The IFR’s research focus is on the following fields:
- Business futuristics and the systems approach to transformation management. Various principles for studying and making sense of the future are studied as precursors to the various conceptual frameworks for foresight (including models of change and the dynamics of social and economic evolution). Attention is also devoted to a number of long-range forecasting methods and techniques, including Delphi studies, environmental scanning, scenario planning and visioning.
- Long-term economic structure studies with the aim to collect, analyse and disseminate information on the structural realities of the South African economy. The long-term implications emanating from these realities are analysed. In recognition of the fact that, in order to be successful in the 21st century, the country will have to become progressively more outward-looking, South Africa’s international competitiveness is researched within the global context. Increasing attention is paid to the structural realities of the African economy. There is currently a particular focus on the longer term, structural implications of the 2008/2009 global financial and economic crisis.
- Applied demographics and social trends. The aim of these studies is to collect, analyse and interpret information from a wide array of national and international sources regarding various demographic trends in South Africa and Africa, as well as globally, and to consider their implications for the business sector. Long-term population projections are regularly updated taking developments such as the impact of HIV/AIDS into consideration. Other trends that are also analysed include crime trends, education trends, urbanisation trends, health care trends, human development, religion and families.
- Technology foresight. Of all the influences in an organisation’s external environment, technology is the one that is most responsive to creative management action. The purpose of this on-going research project is to keep Associates aware of trends and developments in the general technological environment so that they can be proactive.
Strategic management of technology (MoT) continues to receive significant attention in developed countries as a method of achieving and maintaining competitive advantage. Only a few South African organisations are applying the principles and some methods of the strategic management of technology. Of these, most are only partly aware of the importance of systematically managing technology, especially at the strategic level in the organisation.
- Political studies endevours to collect and analyse information regarding various political trends and to assess the implications they could have for business and politics. Information is obtained through ongoing research and networking with a wide range of foreign and local political analysts, researchers and organisations.
- Sustainability and environmental studies. The main purpose of these studies is to identify key long-term global and local trends that have an impact on sustainability and environmental developments. The world faces a set of challenges related to sustainable development. On the one hand, it must find the means to foster development that breaks the vicious cycles of poverty, population growth and renewable resource degradation seen in many developing countries. On the other hand, policies are needed that will alter unsustainable and environmentally damaging patterns of consumption in all countries, but especially industrial ones, which collectively have a major impact on the global environment.
Sustainability has surfaced worldwide as a strong concern. It has become the lens through which a growing number of people are looking at the implications of their activities on society and nature. National and local governments as well as business organisations will have to take cognisance of this on both planning and operational levels. South African businesses have made advances in the implementation of sustainable management practices and overall awareness of environmental issues has increased, but it will ultimately be market forces, compliance with current and future legislation and the imperative to improve profitability that will drive action in this regard.
Investigation into, and research about, the abovementioned trends and issues in other environments that have a bearing on strategic management decisions form the basis on which the IFR produces a range of publications
that are made available to Associates.