LONDON — Fast-growing independent marketing group Selbey Anderson has launched a foresight and innovation practice, Selbey Labs, to help clients identify, understand and respond to emerging threats and opportunities.

The practice has been set up by Gerry Hopkinson, who takes on the role of CEO. Hopkinson was previously co-founder of PR agency Unity, which Selbey Anderson fully acquired in March this year.

Selbey Labs is already working with agencies within the group, their clients and other partners, as well as its own clients. It has recently collaborated with LAW Creative on projects for ZF Group, Gates Corporation and a major healthcare brand, and with AML for a major financial services brand.

The practice uses a blend of machine learning and experts – including behavioural scientists, cultural futurist and geopolitics specialists – to identify macro sector, market and cultural trends and provide audience insights that can help inform business strategy, campaigns, products and services.

Hopkinson told PRovoke Media: “The amount of change that brands and businesses are having to navigate and process is accelerating, so it’s important to have a partner to help make sense of emerging threats and opportunities. Uncertainty is scary, but Labs is about helping leaders reframe that uncertainty into something exciting that can be dealt with through innovation, or accelerated. It’s very practical, and some of it is in the realms of forecasting, combining humans and machine learning to help clients understand the near future and create a safe place to test and learn responses to that.

“Lots of agency groups are creating data tools, and many also have social scientists, and we wanted to put those together. Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking, said marketing and innovation are flipsides of the same coin, and where profit should be reinvested as they are the only two practices that generate revenue. They worked together at one stage and have drifted apart – I believe marketing and innovation are coming back together, and that’s what Labs is all about. It's where growth happens.”

Selbey Anderson group CEO Dom Hawes said: “This is a significant development in the life of Selbey Anderson, giving us a foothold in the world of insight and innovation as well as a pathway to developing our own IP. More importantly, it provides a new way of looking at the world, helping clients make sense of it with practical, useful and effective strategies to adapt, evolve and thrive.”

Hopkinson is supported by a management team that includes strategist Sean Pillot de Chenecey, head of foresight and strategy and author of ‘The Post-Truth Business’ and ‘Influencers & Revolutionaries’. Helen Pillot de Chenecey takes on the role of insights and trends researcher, having worked agency and client-side on trend forecasting and qualitative research, while Ian Henderson, who has run Publicis Groupe and Engine agencies in London and New York, becomes chief creative officer.

The core team is supported by a panel of faculty partners: futurist Carsten Beck of The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies (CIFS); Dr Elizabeth Stephens, geopolitical risk advisory lead; Dr Rachel Lawes, social psychology lead; and Georgina Lee, innovation lead.

Selbey Labs has signed a partnership agreement with the Copenhagen Institute of Futures Studies to help develop new products and services. The practice has also partnered with Lumilinks to research and develop a predictive analytics tool for a wide range of applications.

The practice will also publish regular trend reports, white papers and research focusing on macro trends, key socio-economic drivers, markets, audiences and culture. Its first series of trend reports, ‘Making Sense of…’ will cover topics such as Innovation, Trust and Authenticity, Future Cities, and the Wellness Economy.

Selbey Labs will be hosting a series of events driven by its work and reports – the first of which will look at Anticipatory Leadership, in partnership with CIFS in London later this year – as well as a podcast.

Selbey Anderson currently has nine agencies, and Hawes recently told PRovoke Media he is planning on multiple further acquisitions over the coming years on the back of £10 million investment from Triple Point.