Seismic shifts in economies, politics, culture and climate and their convergence have thrown up global Megatrends. These Megatrends present opportunities for companies of all sizes. The chemical industry recognises this as much as any other. Many of the strategies being set by the world's top chemical companies are now based on an understanding of these global Megatrends.
Megatrends are global, sustained and macroeconomic forces of development that impact business, economy, society, cultures and personal lives, thereby defining our future world and its increasing pace of change. Frost & Sullivan’s unique ongoing research programme identifies, defines and evaluates Megatrends and their future implications for a range of business and markets, including the chemicals and materials industry.
“Megatrends will have a profound impact on the future direction of the chemicals and materials industry,” notes Frost & Sullivan. Industry Principal Brian Balmer. “For instance, the growth of mega cities will stimulate growth for many chemical products such as glazing with added acoustic insulation, and materials such as plastics and adhesives that enable the production of more compact home appliances.”
Over the longer term, continued urbanisation in developed countries will result in demand for more materials that contribute to making ‘healthier’ buildings, such as odour-neutralising paints.
“Similarly, social trends, in particular for more environmentally sustainable solutions, will be the single biggest factor affecting future chemicals demand,” states Balmer. “The development of plant-based feed stocks in place of crude oil will be the most important trend in chemicals to 2020, driven in part by consumer demand led by social trends.”
The impact of social concerns over sustainable and renewable materials will spur the development of second-generation biofuels, produced using algae as a feedstock. This will remove the issue over competing with food crops.
“Products designed for modern and future lifestyles (‘GenerationY’) use a wide range of innovative chemicals,” remarks Balmer. “These include structural materials such as engineering plastics for more compact and more feature-packed convergent devices such as smartphones, composite materials for lighter, stronger sports equipment and eco-friendly materials for bio-sourced, recyclable, re-usable or bio-degradable packaging.”
Product areas that will emerge at the forefront in future due to the impact of Megatrends range from nanomaterials, smart materials and sustainable/renewable materials to organic electronics, biotechnology and carbon fibre and engineered natural fibres. Their growing presence will, in turn, have ramifications for several chemicals.
For instance, the rise of nanotechnology has a role to play in plastics, paints, cosmetics and many other fields of chemistry. Similarly, the rise of organic electronics will underline the appeal of polymeric materials which are electrical conductors or semiconductors that enable a wide range of devices, such as clothing with embedded electronics, e-paper and wallpaper that also provides lighting.