New Zealand’s annual festival of innovation, Techweek, concluded its 2020 programme just over a week ago. As part of the programme, Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand’s innovation agency, presented research discussing four global shifts they had identified, as well as the potential opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurialism by Kiwis and Kiwi businesses, that these presented.
Callaghan Innovation is New Zealand’s innovation agency. It supports innovation and growth for businesses of all sizes through a variety of programmes. These include R&D services for technology and product development; funding; programmes for business development and to build innovation skills; and enabling people and businesses to connect with experts, opportunities and networks.
The research presented during Techweek 2020 looked at a three to five-year time horizon and identified four key global shifts (as outlined below). These represent potential opportunities for businesses to adopt a leading role, and to position themselves competitively, to innovate in response to these emerging trends and needs, both within New Zealand and around the world.
Key Global Shift: Unpredictable Waters
Uncertainties with respect to water are predicted to increase in the future. Climate change is causing increases in sea level, as well as extreme weather events. Combined with the continuing trend within human society towards urbanisation and urban development (two-thirds of the projected world population are expected to live in urban centres by 2050), issues such as river flooding and water security are also likely to be a challenge.
Key Global Shift: Beyond Urban and Rural
Despite many societies around the world becoming more urbanised, an increased desire for people to return to nature within these societies was identified by the research. To accommodate these needs, we may need to redefine how we think about “urban” and “rural”. Innovative technology could give access to the best of both environments. This might include virtual rural experiences for an increasingly urbanised population, or an emphasis and prioritisation of rural aspects of products and services including how these are presented to the consumer.
Key Global Shift: More Fluid Life-Shapes
A generation or two ago (particularly within Western societies) many people’s lives had a predictable structure beginning with education, followed by work, followed by retirement. For many, this is no longer the case. The structures of a lot of people’s lives now follow different patterns with much more fluid changes being experienced. People may change careers, or re-enter education, later in life, whether by necessity or choice. Longer life-spans also mean retirement may not look like it once did. This is likely to be even more apparent in the future, and therefore creates opportunities for technology innovation to support society.
Key Global Shift: Distance Redefined
Globalisation has seen the world get “smaller”, whether through readily accessible international travel, or via instant communication around the globe. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we travel and interact, and it may take many years to return to what we once knew, if that happens at all. There will be opportunities to innovate in how we interact at a distance, whether locally, nationally or internationally, for business, entertainment and social reasons. This might include the use of robots and avatars to attend events remotely, the use of haptics to facilitate sensory interactions, as well as addressing the challenges of building rapport and trust when people can’t meet face-to-face.
The New Future
It’s time to start thinking and innovating, to position New Zealand businesses for the new future.
Callaghan Innovation. (2020, March 27). “About Us”. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from: https://www.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz/about-us
Miller J, Edgar K. (2020, July 28). “Key Global Shifts: What They Could Offer to NZ Innovators”. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from: https://techweek.co.nz/whats-on/2020/key-global-shifts-what-they-could-offer-to-nz-innovators-by-callaghan-801/ and: https://play.stuff.co.nz/details/_6176061334001
Murali M, Cummings C, Feyertag J, Gelb S, Hart T, Khan A, Langdown I, Lucci P. (2018, October 2018). “10 things to know about the impacts of urbanisation”. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from: https://www.odi.org/publications/11218-10-things-know-about-impacts-urbanisation
Techweek. “About Techweek”. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from: https://techweek.co.nz/about/
Wikipedia. (2020, July 27). “Haptic technology”. Retrieved August 06, 2020, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haptic_technology