From climate change to autonomous vehicles, the challenges we'll face in the next 35 years will stem from two key megatrends: population growth and advancing technology.
Together these will mean more people connecting in new ways, leading to an acceleration of ideas and innovation.
Veolia sits at the heart of a changing world, where water, waste and energy will shape the businesses of tomorrow. In this report, we bring together thinking around global trends that will impact our industry and society.
Continuing population growth will lead to environmental degradation and changes to how we manage and consume energy, water and food. It is estimated we will double our resource and energy consumption by 2050, if businesses don’t change. The question remains: can a growing population with declining resources improve efficiency?
Legislating to regulate
By 2050, advances in big data could lead to companies and governments having a firmer grasp on factors influencing CO2, which will make them better at reporting and managing emissions. Before that, we are likely to see changes in legislation that will enable this achievement, but perhaps not quickly enough. Strategic development of a clear, long-term policy framework is essential for enabling businesses to progressively invest in low carbon technologies and to help them focus on emission reducing activities that will bring longer-term gains.
More people means more food
Food consumption will rise faster than population as the global middle class expands, leading to increased supply pressure and higher prices. We’ll need to establish more dynamic, efficient and agile supply chains.
The pressure of requiring more food will lead to a more joined-up approach to managing water and energy use, creating a food, water and energy network.
Smarter ways to use space
Increasing urbanisation will mean a significant squeeze on space, affecting where and how we grow and manufacture. Growing cities will need industries to find more efficient ways of managing and moving urban water, energy and waste.
Changes in healthcare
An ageing population, growing costs of treatment and new medical technology will shape the future of healthcare. It is possible that in the next 35 years, artificial and lab-grown organs will create a more permanent solution for transplants. This means patients will no longer have to wait for life-sustaining organs. Scientists are already trying to grow human organs inside pigs in an attempt to tackle a shortage of donors.
New technology deliverables will be accelerated by more powerful computers, enabling us to find previously impossible solutions.
3D printing and nanotechnology
3D printing will become embedded into supply chains by 2050. The combination of nanotechnology and novel materials will lead to bespoke production lines. Today, tooling and production mobilisation accounts for 70% of production costs and this could be reduced to 10%.
New skills in the workforce
Robotics and the rise of artificial intelligence will replace many low skill and repetitive job roles. The wider industry impact will see human workforces reskilling and upskilling for the workplace, but the question remains: how will advancing technology create new demands on manufacturing and resourcing?
Smart utility metering will be taken to a new level, with more intelligent and responsive systems.