The ranking of opportunities this year makes it clear that every business, regardless of sector or field, must invest in cutting-edge digitisation to stay relevant. Blockchain technology and artificial intelligence are the backbones of two of the four top opportunities this year, illustrating that all industries, including water, education, IT, and energy, will not just be disrupted by technological innovations – they’ll be entirely overtaken and reshaped. It’s therefore critical that every industry, even those already based on technology, take their digitisation and tech innovations to the next level to capitalise on future market opportunities.
If you only have five minutes, these are the key insights you need to read to understand the markets of the future.
For the third year in a row, an innovative opportunity related to water tops the list of the most impactful and actionable opportunities. Smart water technology enables consumers to use water in a more sustainable manner without increased effort – the smart water pipes and meters will make the sustainable water choices for them. Understanding the potential of this opportunity and fully capitalising on it to deliver crucial services will represent a huge market opportunity; by 2021, the smart water tech market will be worth 20.10 billion USD up from 8.46 billion USD in 2016.
Leaders see the most complex category of markets – delivering education to conflict areas – as the runner-up opportunity. This opportunity showcases the positive impact that can occur when the private sector applies digital technology to address a public need.
This finding signals a change in the perception of leaders: as of now, high-risk markets can be potential hotbeds for innovation. Applying innovation from the ground up, and engaging in dialogue with digitally engaged local consumers to drive peace and profit define this opportunity. The global smart education and learning market is worth 586.04 billion USD by 2021.
Artificial intelligence enables companies and individuals to be two steps ahead of the next cybercriminal. This opportunity employs machine-learning to drive a new market that will secure our most vital infrastructure in the digital economy.
It is a sustainable choice made easy for the user of the infrastructure by supplementing firewalls and other cyber security tools with machines able to learn and adapt to the tactics of hackers. There are two important drivers of this market opportunity:
1) intelligent automation in general with systems making decisions for us and
2) the lack of a sufficient number of people with the right skill-set drives a need for less people-intensive approaches.
The artificial intelligence market is expected to be worth 16.06 billion USD by 2022, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 62.9 percent from 2016 to 2022.
Leaders believe peer-to-peer energy sharing and trading on digital platforms is a market ready for take-off. Blockchain is an open source digital ledger that allows users to record and trace all types of transactions. With regard to energy transactions, users can have a payment and a means to keep track of electricity consumed and delivered.
It introduces a new corporate logic, transforming the role of business in the energy transaction from that of the service provider to that of the consumer enabler. This by helping users share and trade electricity, or even donate excess electricity in an expression of new forms of solidarity.
The survey reveals which opportunities represent the best business case in the eyes of the leaders surveyed. Opportunities that capitalise on specific and digitised markets, such as intelligent cyber security and behavioural biometrics, are seen as more favourable business cases. Meanwhile, opportunities that address more complex challenges – such as housing refugees and upgrading communities with informal housing – are viewed by business leaders as weaker business opportunities.
Addressing complex challenges has the potential to create stable societies, which is a critical condition for long-term business viability. Carving out specific new market out of complex challenges can help kick-start markets for transformation. One opportunity we can learn from when doing this is Knowledge for Peace, as this opportunity takes a specific and actionable approach to handling a very complex problem.
All three opportunities related to soil depletion rate high on their benefit to society, yet are still rated low as business opportunities compared to the other opportunities. Businesses should pay special attention to the opportunities in this quadrant, as they represent the next, most immediate frontier in new market opportunities. It’s clear they offer huge benefits to society; if the companies can find a way to capitalise on them, they could uncover and solidify their stake in a crucial future market.
Across the globe, and over the last two years, notable agreement has emerged about the most promising Sustainable Development Goals for business. The same selection of six Sustainable Development Goals is rated as most promising, even if they’ve jostled a bit in rank. The cluster is composed of Sustainable Development Goals that address jobs and growth, good health, life on land, affordable energy, education and industry, innovation and infrastructure.
GROWTH AND WELL-BEING
Though they are rated number 4 and 15 on the overall opportunity landscape, opportunities related to blockchain, Clever Codes Disrupt Inequality and Business of Power, are the top-ranking opportunities in Sub Saharan Africa, indicating the region is ready and willing to invest in this critical new way to access services once dominated by formalised and centralised authorities.
Blockchain allows for the decentralised exchange of critical services like energy and finance, giving consumers the ability to access loans, insurance, finance, and other vital elements of the economy. African markets can be expected to leapfrog into the next digital era defined by a blockchain-based internet.
Businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)and South America reported an increase in their perceived capacities to pursue the 15 opportunities, as well as an increase in their willingness to pursue them, as compared to last year. This ability and willingness to pursue cutting-edge market opportunities indicates these regions will become increasingly important hotbeds for market development in the coming years.
Decentralised power delivery, behavioural biometrics, and artificial intelligence to combat cybercrime are three opportunities that can be expected to mature rapidly through investments and business action. In the global survey, leaders across the globe perceived these three markets to hold a good business case as well as a good investment case. In addition, leaders perceive these markets to positively impact business and both the financial sector and business are ready to actively advocate for growing these markets. Both are important conditions for the opportunities to scale rapidly.