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How Megatrends Drive Innovation

By Victoria Scarborough, Ph.D., Materia Prima Ventures

The innovation pipeline is long and must be fed continually with new ideas to sustain multi-year new product development. How do you anticipate the needs of your customers and guide future product development? Where do you look for guidance? Global megatrends represent changes in our world that have a sustained impact on everyone. There are many online references and reports that discuss their importance. Understanding how these megatrends impact your business can provide insight and inspiration into your future product portfolio.  While one can argue which megatrend(s) will be the most influential, there is no doubt they paint an interconnected narrative that will have implications for product development. Drilling down into each megatrend can reveal opportunities for innovation.

  • Digitalization has brought us the internet-of-things, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing, and sophisticated robots. These tools can strengthen brands by creating product visualization applications, enterprise manufacturing and quality systems, robotic painters, and new types of polymers to literally print a structure in-situ. How are you leveraging these new tools?
  • The aging population has resulted in an increased focus on everyone staying healthy longer. Consumers are more concerned about the toxicity of things in their home, and this may influence their buying decisions. How are you addressing their concerns with your future product offerings?
  • The shift in global economic power has created wealth in previously poorer regions and changed supply chain logistics. Populations with increasing wealth are better able to buy products. Are you taking advantage of this increasing opportunity?
  • Connected customers means on-demand access to information and products at the touch of a button. It has created the ability to instantly comparison shop and make decisions on what to purchase and how to pay for it. Witness the decline of many great retail brands like Sears and the growth of online brands like Amazon. The power of the connected consumer is real. How is your business working with the global online customer?
  • The lower demand for oil and the increasing demand for alternative sources of energy from wind, solar, battery technology, and geothermal will continue. We already see a shift to more efficient means of transportation in battery-powered vehicles, self-driving cars, trucks and trolleys, and phone apps like Uber and Lyft, that provide us with convenient transport. Wind farms and solar panels will continue to be part of our landscape. How will the shift in these markets affect the way you deliver product?
  • As climate change continues, natural disasters and abnormal weather patterns have resulted in water scarcity, flooding, forest fires, resource and food scarcity, and infrastructure damage. This creates the need for restoration products; better water-, mildew-, and UV-resistant technologies; and products that can be used in adverse conditions. Are you developing new products that address these issues?

Understanding how these megatrends impact your business and product development can provide a window into the future. Look at these trends as influencers in favor of disruptive innovation and new product opportunities, and your products will address the needs of future generations. Let’s think ahead!

Dr. Victoria Scarborough is owner and principle advisor at Materia Prima Ventures; (