Infrastructure and risk: our Policy Focus for the SOIF Retreat 2018


The infrastructure that surrounds us links our past, present and future. Whether transportation, energy or telecommunications, our legacy infrastructure shapes our life in the present and, through the choices we make now, may also constrain our futures. New infrastructure can be built to help us adapt in the face of uncertainty, emerging technology and a disruptive environment – or it can lock us in and leave us vulnerable to risk. Major infrastructure projects often span borders and decades, with both private and public benefits. Faced with the need to transform our infrastructure to meet the challenges of the Global Goals, this is a fascinating lens through which to understand resilience and long-term decision-making.

We have therefore chosen to make Infrastructure and risk the policy theme for our SOIF2018 retreat.”

Cat Tully, SOIF Director

Why is infrastructure important?

Infrastructure, the development of core physical assets covering transport (roads, railways, airports, and seaports), power (generation, distribution, and transmission), telecommunications, and water supply and sanitation, is regarded as vital to future economic development and growth and fundamental in securing longer term improvements in overall poverty reduction and human well-being. Indeed, the agenda of the G20 Summit in Argentina (March 2018) has included ‘Infrastructure for Development’ as one if its core themes and infrastructure is directly incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) with Goal #9 aiming to “build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation,” and goals #6 (water), #7 (energy), #8 (work and economic growth) and #11 (cities) all having direct links to achieving increased infrastructure investment and development.

What’s the problem?

Set against a backdrop of the ongoing aging and reduced capacity and efficiency of existing infrastructure assets and impacted by other interdependent global drivers of change, including globalisation, rising populations, urbanisation, employment patterns, transport and traffic volumes, climate change, changing capital flows, public sector spending reforms and private financing structures, the world is facing a persistent, but regionally uneven, gap in infrastructure financing and development. In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute estimated that up to “$3.7 trillion of investment in economic infrastructure alone is needed every year from now until 2035” , whilst the Asian Development Bank has suggested that, in relation to Asia, “factoring in climate mitigation and adaptation costs raises the investment required to $26.2 trillion—$1.7 trillion annually—or 5.9% of projected GDP” for the region to be able to meet its projected infrastructure needs.

What are the risks for the future?

Infrastructure development represents a multi-decadal set of processes, activities and resource uses. It will involve a wide cross-section of stakeholders with varied aims, goals and temporal strategic and policy horizons and will require the active management of the many financial, regulatory and legal challenges that come from supporting the investment and governance of these complex projects. Failure to meet both current and future infrastructure needs may create a range of significant potential risks and implications across political stability, economic sustainability and social improvement, mobility and connectivity so – in selecting infrastructure as our core policy theme for the SOIF Retreat 2018 – we recognise this as a crucial theme for investigation and exploration using structured futures-orientated perspectives and practice.

Join us to learn more about this key global issue

In advance of our seventh annual summer retreat in strategic foresight, SOIF2018, through a series of blogposts we will explore some of key issues around global infrastructure development including:

1. Why is infrastructure important and how is it linked to strategic foresight and longer term planning and the assessment of risk
2. Assess the current key debates on infrastructure development with specific regard to the policy and strategy issues they raise and explore the new approaches and innovations which may be needed to address core issues of risk and funding
3. Explore some of the implications if future infrastructure development does not meet anticipated demand or fails to deliver the range of benefits envisioned or is sub-optimal in its scope, delivery or operation, especially in relation to mitigating climate change risks.

Follow our #SOIFInfrastructure hashtag for specific news on our Policy Focus or #SOIF2018 for updates and announcements on the Retreat and the range of worldclass speakers and foresight practitioners who will be joining us.

View more information on the SOIF2018 foresight retreat, download our brochure and register to attend.

Is there something specific around the topic of the future of infrastructure that you think we should know about or include? Why not drop us a comment on Twitter using the #SOIFInfrastructure hashtag.