjacent areas.

Timescale is as the UK program, i.e. 25-50 year horizon (2040-2065). However from previous experience, 50 years is too far into the realm of ‘future fiction’ for the urban-regional scale. A 25 year horizon is close to that of long term strategy (particularly urban planning, infrastructure, climate change), and so more relevant at the urban-regional scale. So, we are using the working title “GM2040+

The website is run as a University of Manchester project.   Initial funding is from BIS (Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills) and the GM Local Enterprise Partnership.


What is foresight & why do it?

The project is not only about ‘futures’ but ‘Foresight’. Now used by organizations all over the world, Foresight methods work with uncertainty, engaging stakeholders, exploring opportunities, and working towards strategies and actions.

  • Looking at the future is like holding a mirror to the present: trends, risks, opportunities can be seen more clearly, which are otherwise submerged in the day-to-day.
  • But there is never one version of the future – so we use alternative future scenarios, to explore the possibilities, stretch our assumptions and test ‘what-if’ ideas.
  • we can then spot inter-connections and synergies between different areas. (Who in 1965 would have thought that in 2014 (a) we organize most events on facebook etc: or (b) that multi-cultural arts festivals are on reclaimed ex-industrial land.)


Outputs and outcomes

The outputs include as above: (note that all materials on this site for the moment are – FOR DEMONSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY & NOT FOR PUBLICATION.)

  • Final report – ‘GM2040+ summary’
  • Working papers on ‘drivers of change’ and ‘alternative scenarios’
  • Parallel project with young people on ‘Generation 2040’
  • Sectoral applications, so far in ‘energy/climate’ and in ‘transport’
  • Follow up dialogue in public, private and civil sectors.

What would be the outcome? Our aim is towards something more useful than a report on the shelf. We would like to aim towards a better level of ‘joined-up thinking’ engendered by this foresighting exercise, bringing together different sectors and policy themes. We aim at a better understanding of the forces of change, with the uncertainties and risks, opportunities and pathways. We aim to link the local future perspective with the national picture of the UK with all the choices ahead.



For general questions on Foresight methods & the evidence base:

Joe Ravetz, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy, School of Environment & Development, Manchester University, Oxford Rd, M13 9PL: m. 07719 233115: