December 15, 2023

#7 – Foresight - A Look Into the Future!

The Green Journal: An insight into the work for and with the future and what the Foresight team of Evonik is doing to prepare Evonik for the next 25 years.


Welcome to my blog! I am excited to share with you my latest experiences and insights into sustainable projects at Evonik. As part of my project, I was able to accompany the foresight team in their work and gain an insight into their exciting fields of activity. Therefore, I would like to tell you how the team is looking into the future and what sustainable innovation ideas they are working on at Evonik.

To be a Futurist

What will happen in the future, in the next 10-20 years? And can these events have an impact on Evonik and its business? These are questions the Foresight team asks itself every day. But how is the Foresight Team doing this? Do they look into the future with a crystal ball? Of course not ‒ but let us find out how they are future relevant contributions to the company!

Based in in Creavis, the strategic innovation unit of Evonik, the team consists of seven members and is international and interdisciplinary: While one team member comes from Nigeria, another comes from New York. Half of the team has an academic background in chemistry while the others have an expertise in foresight methodologies and diverse academic backgrounds like cultural anthropology or economics. On a very general level, the team summarizes its task to help ensure the  long-term success of Evonik. For that the team has a three step approach:

1) Recognizing changes at an early stage

2) Derive consequences for the company

3) Formulate effective responses.

The tools of Foresight 

In order to reach this goals, the team uses a variety of methods: one is the STEEP trend analysis. Here, the teams analyze a topic with a 360-degree perspective, taking Societal, Technological, Economical, Ecological & Political aspects into the consideration about the future development of the trend.

Another important method is the explorative scenario construction. The team taught me here that there is no single future, but different plausible futures, since the future is not set. By identifying and exploring these different plausible and consistent futures the company can prepare best for the different possible futures ahead.    

Without giving too much away, Foresight has developed five scenarios that relate to the chemical industry in 2040. Of course, there is also a sustainability scenario. Sustainability is as much a part of the future as it is of the present. Sustainability is not only a guiding principle, but also a reality and one of the most important drivers for many innovations. Here you can have a brief look at the different scenarios.

The Future(s) of the specialty chemicals industry | Evonik


Right now, the team is working on a focus topic called “GameChanger 2040”.  The  Foresight Team defines a “GameChanger” as potential developments that can completely change the rules of existing companies, markets or nations. The Foresight Team identifies the game changers in order to prepare Evonik for realistic changes that are observable today. Think for example of a future, where fusion reactors become reality and therefore there is an abundance of cheap electricity. This would have a huge impact on the price of chemicals as well as the way chemicals are produced in the future.

 I was lucky enough to attend a workshop in the initial phase of the GameChanger project. In this workshop, the team did a review of the GameChangers that the team identified in 2016/2017, discussing how the specific GameChaneges have developed. So imagine if we definitely live to be over 100! Is 100 then the new 70? Or we would all share what we own.

What I really noticed here was that most of the Game Changers had something to do with the environment and sustainability. Therefore, I am quite curious which new GameChanger the Foresight team will find!

In Summary

For me, it was very exciting to see how the team is looking beyond the horizon to identify potential trends & game changers. In some cases, I looked into the future with fear, but also with excitement about what could be possible. Nevertheless, it is very important and thrilling to deal with both negative and positive changes as early as possible in order to prepare Evonik for the best future possible.