The Fourth Industrial Revolution - where is technology taking us?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution - where is technology taking us?

Blog post by Špela Kolarič

As summarised by the World Economic Forum[1], the first industrial revolution was about mechanising production using water and steam power; the second gave rise to mass production using electric power; and the third was characterised by automated production enabled by electronics and information technology. The fourth industrial revolution is happening now, building on the third it fuses digital, biological and physical spheres.

Technological development, as reflected in policies, was foreseen to lead to a smart, green future, bringing sustainable growth, and fostering values of democracy, freedom and equality. Nevertheless, rapidly developing information communication technology (ICT) is leading to pervasive changes in our everyday life, on a global scale.

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Indeed the emergence of advanced ICT technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), Big data technology, 3D/4D printing and general digitalisation of society brings great opportunities such as potentially decreased environmental pressures due to altered production and consumption patterns, informed and empowered individuals and communities, and development of medicine. However, uptake of these technologies will without a doubt be disruptive for humanity and also poses great threats like unemployment and privacy and security breaches, as people are replaced by machines, and cyber-attacks are increasing.

The ICT technology is running on highly energy intensive infrastructure (e.g. data centres) and ubiquitous devices (e.g. computers, smartphones) with high-replacements rates, creating increasingly more e-waste leading to environmental, health and social implications (e.g. informal recycling). Instead of encouraging democracy and respecting individuals’ discretion, it is becoming obvious that ‘tech’ can be quite the opposite, a ‘totalitarian’ force enabling unprecedented surveillance and control over individuals and organisations. Privacy issues were recognised by governments and led to the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

Events like the hack attack that happened two years ago on a company making electronic toys[2], which led to misplacing videos and pictures of children using devices connected to insecure IoT, do not make many people feel particularly comfortable.  Neither do smart mirrors, nor the thought of being monitored and connected to everything everywhere (home, work, gym, restaurant etc.) at all time. However, it is perhaps the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) with all these technologies, and in particularly synthetic biology, that many find most disconcerting.


As reflected by literature, with developments in genome engineering human enhancement is becoming more and more possible. This brings to mind a Sci-fi novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’[3].  Is it possible that the ethical and moral challenges of an individual and society as described by Philip K. Dick 50 years ago could become our reality? Will we question what it means to be human? Will the question perhaps be answered on our behalf and institutionalised by some higher authority?

For sure, from a certain perspective the consequences of these promising technologies look pretty worrisome. However, the outcomes of the fourth industrial revolution are largely up to us. Policies and sectoral as well as international collaboration will play key roles in regulating new technologies and allowing us to benefit from them. Ultimately, though, we are all responsible for using the technology ethically, particularly making sure it harms neither the environment nor our values of democracy, freedom and equality.


Špela Kolarič, Senior Consultant, CEP, 17 October 2018




[3] Philip K. Dick (1968), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, SF Masterworks. London: Orion Books

CEP examining pro-environmental behaviours

CEP contributing to study on awareness, attitudes and behaviours relating to the environment

CEP, in partnership with Adranda, have been commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to examine pro-environmental behaviours that individuals, institutions or organisations can take to reduce their impact on the environment.

CEP’s role in the project is to conduct an evidence review on pro-environmental behaviours. The first stages to the evidence review are focussing on the subject areas of gardening and food purchasing practices that can support and enhance the environment, whilst in tandem connecting people to nature and addressing the environmental impacts of food. 

Previously the project developed a longlist of environmental behaviours that has been explored in workshops with experts in the field. The review process is being supplemented with interviews and a further workshop with key stakeholders. The project began in January and will come to a close at the end of 2018. For more information, please contact Dr Clare Twigger-Ross.

Alex Mackaness joins CEP


Alex Mackaness has recently joined CEP as a consultant. Alex is a biological scientist with a particular interest in environmental science, agriculture, economics and the science-policy interface. He recently completed the MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London, specialising in environmental economics and policy with a focus on agricultural policy, developing country agriculture value chains, energy markets, resource management and environmental valuation.

Alex has strong quantitative and qualitative research and analytical skills, and has experience of undertaking research and analysis whilst working in both the UK and internationally on topics such as: food-security; agriculture and sustainability; illegal wildlife trafficking; vector control and animal behaviour.                   

Alex will be working on a number of projects for CEP, including FORENV - the new EU foresight system to detect emerging environmental issues; links between environment and quality of life for the EEA; and dog owner behaviour for the South Downs National Park.

CEP to deliver a new EEA project on the environment and quality of life in Europe

CEP has been awarded a new project to assist the EEA in developing a report on the environment and quality of life in Europe

This new project have been awarded under the CEP-led framework service contract for the European Environment Agency (EEA) which provides assistance to the consolidation and update of the knowledge base on global megatrends and resource nexus in support of SOER 2020.  CEP’s contribution to the report will focus on environmental health across Europe, environmental risks to health and the environmental benefits to health and well-being.  CEP will be assisted by Ben Cave Associates.

The project will support the publication of an EEA report planned for 2019 on the linkages between the environment and quality of life in our member countries. The report will explore how quality of life in Europe is influenced due to the impact that environmental quality has on health and well-being. It will also review evidence of how social vulnerability can result in increased exposure and sensitivity to pollution and reduced resilience to environmental risks. The scope includes both environmental risks to health and access to the benefits that a high quality environment provides to health and well-being.

For more information please contact CEP’s Ric Eales the Project Manager.

CEP supporting webinar series on 25 Year Environment Plan


As part of new research commissioned by Defra on local delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan, CEP, along with partners EKN and nef, are pleased to announce the fourth webinar in the Partnerships for People, Place and Environment series:

Using natural capital approaches to improve integrated decision-making

Wednesday 3rd October 2018, 1 to 2pm BST

This free webinar will discuss how natural capital approaches are being used to engage new partners in decisions about areas of land and water, and the barriers to engaging organisations and interest groups who may not understand their dependence on a healthy natural environment.

Paul Walton, Head of Environment and Rural Economy at the New Forest National Park Authority will be talking about the Green Halo Partnership, an initiative that is working beyond the boundaries of the New Forest National Park to integrate nature and the natural environment with a thriving, economically successful community. Paul Leinster, Chair of the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership, will discuss the challenges of getting the environment and natural capital investment recognised as material and important issues within the governance and delivery aspects of the Oxford - Milton Keynes - Cambridge Growth Corridor.

The webinar will be chaired by Sarah Jane Chimbwandira of Surrey Nature Partnership.

To register for the webinar please follow the link below:

For more information about the research project on Local Delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan, please contact Dr Sian Morse-Jones (Senior Consultant) or Paula Orr (Technical Director).

New report by CEP and partners on the value of bathing waters in Scotland

New report on the value of Scottish bathing waters and the influence of bathing water quality

CEP,  with partners Economics for the Environment Consultancy (eftec) and experts from The South West Research Company (SWRC), University of St Andrews, University of Surrey and Mercatus Research, were commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake a study on the value of bathing waters and the influence of bathing water quality in Scotland.

The project developed a detailed and quantifiable socio-economic understanding of the current and future value of bathing water quality to Scotland, and how water quality influences bathers, beach users and the national and local economies. CEP led on the literature review and qualitative aspects of the research, including carrying out focus groups with local communities and businesses in coastal locations across Scotland, and the synthesis of evidence concerning different perspectives on value.

The final report from the project has now been published: The value of bathing waters and the influence of bathing water quality: Final Research Report

A literature review was undertaken at the start of the project and is also available on the Scottish Government website.

For more information contact Clare Twigger-Ross (Technical Director)

CEP contribute to Urban Natural Capital Accounting report for Defra

CEP contribute to analysis on urban cooling for Urban Natural Capital Accounting report for Defra

CEP have contributed to a recently published report by eftec on Urban Natural Capital Accounting, for Defra. CEP's role in the research involved contributing to a review of the cooling effect of green and blue infrastructure across 11 city regions. This report extends earlier work for Defra on the local climate regulating benefits of urban natural capital developed in the UK Urban Natural Capital Scoping Study, by including blue space, and other green space categories, and improving the accounting of spatial differentials in climate. 

The final report has now been published: Scoping UK Urban Natural Capital Account - Local Climate Regulation Extension.  

For more information, please contact Dr Sian Morse-Jones (Senior Consultant)

CEP contribute to climate resilience book

CEP author of communication, collaboration and co-production chapter on building climate resilience

A new book on climate resilience “Resilience to Climate Change - Communication, Collaboration and Co-production” by Candice Howarth, Katya Brooks and Sian Morse-Jones has recently been published (August 2018) by Palgrave Pivot, which brings together multiple work on the challenges and opportunities of climate shocks.  

The Chapter “The importance of Communication, Collaboration and Co-production” by Candice Howarth and Sian Morse-Jones examines how communication and collaboration could be enhanced, in order to build resilient responses to nexus shocks.

For further information please contact Dr Sian Morse-Jones, Senior Consultant.

CEP Survey on Local Partnerships

Survey on local partnerships and the delivery of economic, social and environmental benefits

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is seeking information on local partnerships and the delivery of economic, health and environmental benefits. Defra has commissioned independent research consultancy, Collingwood Environmental Planning (with its partners the Ecosystems Knowledge Network and New Economics Foundation) to undertake a survey on this topic.

The survey is aimed at people involved in organisations or partnerships in England working below the national level to achieve economic, health or environmental outcomes. We are really keen to hear from a range of economic, health and environmental partnerships.

The results of the survey will be used by Defra to find ways to further increase the value of local partnerships’ contribution to delivering the 25 Year Environment Plan. 

Your responses will be really valuable. The survey is voluntary and takes about 15 minutes to complete.  Most of the questions are multiple choice and do not ask for personally identifiable data.

Please CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY , before Friday 5th October 2018. 

Please do share this survey link with relevant contacts as appropriate.

If you have any queries about this survey, please contact Paula Orr at Collingwood Environmental Planning (

Many thanks for your help,

Collingwood Environmental Planning Project Team

CEP to run EU foresight system on emerging environmental issues

CEP to provide the secretariat for new EU foresight system to detect emerging environmental issues (FORENV)

CEP has been commissioned by the European Commission DG Environment to run a new EU foresight system to detect emerging environmental issues. Named FORENV, the project aims to ‘improve the understanding of policy-makers of emerging environmental issues by supporting yearly cycles of the system set up by the Environment Knowledge Community (EKC) for the identification of emerging environmental issues and related risks and opportunities (FORENV)’.

CEP will be working, initially over the course of the next 12 months, with colleagues from Milieu (Belgium), Cranfield University (UK), the German Federal Environment Agency and Vision Communication (Spain) to:

  • Conduct a broad scanning to compile and characterise at least 100 weak signals of emerging issues for Europe’s environment.

  • Through a participatory sense-making exercise, identify ten emerging environmental issues, including related risks and opportunities on the basis of a broad range of sources and expertise.

  • Characterise the identified emerging issues and define related risks and opportunities for the environment, through recent scientific literature and expert involvement.

  • Inform policy-makers, stakeholders and the public on the identified emerging issues through appropriate reporting and communications.

The project follows on from an earlier project undertaken by CEP and Milieu to develop a participatory methodological framework for the systematic identification of emerging issues for the environment (and environmental policies). This project will put that methodology into practice.  Subject to the first year the contract will be renewable for up to a further three times (to 48 months) to continue the detection of new emerging issues that could impact the environment and environmental policies, in order to allow the European Commission to put in place appropriate responses where necessary.

For further information please contact Owen White (Technical Director) or Paula Orr (Technical Director).

CEP delivering EEA workshop on urban sustainability

CEP delivering workshop to support EEA’s assessment of urban sustainability

For the first time, the European Environment Agency (EEA) will be explicitly addressing urban sustainability in the European Environment State and Outlook Report for 2020 (SOER2020). As part of CEP's current framework contract with the EEA on forward-looking analysis, sustainability assessments and systemic transitions, CEP in partnership with LSE Cities, PBL and cChange is currently undertaking a contract on urban sustainability to support this aspect of SOER2020. Specifically, the project is building on the knowledge base and other deliverables from a previous contract undertaken by CEP and will deliver an analytical framework and select nexus analysis for urban sustainability assessments 2019-2020. Another important aim of this project is to develop the approach to an urban sustainability meta-benchmarking exercise.

On Thursday 13th September, CEP's Ric Eales and Rolands Sadauskis together with partners from LSE Cities and PBL are running a one-day workshop with EEA experts in Copenhagen to facilitate their input to the ongoing work.

Environmental assessment and ecosystem services training now booking

Incorporating natural capital and ecosystem services into environmental assessment: Exploring best practice

CEP, in association with Ecosystems Knowledge Network (EKN), will once again be running this popular CPD-level one-day training course in London in November 2018.

“Very informative. Trainers very knowledgeable and approachable. Use of case study
examples ideal.”
Course participant, London May 2016.

The concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services are becoming prominent across Europe, along-side growing interests in nature-based solutions. There is now strong interest in what ecosystem services, natural capital and nature-based solutions mean for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Sustainability Appraisal (SA). This training course will cover:

  • Why these concepts are useful in environmental assessment
  • How the concepts can be used in EIA, SA and SEA
  • How you might use ecosystem services in theory and practice
  • Challenges and opportunities (data requirements; legal compliance; guidance)

Date and venue: 22nd November 2018. Tideway, Cottons Centre, Cottons Lane, London, SE1 2QG.

Who is the training for? The course is for professionals involved in environmental assessment processes (EIA, SEA and SA) across diverse sectors including built infrastructure and development planning, transport, energy, water resources and flood risk management.  It will be applicable to environmental assessment practitioners and stakeholders working from project level to strategic plans; and in relation to terrestrial and marine environments.


Dr Bill Sheate: Technical Director of Collingwood Environmental Planning and Reader in Environmental Assessment at Imperial College London.

Špela Kolarič: Senior Consultant at Collingwood Environmental Planning. An environmental and spatial planning specialist.

For prices and booking visit the EKN website at:


Workshop on Local Delivery of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan

CEP is to hold a workshop on Partnerships and Collaborative Governance across the Environment – Economy - Health Sectors

CEP is leading a consortium that has been commissioned by Defra to explore how best to support local organisations and partnerships to work together to deliver the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan

Our consortium is inviting practitioners in the North of England to contribute to co-producing more effective approaches to local delivery through a workshop to be held in Leeds this autumn.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan provides a guiding framework for achieving the goal of improving the environment within a generation.   This is vital to protect and enhance our environmental assets and resources and to support wider social and economic objectives. 

Local delivery is essential to the Plan’s success.  The workshop will be an opportunity for participants to share their expertise and generate proposals for improving local outcomes.

Who should attend: directors, managers and trustees of organisations working across the environment – health – economy sectors at the regional or local level; local authority planners; members of local partnerships such as Local Enterprise Partnerships, Health and Wellbeing Boards, Local Nature Partnerships and others.

Date, time and venue

The workshop will be held from 10am – 4pm at Leeds Town Hall on 02 October 2018.

The evidence and proposals generated at the workshop will inform our report to Defra on the local delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

For information and registration, contact Paula Orr, Technical Director (

The project is a collaboration between CEP, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Ecosystems Knowledge Network (EKN)

CEP finalists for RTPI Research Excellence awards

CEP shortlisted for two RTPI research excellence awards


We are delighted to announce that CEP has been shortlisted as a finalist for two Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Research Excellence Awards 2018.  Our recent project Clyde Regional Marine Plan Dialogue for the Clyde Marine Planning Partnership is shortlisted for both The Sir Peter Hall Award for Wider Engagement and the Consultancy Award, the only institution or company with the same project shortlisted for two awards.

CEP designed a public dialogue on the Clyde Regional Marine Plan for the Clyde Marine Planning Partnership (CMPP) that engaged audiences beyond academia, supporting enhanced public understanding of marine planning challenges. The research design and questions were targeted to meet the evidence needs of the CMPP and the interests and knowledge of participating members of the public: the dialogue engaged people in two Clyde communities in exploring issues from their own perspective with technical experts and policy-makers.   The project adapted participatory planning techniques from research and practice and integrated these within a process comprising group work and plenary sessions.

The project authors were: Peter Phillips, Paula Orr, Izzy Cotton (CEP), Jasper Kenter, Jake Ainscough, Lucy Greenhill (Scottish Association for Marine Science Research Services Limited), Ellie Murtagh, Philip Mellor (University of Strathclyde)

The RTPI Awards for Research Excellence recognise and promote high quality, impactful spatial planning research from RTPI accredited planning schools, and planning consultancies, in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and internationally. Winning and commended entries will be announced on 3 September 2018 during the opening ceremony of the UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference, in Sheffield.

For further information contact Paula Orr (Technical Director) or Ric Eales (Managing Director)

CEP attending CECAN annual conference

CEP attending CECAN's annual conference on policy evaluation in London on July 11th

Dr Bill Sheate will be attending CECAN's annual conference in London on July 11th. The theme of the conference this year is Policy Evaluation for a Complex World - The Challenges that Complexity Poses for Policy - Solutions and Benefits. 

Bill led a meta-evaluation study for CEP - Learning lessons for evaluating complexity across the nexus: a meta-evaluation of CEP projects - published in 2017 as part of our involvement as partners in CECAN.

CEP participating in Austria climate change adaptation workshop

CEP participating in workshop on climate change adaptation and natural hazards for the Austrian Climate Research Programme

On 5th July Dr Clare Twigger-Ross will be participating in a project workshop for Climate Change Adaptation and Protection from Natural Hazards: capacity building for people with a migration background in Austria.  The project is part of the 8th Call Austrian Climate Research Programme and runs from 2016 for 34 months.  It is led by the University of Natural Resource and Life Sciences, Vienna. 

The project aims to explore the potential vulnerability and capacity of migrant groups in the context of Climate Change using a cross-analysis of several embedded case studies in Austria.  Clare has been invited to share her experience in the area of flooding and climate change resilience, with a specific focus on approaches to researching groups who may be more vulnerable to negative impacts because of social factors.

CEP-led Consortium delivers first set of European Environment Agency contracts


CEP is pleased to announce the successful completion of the first seven contracts awarded under the CEP-led framework service contract for the European Environment Agency (EEA) which provides assistance to the consolidation and update of the knowledge base on global megatrends and resource nexus in support of SOER 2020 (the European Environment State and Outlook Report).

Awarded in May 2017, CEP has overseen the preparation and delivery of seven projects awarded under the framework contract to date.  The seven projects have had the overarching objective of supporting the framing and content of SOER 2020 by consolidating the evidence and knowledge base across a range of topics as well as providing new analysis to assist in the framing of the content of SOER 2020.  Examples of stock-taking and updating of EEA’s knowledge base include in relation to outlooks across multiple environmental themes (second specific contract), planetary boundaries (third specific contract), global megatrends and the resource nexus (fourth specific contract), and an assessment of the knowledge base on society’s dependence on natural capital (fifth specific contract).  The development of new assessment frameworks included the development of an integrated approach to support urban sustainability assessments (first specific contract) and research into the implications of sustainability transitions research for policy and governance (sixth specific contract).  The seventh specific contract provided a review of different perspectives on quality of evidence to inform EEA's future research.

All the projects were completed between September 2017 and March 2018 and have helped EEA by exploring what is, and is not, possible in terms of SOER 2020, which is intended to diverge from previous European environmental reporting by exploring environmental issues from a systems perspective and proposing a transitions governance approach to addressing Europe’s environmental challenges.

CEP led the delivery of four of the seven projects delivered so far, including overall project management, technical lead on research tasks, and preparing reporting to summarise findings to provide maximum support to the EEA in relation to SOER 2020.  CEP’s work on these projects has involved collaboration with a diverse range of partners including universities and research institutions, consultancies, national environmental agencies and European networks of experts (such as the Eionet network of foresight experts).

For more information please contact CEP’s Owen White, the overall Framework Contract Manager, or Dr Bill Sheate, the Framework Contract Director.

CEP supporting webinar series on 25 Year Environment Plan

Partnerships for people, place and the environment - Webinar Series

Earlier this year, Defra commissioned CEP to undertake new research to inform the local delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan across England. As part of this work, the project team is working with the Ecosystems Knowledge Network to convene a series of free webinars to share good practice in some of the themes central to the Plan. We are pleased to announce the first two in this series:

Opportunities for involving local communities in managing their environment and place-making

Tuesday 3rd July 2018, 1 to 2pm
Featuring presentations by Jenny Phelps of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and Paul Cobbing of the National Flood Forum. Chaired by Clare Twigger-Ross of Collingwood Environmental Planning. Find out more and book your place now. 

Opportunities for connecting health and the environment

Thursday 5th July 2018, 12 to 1pm
Featuring presentations by Dr James Szymankiewicz, GP and new Chair of Natural Devon, and Mark Fishpool, Director of Middlesbrough Environment City. Chaired by Dave Powell of the New Economics Foundation. Find out more and book your place now.


CEP attending Our Bright Future Annual Seminar


Owen White is attending this year’s annual Share Learn Improve seminar in Cardiff  of the Our Bright Future (OBF) programme as part of CEP’s role in the evaluation of the OBF Programme.  The seminar brings together all of the projects to discuss and share experiences and good practice in management and delivery. 

As part of this seminar, Owen will be contributing to a presentation on the measurement and evaluation of social and environmental impacts. He will also co-facilitate a working session in which participants will explore assumptions related to the achievement of impacts from project activities and share knowledge and experience in the monitoring and evaluation of impacts.

The evaluation team is led by ERS with CEP and is carrying out the evaluation of the programme between 2016 - 2021. The Programme Evaluation seeks to identify, analyse and assess:

  • the collective impact of the portfolio of 31 projects;
  • The added value of the Programme i.e. what value has been derived from a programme with the Share Learn Improve, Policy and Youth Function and from the development of an Our Bright Future network/movement;
  • Whether the Programme has achieved its long-term ambitions; and
  • Best practice and lessons learnt, and provide evidence and guidance to support Programme learning and development.

Please contact Owen White (Technical Director) for more information.

CEP to look at local delivery of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan

CEP commissioned by Defra to investigate how local delivery of environmental outcomes can help to achieve the goals of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan provides a guiding framework for achieving the goal of improving the environment within a generation.   Embedding local delivery is essential to the success of the plan.  CEP is leading a research project to understand how government can best support local organisations and partnerships to work together to protect and enhance important environmental assets and resources, whilst supporting their own needs and ambitions. 

The project has two phases: Phase 1 is gathering evidence about models and approaches for local integration and leadership currently in use and under development, examples of good practice and information on the factors that facilitate or hinder the achievement of good environmental outcomes and shape the relationships among local delivery bodies and Defra. This phase includes an evidence review, four case studies and interviews with stakeholders. Building on these findings, in Phase 2 the project will carry out an online survey and work with practitioners to develop tools and approaches to enhance local delivery and implementation of the 25 Year Environment Plan. 

The project is a collaboration between CEP, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Ecosystems Knowledge Network (EKN). The project runs for the duration of 2018. For more information, please contact CEP’s Project Manager (Paula Orr) or CEP’s Project Co-ordinator (Sian Morse-Jones).