If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to stay on top of the latest trends and ideas that could impact your business, or perhaps even give you an idea for a new business venture.

In 2021 we saw several innovations accelerate in response to COVID-19, including the development of the messenger RNA vaccines. Businesses are being impacted by the great resignation and remote working. Record levels of funding went into startups, with SPAC’s being one of the hot topics. Technology and new business models have started to reshape health, transportation, food, education, and finance. Crypto took further steps towards becoming mainstream and NFT’s hit the headlines with multi-million dollar sums paid for digital artworks. We have started to hear more about the metaverse and more AI applications being rolled out.

Lets start by looking at the big picture, the historic mega trends and what our world could look like in 10 years’ time.

The Mega Trends

Looking back on history there have been a number of mega trends that have created major shifts in people’s lives. The Agricultural revolution changed the way we organise society from hunter gather tribes to people settling to work the land, and the creation of villages, specialisation, and trade.

Then came technological breakthroughs in the Industrial revolution increasing productivity with the invention of machinery, the use of fossil fuels, steam engines, and the introduction of electricity, where people became factory workers, creating cities.

More recently we have been living through the Information and Digital ages brought about by computers, the internet, global connectivity and cloud technology. This is divorcing physical location from economic opportunity, more people are being given access to technology, creating global and decentralised communities.

What could our lives look like in 10 years’ time 

Here are some predictions for how peoples’ lives and businesses could be transformed over the next 10 years.

You will live longer, sick care will become health care, with monitors giving you early warnings of problems, and diagnoses will be AI driven rather than using a GP. AI and robots will support or replace many of the tasks we currently undertake, requiring workforce reskilling but giving us more leisure time. Artificial intelligence will achieve human-level performance across a range of functions and trials will be underway to link our brains to the cloud cutting out hardware interfaces.

Finance and technology platforms will become more decentralised. R&D will be undertaken within shorter timelines. Manufacturing will become fully automated, with more done in-house using 3D printing rather than being outsourced. Industries will change with intermediaries removed from the supply chain and functions like finance & marketing will be automated leaving only a strategy department to determine direction. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations without management teams or employees, using blockchain smart contracts, will become common.

We will have avatars for work and avatars for play within the Metaverse. Businesses and customers will be able to choose between the real-world or virtual-world version of the same experience. Retailers will use AI and augmented reality where you can decide your purchases based on how items look on your avatar with items manufactured to your exact size. You won’t own a car, autonomous vehicles will be prebooked to bring you to any destination, including trips away from Earth.

 

What trends and technologies can we expect to see in 2022

These are the sectors and technologies that are securing the most funding, producing the most patent applications, and have the greatest potential impact on businesses and consumers in the next 12 months.

 

Digital and Information / Communication Technology

The Metaverse

Extended reality technology encompassing both augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), will integrate with Metaverses in video games, social networking and entertainment. Initial applications for the Metaverse are likely to be in gaming, online retail, where for example customers can virtually drop furniture in their home to see how it would look and fit, and concerts where people could attend in person or buy a ticket for the virtual experience.

Facebook has renamed itself Meta as it sees the shift towards the metaverse and threats to the current social platforms from Web3 decentralised platforms. Facebook are betting big on the metaverse with a $10 billion investment but it remains to be seen if one company’s metaverse becomes dominant, if different companies virtual worlds will amalgamate into one metaverse, or if we will end up with a series of niched metaverses.

Others leading in this space include the gaming company Epic Games who announcing a $1 Billion funding round for their version of the metaverse, and Nvidia with their omniverse open platform design and collaboration tool. Facebook have launched Spark to help people create and share augmented reality experiences, while Microsoft have launched their Mesh app and HoloLens headsets. Other developer solutions include Unity to create VR games and 3D content, Nextech AR, who provide 3D models and virtual showrooms, and Matterport that helps you to digitise any type of space or building.

In 2021 an estimated 12.5 million headsets were sold, while spending on VR content reached around $2bn. Oculus sold more headsets than Microsoft sold Xboxes, showing that there is a positive trend towards the use of VR.

We are going to see further digital twining of buildings and landmarks into virtual metaverses, and the rise of platforms that provide you with your life-like avatar, but will 2022 be the year that the “Virtual Living” era is born? Will augmented reality glasses start to become a common sight? Perhaps a more realistic target for mass adoption of headsets and metaverse applications is somewhere between 2025 and 2030.

Artificial Intelligence

There is a shift from technology doing something to technology deciding something. AI is currently being used to provide personalised recommendations based on your previous searches and purchases, managing inventory and logistics, business decision making, facial recognition, creating software code, to personalise marketing, create content, engage with customers using chatbots and to act as a digital assistant. In the future, doctors making certain diagnoses may be required to consult AI and it will be used for accelerating new drug development and autonomous vehicles.

Advances in generative AI are increasing its self-awareness and autonomous self-learning. Deep learning a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that uses data to automate the writing of software will come into common use.

The rise of “AI as a Service” (AIaaS) platforms will enable anyone to access the benefits of AI. Companies active in this space include Singularity NET an AI marketplace and C3.ai that builds AI models.

Quantum computing

The race to make commercial quantum computers is heating up. In 2021, investments in quantum computing start-ups surpassed $1.7 billion. In 2022 we are likely to see advancements that could lead to quantum computers becoming available within a further two years.

Initial applications in mathematics, chemistry and finance will expand into other areas. IBM is the first company to develop a quantum processor with more than 100-qubits.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Everything is becoming smart and connected. IoT describes the network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors and software for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data over the internet.

With the introduction of 5G we will see more and more connected services. IoT usage in the health sector for remote monitoring and the creation of emergency notification systems for people, buildings, and assets will become more common.

Cybersecurity

When technology grows, new loopholes and security issues arise. Cyberattack incidents disrupt our daily lives, attacking healthcare and utilities. Attacks are likely to get more frequent in 2022. Remote work and the use of IoT devices will provide criminals with even more opportunities to expose security gaps.

With an estimated $1B stolen by blockchain hackers in Q3 of 2021, crypto security will become a growing concern and more investors will take out crypto insurance policies which are now being offered by a number of companies.

Digitisation of Services

A key focus for investment in recent years has been SaaS, Software as a Service providers, which often use subscription pricing models. These typically automate business and consumer processes over the internet, from booking taxis, listening to music, and watching movies, to managing filing systems in the cloud, customer communications in CRM, and email autoresponders.

SaaS has matured to the point where micro-SaaS companies with smaller niches are becoming more common. It is possible that investment will start to move away from SaaS towards deep tech and AI / metaverse innovators.  

The rise of open-source platforms, low-code and no-code 

No-Code tools help you to automate tasks, build your website or app, embed artificial intelligence, analyse data, and validate ideas faster, at a lower cost. They will also allow you to build marketplaces, e-learning platforms, and subscription communities.

AI algorithms and machine learning will become available as no-code tools and will be increasingly made open source accelerating their adoption. OpenAI’s API provides access to GPT-3, which performs a wide variety of natural language tasks, and Codex, which translates natural language to code.

Data Management

Data from IoT, health care and social platforms is growing exponentially. Integration of data sources across platforms and business users, called your Data Fabric, will be a key focus area for businesses. A data fabric can use analytics to learn and actively recommend where data should be used.

Data companies like Scale AI are developing AI solutions for data management.

Tech Platforms

The Big Tech companies experienced substantial growth in valuation, with Apple, Alphabet and Amazon all adding around $1trn in 2021. Last year Apple pushed an update that opted users out of ad-tracking by default. Google announced plans to ban 3rd-party cookies on Chrome by 2022 (which it later pushed to 2023).

Governments will increase regulation of the Big Tech companies with an emphasis on antitrust and privacy. Scrutiny of potential acquisitions may require tech companies to divest existing assets in order to grow. The platforms need to answer some challenging questions, like what content should be allowable? How do we balance anonymity and accountability? The Tech Platforms have also started to recognise the need to incentivise creators.

Have we reached “peak social,” with people moving away from ad supported social networks and away from spending so much time on social media and mobile phones in general? Will this create the growth of more community-focused platforms and a greater willingness to pay?

Web 3.0

Web 1.0 was developed by Tim-Berners Lee in 1991, composed mainly of static and read-only websites. There was no search engine, video streaming or social media. Web 2.0 was the connected internet, websites became dynamic, with pop-ups and video, and todays large tech companies were created. Web 3.0 is the proposed new iteration of the World Wide Web that incorporates decentralisation on blockchains and open-source software. Web 3.0 aims to facilitate globally-distributed people working together on common goals and putting data ownership back in the hands of the user.

The key questions are how quickly a decentralised alternative could achieve mass adoption? How will the Big Tech companies respond? Will there be a hybrid Web 2.5 with more decentralised communities alongside the Tech companies? Will it become a battle between Web 3.0 and the metaverse or will both flourish?

DAO’s (decentralized autonomous organisations)

DAO’s are organisations owned not by a central entity, but by membership using a token issued on a blockchain, much like a digital membership card, giving them a stake in the project, access to gated content, and voting rights. DAO’s are self-governing with pre-programmed operating rules. The aim is to democratise decision-making and ownership.

DAO’s are open to contributions from anyone willing to give their time and effort, typically in exchange for cryptocurrency. This incentivizes everyone to work in the best interest of the organisation, because if the crypto token price falls, their income goes down.

Anyone can propose an idea and all members can vote on it, although some DAOs may have a smaller council of active members with autonomy to make decisions like hiring or running marketing campaigns. DAOs often use a combination of discussion forums such as Discord or Telegram and more formal vote signalling platforms such as Aragon Voice or Snapshot.

DAO’s could be used in a range of applications including community and worker collectives, metaverses / virtual worlds, asset management, fan ownership and media / entertainment. A recent DAO attempted to buy a copy of the US Constitution and another group are forming with the aim to buy the Blockbuster brand and create a Netflix alternative.

There are a number of tools you can use to create a DAO if you don’t want to create one from scratch including https://aragon.org/https://daostack.io/, and https://colony.io/

The rise of “AI as a Service” platforms will enable anyone to access the benefits of AI.

FinTech

Crypto Currency and The Blockchain

Estimates suggest that there are now over 300M crypto users globally, which is up from 100M twelve months ago. More and more companies are accepting crypto for purchases and large institutions have started to diversify their investments into crypto. Crypto is also becoming used as an option for wages or bonuses.

Even though most people associate blockchain with crypto currency like bitcoin, blockchain technology has many usages including audit trails, risk analysis, contracts, supply chain monitoring and other validation services. So we are likely to see a greater differentiation between crypto currency speculation and technological crypto and blockchain companies that have real world applications.

We will see gaming created around a play-to-earn (P2E) concept. One revenue model for gaming companies will require gamers to purchase a wearable NFT in order to earn rewards (for example, a suit jacket that their virtual avatar wears). They can buy these from the gaming company (which can be four and five figure sums), on the secondary market, or the owner of an NFT can lend it in exchange for say a 30% share of their earnings (which allows non-gamers to generate passive income from NFT ownership).

Creator coins using your own branded crypto tokens will be used by influencers and community builders to incentivise their loyal customers, much like airline miles or credit card points. For example, you can award coins to people who send you referrals, and they can use those coins to purchase your products, or gain access to special bonuses or events. We could also see a number of reward programmes starting to shift to a branded cryptocurrency concept in 2022. Over time these coins could gain intrinsic value for both the creator (you might launch with 100,000 coins, 50,000 of which you reserve for yourself) and the customer (if they buy and hold, the value of the coin could go up in value).

Other crypto innovations include ZenGo who have developed a facial biometrics wallet removing the need for passwords, private keys or seed phrases which were a complexity and security concern for some users.

Banking, Payments and Decentralised finance

The use of digital wallets on your smartphone will continue to grow for contactless payments. Venmo claim to have 76 million users. The expansion of Buy Now Pay Later financing (which is used for 5% of ecommerce sales in some geographies), such as offered by Klarna, have the potential to replace credit cards for the Gen Z generation and become super apps creating marketplaces for some categories.

Legacy banks are starting to see a big disruption from digital rivals and digital currencies, and the emergence of the alternative decentralised financial systems (DeFi) based on the blockchain. The big questions are will Centralised Finance and Decentralised Finance become more integrated within a regulated environment in 2022? And will we see mainstream adoption and acceptance of blockchain for P2P payments, and possibly central banks developing their own digital currencies?

Investment in Startups

Investment in startups is at all-time highs. Global VC funding reached $643bn in 2021, up from $335bn in 2020, and a 10 fold increase compared to a decade ago. In 2021, the financial services sector experienced the greatest year-over-year growth in VC funding, followed by healthcare, e-commerce and transportation.

Data from Crunchbase showed that $29bn went into seed funding, $201bn was invested in 8,000 early-stage companies, and $413bn in late-stage funding, with 1,000 more start-ups raising late-stage funding compared to the previous year. Pre-seed rounds that used to average $1m-$2m, are now $4m-$5m. Seed rounds have gone from an average of $4m-$5m, to $8m-$10m, while Series A rounds $8m-$10m are coming in at $25m or more. 500+ startups became unicorns in 2021. Last year, capital raised by all-female founding teams was just 1.1% of the total, down from 2.4% last year, this inequality should attract greater attention in 2022.

Early-stage startups are starting to raise money from new sources such as equity crowdfunding and angel syndicates. Crypto-lending platforms offer a way for investors to earn interest on their cryptocurrencies and for borrowers to get access to funding. Initial Coin Offerings have also started to be used for raising startup funding. New fintech companies like Fundbox use big data analytics based on the information supplied through a company’s accounting software or bank account to provide loans.

Venture Capital is getting increasingly competitive with more companies and former founders entering the market. One of the hot investment topics in 2021 was SPAC’s, (special purpose acquisition companies). They are a shell company whose sole purpose is to raise capital in an IPO in order to merge with an existing privately-owned company, which then becomes publicly traded as a result. This cuts down the time and complexity for startups to go public, compared to an IPO. Last year 613 SPACs went public in the United States. However, their popularity may decline due to increased regulation and cost.

Will the investment splurge continue into 2022 with tightening money supply and inflation? Will this be the year of deeptech investment leveraging technological and scientific breakthroughs or will the Metaverse become the main area for investment?

NFTs

There was huge growth of Non Fungible Tokens (NFT’s) with sales hitting $25B in 2021. OpenSea, the largest trading platform facilitated $14B of transactions in 2021, an increase from ~$22m in 2020.

The most prominent NFTs are digital art collections, like CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club, which sell for well in excess of $100,000 each. The most expensive known NFT sale was $69.3M, however, a common price range is $100 to $1,000. Other NFT categories include sport, film, music, gaming, and virtual assets in the Metaverse. In order to make assets affordable for smaller retail investors companies like Fractional have started to offer fractional ownership.

Virtual-property sales on sites like Legacy have seen $54m being spent on plots of land in the game. SuperWorld says the average user spends around $3,000 on property purchases. Other leading platforms are Sandbox and Decentraland. Smaller parcels that fetched around $20 when Decentraland launched in 2017 can now sell for as much as $100,000. The challenge will be picking the right virtual world to invest in, or we could see investors diversifying their investments across a number of platforms.

 

MedTech

Genomics, Vaccines and Medicines

The advances in genomics such as DNA sequencing and the speed of new drug / vaccine rollout is creating a life sciences revolution. Gene therapy is a key area for research which involves altering the genes inside your body’s cells in an effort to treat or stop disease, or to accept donor organ transplants, including from non-human sources such as pigs.

The first AI-designed drug will go through clinical trials this year. AI could also assist in targeted therapy a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to precisely identify and attack certain types of cancer cells.

The impressive rollout and apparent success of coronavirus vaccines based on messenger RNA will be used for other diseases such as HIV and malaria, with trials expected in 2022.

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology, is the science of redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities. This could lead to using cells from a patient to grow organs for transplantation. Biofoundries and the use of AI and bioprinting to predict the folding of proteins have the potential to transform drug discovery.

Uses outside of health will also be explored such as carbon capture, energy production, and replacing nitrogen fertilizers with nitrogen-fixing microbes that enable cereal crops to extract nitrogen from the air in a usable form.

Anti-aging

There is now scientific agreement about what causes ageing. Jeff Bezos has reportedly invested in Altos Labs, that is developing biological reprogramming technology to prolong human life. Unity Biotechnology are developing therapeutics to target age-related diseases.

There is research into diet, enzymes, cellular reprogramming and senolytic drugs that kill aged senescent cells that are associated with aging.

Cloud – Brain Interfaces

In 2021 Elon Musk’s company Neuralink, showed how signals from electrodes enabled a monkey to interface with a computer. While human applications are likely to be some way off they are developing the technology to help people who are paralysed to allow them to operate a computer. Another company Synchron, has started human clinical trials having received approval from American regulators, targeting the treatment of neurological diseases.

3D-printed bone implants

Startups such as Ossiform aim to have 3D-printed bones available for human implantation in 2022, using calcium-based minerals, which are made to measure based on patients’ CT scans. Animal trials have shown that bone marrow and blood vessels grew into the implants within eight weeks. Other companies are using implants to stimulate natural bone growth, with the implants gradually biodegrading. There is also research into 3D-printed blood vessels and heart valves, and implants that can deliver antibiotics and chemotherapy.

Health Trackers and Services Moving On-line

There is a rapid increase in the use of remote monitoring devices, linked to your phone or watch. Starting with FitBit, the range of devices is expanding from fitness products to health monitoring. Smart watches can already measure blood oxygenation, perform ECG’s and detect atrial fibrillation. The next versions may include sensors capable of measuring glucose and alcohol in the blood, blood pressure and body temperature.

Many startups including Healthy.io are targeting tele-health, e-pharmacies, home tests for diagnoses, and the online delivery of health and veterinary services, which has become more accepted following the restrictions imposed by the covid pandemic. This may also accelerate the use of AI in diagnoses.

Personalised nutrition

Evidence is growing that each person’s metabolism is unique, and food choices should be, too. Personalised nutrition apps are being developed that will tell you what to eat and when, using machine-learning algorithms, tests of your blood and gut microbiome, data on lifestyle factors such as exercise, and real-time tracking of blood-sugar levels using coin-sized devices attached to the skin. Some will also seek regulatory approval as treatments for conditions such as diabetes and migraine.

Sleep tech

An array of technologies including rings and headbands that record and track sleep quality, provide white noise sound, heat and cool mattresses, and smart alarm clocks to wake you at the perfect moment are growing in popularity. The big tech companies Google and Amazon are launching sleep-tracking nightstand tablets.

 

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Energy and GreenTech

Energy Generation

Continued advancements in the efficiency of solar and wind generation, a greater emphasis on geothermal and hydroelectric, and localised grids continue the trend towards the use of renewable energy and the displacement of fossil fuels. The COP26 deal, agreed to ‘phase down’ coal use and fossil fuel subsidies. While the recognition of the need to act with urgency grows, the innovation, government intervention and implementation needed varies considerably by country. For the world to achieve net-zero emissions, renewable energy will need to make up 90% of global electricity generation by 2050 according to the International Energy Agency. (Source International Energy Agency).

The share of renewables in power generation increased from 10.3% to 11.7% globally, while coal’s share fell 1.3 percentage points to 35.1%. Generation in Europe is spread fairly evenly across renewables, nuclear, gas and ‎hydro.‎ Europe’s renewables generation was 23.8%, making Europe the ‎first region where renewables are now the major source of power.‎

The UK’s renewable generation reached record levels over 43%, compared to fossil fuel generation which contributed over 37%, which is down from 75% in 2010. (Source UK Energy Statistics Annual data for UK)

Natural gas is the dominant fuel source in North America, Russia, the ‎Middle East and Africa. More than half of the power in South and Central America is ‎hydroelectricity, while in Asia, coal accounts for 57% of the generation mix, a far higher ‎share than any other region. (Source BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2021).

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear fusion has been seen as a utopia for energy production but is still likely to be some considerable time away from being ready to commercialise. A growing interest is leading to investment in nuclear fusion startups such as Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Renaissance Fusion and Marvel Fusion, in addition to the ongoing ITER mega-project in France.

Seaborg Technologies is working on building modular floating nuclear power plants powered by compact molten salt reactors, a safer power source, by 2025. Their plan is to build the plants in countries with competent regulators, get them approved there, and then ship them to a location overseas.

Heat pumps

Heating buildings accounts for about a quarter of global energy consumption. Most heating relies on burning coal, gas or oil. The most promising alternative is to use heat pumps, which are essentially refrigerators that run in reverse. The UK government has set targets for new homes and is providing grants to replace existing fossil fuel systems with heat pumps (around 85% of UK homes use gas for heating). Other countries are likely to provide similar incentives, which is likely to promote further innovation in how heat pumps are designed.

Battery Technology

The key market segments for battery technology are energy storage, industrial vehicles, and consumer Electric Vehicles (EV’s).

Batteries are the most expensive component of EVs, accounting for 20% to 30% of the total cost. The average cost of a nickel battery pack fell below $150 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2020 and are projected to drop to $75 per kWh by 2030. Another issue is the sustainability of the raw materials prompting a switch from nickel-cobalt-aluminium to lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries.

A key area of consumer concern is range anxiety, however, some battery suppliers, including One based in the US, are now claiming to be able to double the current range with a new design of batteries that will be available in 2023. QuantumScape have developed solid-state lithium-metal batteries that could boost the range of an EV by 80% and can be rapidly recharged.

Europe is planning 38 new battery gigafactories. The first LFP factory is being developed by Serbian energy company ElevenEs which is planned to be in production by 2025.

Hydrogen

Electrolysers use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. It can be regarded as a green solution where renewable electricity is used. Hydrogen can be stored as gas or liquid onboard a vehicle and then burned or used in a hydrogen fuel cell and can be a better solution than electric for heavy goods vehicles, buses and possibly ships, aircraft and trains. Hydrogen could also be used to store renewable power.

Buses using hydrogen technology are operating in many cities. Tevva Motors uses a combination of batteries and a hydrogen fuel cell in their trucks. Passenger aircraft using hydrogen fuel cells are being developed by Airbus, Aerodelft, ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen. Hydrogen is also being considered as a replacement for natural gas in heating systems.

Direct Air Capture of CO2 

Several startups are pursuing direct air capture of carbon dioxide. In 2022 Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company, will start building the world’s biggest facility in Texas, capable of capturing 1m tonnes of CO2 per year. ClimeWorks, a Swiss firm, opened a plant in Iceland in 2021, which buries captured CO2 in mineral form at a rate of 4,000 tonnes a year. The US company Global Thermostat has signed a joint development with ExxonMobil to bring its technology to market. 

Solar Geoengineering

The dust and ash released into the upper atmosphere by volcanoes is known to have a cooling effect on the plant, which could be mimicked as a way to control climate change. This is controversial as it is unknown what impact this could have on weather patterns, however, a group at Harvard University hopes to conduct a much-delayed experiment called SCoPEx in 2022. 

Water

The availability of water has become a growing concern in many areas of the world. Recycling, leakage prevention and conservation can only do so much. WaterSeer and WFA-PF are developing units that can produce water from air. While wave-powered desalination buoys are being used to convert ocean water to drinking water.

Companies like The Ocean Cleanup aim to remove the floating plastics and garbage patches in oceans, but we will need more innovative solutions that can break down microplastics within a body of water. A wide range of plastic-free products are being promoted to divert plastics from entering water courses in the first place.

 

Transport

Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

Innovation in the automobile industry is being defined by zero emissions, with electrification replacing petrol and diesel engines, zero accidents, by using autonomous vehicles, and zero ownership, with new Mobility as a Service (MaaS) business models adding to the currently available Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, Zipcar offerings.

Projections show that by 2026 electrified vehicles will account for more than half of light vehicles sold globally. The replacement of the existing fleet of fossil fuel cars can take up to 20 years so reducing transports climate impact will take time. Dutch company Lightyear are developing a solar-powered car that can run for 725km on a single charge, with 70km of that coming from solar and the rest from electric charging.

Three different autonomous driving technology approaches are emerging. Tesla’s approach is camera-based, Alphabet’s Waymo is using LiDAR and HD mapping, while Baidu’s Apollo, are building infrastructure sensors to help vehicles identify road signs and traffic.

Autonomous taxis could be the first development. The price for running autonomous taxis is predicted to be $0.25 per mile in 2025 which would be about one third of the cost of owning a vehicle.

Aerial vehicles

Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, sometimes called flying taxis, are being developed by several companies. There have been successful demonstration flights and test flights are scheduled in 2022 to get aircraft certified for commercial use.

Volocopter of Germany aims to provide an air-taxi service at the 2024 Paris Olympics and they have developed a drone for spraying crops in conjunction with the farm equipment supplier John Deere. Hyundai is involved in the first eVOTL airport in the UK, while Vertical Aerospace announced plans to sell eVOTL vehicles to Virgin Atlantic for a UK-based short-haul air travel network.

As many as 300 companies are working on short-range battery-powered craft that take off and land vertically. Contenders include eHang who claims they are close to receiving certification in China, Lilium who are developing a 7 seater jet, Archer Aviation who have secured a $1B deal with United Airlines for 200 five-seater craft, Vertical Aerospace who announced conditional pre-orders for up to 1,350 aircraft, and Joby Aviation, which has a five-seater vehicle with a 150-mile range that can travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, they aim to enter commercial service in 2024.

Companies will need to reduce the cost from around $9 per mile, which is where it is today with helicopters, to less than $5 per mile and eventually around $2.50 per mile. The real revolution will come when full autonomy takes out the cost of a pilot, which companies claim will be available by 2028. Charging infrastructure, landing infrastructure, air traffic control, airspace management, and autonomous autopilot systems will be needed to make this a reality.

Space tourism

2021 was a break-through year for space tourism. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic just beat Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to the edge of space and Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, sent four passengers on a multi-day orbital cruise around the Earth. All three firms will fly more tourists to space in 2022, with SpaceX planning to send tourists to the International Space Station. The Moon is likely to be the next target.

Delivery drones

Delivery drone rules are being developed. Manna, an Irish startup claims to have completed 65,000 flights delivering food and medical supplies, and plans to expand its service across Ireland and into the UK. Wing, a sister company of Google, have made more than 140,000 deliveries to customers across America, Australia and Finland. Dronamics, a Bulgarian company, has developed a cargo drone / aircraft, shipping goods between 39 European airports and remote, mountainous and/or island communities, with a range of 2,500 kms. Drones are being developed in niche areas such as delivery of defibrillators and rescues in emergency cases.

Innovation in the automobile industry is being defined by zero emissions, zero accidents, and zero ownership

FoodTech

Alternative Protein

Startups are pioneering the engineering of eco-friendly food, such as meat and diary substitutes, and the use of niche alternatives such as seaweed. Funding in alternative protein startups reached an all-time high, with forecasts indicating that alternative proteins could account for 11% of the global protein market by 2035, compared to 2% in 2020. Surveys show that 36% of consumers intend to increase their consumption of alternative protein sources.

Around 70 companies are “cultivating” meats in bioreactors with some starting to receive certification to sell their products. Beyond Meat have developed plant based alternatives, while Solar Foods, will start production in 2023 using fermentation to grow protein by getting microbes to convert CO2.

Supplements

Therapeutic cannabis and psychedelics is a growing sector due to legalisation in a number of countries with the legal cannabis market expected to reach over $70B by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 18.1% (Grand View Research). Adding prebiotics to carbonated drinks, vitamin D and magnesium gummies are all fast-growing categories.

Vertical farming

Vertical farms grow plants on trays stacked in a closed, controlled environment. Vertical farms can be located close to customers, reducing transport costs and emissions. Water use is minimised and no pesticides are needed. In Britain, the Jones Food Company will open the world’s largest vertical farm, covering 13,750 square metres, in 2022.

Agriculture and Climate Change

Countries have started to require changes to farming practices to meet their Climate Action Plans setting targets to reduce agricultural emissions by up to 30% by 2030.

John Deere has created weed control equipment with high-resolution cameras and artificial intelligence that recognises weeds so that individual plants can be specifically treated, with the aim of reducing the use of pesticides.

 

EdTech

The Education sector is forecast to be one of the most significant areas for disruption over the next 5 years with a move to online education. Higher education could be particularly prone as students look for alternatives to the traditional hierarchy. 

Workers will need to reskill or upskill due to the changes in technology, with an increasing focus around digital literacy, emotional intelligence and creativity, leading to significant investment in corporate training tools.

There is likely to be a growing presence of gaming in education and we will start to see education on the Metaverse. There are many startups focusing on niches such as teaching kids coding or life skills. 2021 saw Austria’s GoStudent join the unicorn ranks, and OpenClassrooms raised €80 million of investment, while Coursera became a public listed company.

 

Robotics and Automation

Robotics and Automation will have a major impact on the tasks and jobs that will be undertaken in the future. AI used in autonomic systems that can modify their own algorithms without an external software update, will enable them to adapt to new conditions, much like humans can.

We will see an expansion of hyperautomation, to automate as many business and IT processes as possible, and the use of RPA (Robotic Process Automation). 3D printing will see more manufacturing being done locally.

Will labour shortages likely to be experienced in 2022 accelerate companies to replace human input with robots or will there be a greater focus on augmenting human input, making people more efficient through technology?

 

Construction

The use of drones, robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality headsets and sensors will see expanding uses in the construction sector, along with advances in materials science and sustainability.

Modular construction has been creating a buzz but has had mixed results to date. XtreeE, uses 3D-printing to produce everything from walls to bridges. 3D-printed houses are being built either on site, or as several pieces shipped from a factory, with a community of 100 3d-printed homes near Austin, in Texas being the largest proposed development.

 

Retail and E-commerce

Shopping is being transformed as ecommerce and D2C (direct to customer) using digital sales channels replace in-store purchases. B2B (business-to-business) websites such as Shopify, B2C (business-to-consumer) websites like Amazon, and consumer-to-consumer marketplaces including eBay, have revolutionised retail.

Automated stores without checkouts where customers are automatically charged are expanding rapidly. Amazon plan to increase from the current 30 non-staffed stores to over 3,000. Luxury stores are likely to continue with the personal touch of sales assistants, but also incorporating a more immersive experience in their stores. The high-street will have to become more about the experience in order to attract customers.

On-demand delivery was one of the hottest investment categories in 2021, with startups like Gorillas, Getir and Zapp. Online food delivery is estimated to become a $182 billion market. While we have seen huge growth in the delivery sector, it remains to be seen if people will continue to rely on these services in a post-covid era?

The trend towards buying from more sustainable brands, and choosing the small, artisan and local business over the bigger brands appears to continue.

 

 

“The past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it.!”

Business Management

Business & Revenue models

John Deere revealed plans that it is exploring a subscription model for its new self-driving tractors and a number of startup car manufacturers are taking a similar approach. Access over ownership / sharing economy marketplaces for niche categories are being created, for example Turo has developed a car sharing marketplace.

Crypto tokens and the blockchain will impact business models, for example by creating your own tokens to reward stakeholders and customers. Pay-per-use could become a realistic pricing model using IoT sensors and blockchain type technology to store data so that companies can be paid by the actual output rather than selling the product.

Recruitment and HR

Startup talent is not getting any easier to find. Companies will have to manage with persistent skills gaps, particularly in data, analytics, software engineering and product design.

2021 was the year of the “Great Resignation”, a year when workers quit their jobs at historic rates. This has impacted some sectors more than others, particularly in industries that have too often treated workers as dispensable, with leisure and hospitality, retail and healthcare being among the most affected.

This has been driven by staff who were anxious to return to work due to covid concerns, a lack of adequate childcare, a search of better work opportunities in other industries, and people starting their own businesses. This is leading to a greater focus on retaining employees, with companies investing more into their HR and recruitment teams, while offering more flexibility such as remote working, and more benefits and perks like signing bonuses.

HR is moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach, where there will be more cocreation between employees and management, giving employees the autonomy to make decisions within a broader framework of rules and procedures.

Mental health and wellbeing will continue to be prominent issues. Diversity and inclusiveness, and the gender pay gap will be ongoing initiatives within progressive companies.

Will the war for talent intensify in 2022 and will hiring employees become more expensive? If companies insist on their workforce returning to the office, will this lead to mass defections to companies that offer more flexibility?

Culture, Change Management and Collaborating Remotely

The when, where, and how of work has evolved beyond 9 to 5 in the office. Companies will have to become adept at the balancing act of remote and office working. This creates challenges such as how to build or maintain your culture, and how to onboard employees remotely.

Companies like Remote and Accenture are utilising the metaverse sending new hires Oculus VR headsets for onboarding, training and meetings, while others have created more casual always-on spaces where employees can connect, and have those important watercooler discussions. 

With more people looking to use the freedom to work anywhere and companies needing to employ foreign workers to fill skill gaps, a number of startups, like Boundless, are offering employment platforms that help companies employ, comply with local HR standards and pay remote workers in overseas countries.

Businesses are recognising the need to design systems that optimise the amount of time every employee is in flow state, and personalisation that allows people to work in their own most creative and productive way. Companies like Panasonic are letting employees opt in to a 4-day schedule.

Marketing

Many businesses are now operating in a hybrid model maintaining a physical presence while also selling via ecommerce platforms. Inbound marketing (content marketing, SEO, social media), short form video (TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts), and Podcasting (including voice apps like Clubhouse) continue to grow as ways to attract and engage with customers.

The cost of social media advertising has increased prompting businesses to look at alternatives. More in-app shopping is being used on social media and community building is growing in importance as a way to achieve customer engagement. Live Shopping is being used by more businesses to showcase their brand’s unique personality in an online experience.

Influencer marketing has seen significant growth and is providing the best ROI in some sectors, particularly through micro-influencers with under 100K followers. Virtual influencers (computer-generated characters) are becoming more common. Livestreamed ecommerce using influencers is a growing trend in countries like China, and Amazon are trialling their live service platform.

Social responsibility, leading through purpose and sustainability are growing marketing factors as consumers have started holding brands more accountable. Initiatives include the Green Claims Code, a recent mandate set out by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

AI is being used to personalise messaging, create content and in chatbots. There is a trend for using sophisticated web apps instead of static websites, especially as these can now be built on no-code applications. 

Operations

Component and chip shortages revealed the weakness of supply chains. The risk of these issues recurring could lead to more onshoring, working with suppliers located within your own country or region.

In the order of 40% of the worlds’ jobs are at risk of being automated in the next 20 years requiring significant reskilling of the existing workforce.

Demographics & Geopolitics

As fertility declines and people live longer the percentage of the population above age 60 continues to grow. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be more grandparents than grandchildren in many countries. The 60+ segment will become the largest demographic market, and in some countries senior citizens will own 80% of the net worth.

We are seeing a new era of geopolitics with China’s rise and Africa becoming a key market for more businesses. India with its huge population will shift power further east in the future.

Remote working will lead to people returning to the countryside and away from cities. There is likely to be a greater push for better healthcare and education, but taxes may have to rise.

 

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These trends and emerging technologies will cause significant disruption and opportunity, and it’s the convergence of these technologies that will result in exponential change.

This digital age where software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings and large tech platforms have been dominant appears to be adapting more towards decentralised platforms and deep tech innovations that aim to solve large and fundamental challenges to society such as those in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This is seeing a shift from digital age risks that are more often around product – market fit, such as having sufficient demand or high levels of competition, to deep tech risks which are more often technology based.

There is no doubt that businesses will need to become increasingly agile to adapt to this accelerating pace of change.

 

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Starting a Business is hard – that is why The First Time Entrepreneur provides online business training that guides you through a step by step process and shares the best practices used by successful startups, giving you the clarity and confidence to start and grow your business.

Where you need additional support, we can work with you through our coaching programme or do tasks for you through our outsourcing and consultancy.

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