What are megatrends? Why are they important for scientists and innovators? And how can research organisations include megatrends in their strategies to gain momentum and take advantage of the opportunities of the future?
We have collected information from some of the best sources and reports to answer these questions in a short and informative way.
What Is a Megatrend?
A megatrend is a trend with a significant impact on a global scale and with the potential to greatly influence our future. Megatrends can be defined as extensive patterns that are likely to shape the future of our world for the next 10 to 20 years and beyond. They are expected to impact multiple aspects of society, including economics, politics, technology, culture, and the environment. These trends have the potential to create new industries, reshape existing ones, and alter the way we live and work.
Why Are Megatrends Important?
Unlike short-term trends, megatrends form and span over multiple years. They can create significant opportunities and challenges for individuals, businesses, and governments, and it’s essential to understand them to prepare for the future.
In research and innovation (R&I), megatrends can reveal emerging opportunities and challenges in particular sectors or at the level of society that have to be addressed. They can also inform about new funding sources and potential collaboration with new actors and stakeholders.
Scientists and innovators can use megatrends to anticipate and plan for the future. By understanding the driving forces behind these trends, they can identify emerging technologies, industries, and markets, and develop innovative solutions to address the challenges that arise. For example, the megatrend of increasing urbanization has led to the development of smart cities, with new technologies and systems designed to improve transportation, energy efficiency, and public safety.
Megatrends also provide a framework for collaboration across different sectors, allowing scientists and innovators to work together with policymakers, businesses, and other stakeholders to address complex challenges. By sharing knowledge and resources, they can accelerate the development of new technologies and strategies that can help to address the most pressing global issues.
We have analyzed several reports and priorities and here are some of the main megatrends to consider for research and innovation.
5 Megatrends to Understand What’s Next in Science & Innovation
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that human activities have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels. In the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions. Some impacts may be long-lasting or irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the latest IPCC report shows.
As a global phenomenon, climate change requires global effort but also regional, national, and individual commitment and action. This also means significant opportunities for R&I.
R&I will play a central role in:
- accelerating and navigating the necessary transitions
- deploying, demonstrating and de-risking solutions
- engaging citizens in social innovation
The European Commission made €1 billion available under the Green Deal – the last and biggest call under Horizon 2020 and funded 73 projects to contribute to the EU’s response to the climate crisis and help protect Europe’s unique ecosystems and biodiversity.
Scientists are fighting climate change on many battlefields. One of the most active is the energy sector led by the need to switch to more efficient and sustainable energy sources. But technology development is not the only field where researchers are looking for novel solutions. Adaptation to the effects of climate change also plays a critical role. The changes envisioned by the IPCC report require action, resilience and changes in the way people behave and live. One way to do it is by replacing our eating habits and identifying more sustainable patterns in agriculture and farming.
|💡 RADIANT is a European project that promotes crop diversification, environmental and agrobiodiversity preservation, and fair economic development through the valorization of underutilized crops. It is carried out by researchers, farmers, value chain actors and consumers, developing solutions and tools that promote underutilized crops, agrobiodiversity, sustainable diets, and dynamic value chains.
In the last century, 75% of the genetic diversity of crops has been lost. There are about 259,000 plant species of which 50,000 are edible, with 150-200 actually consumed, and only three provide 60% of the calories and nutrition in the human diet (maize, rice and wheat).
RADIANT supports the EU Farm to Fork Strategy objectives to make the EU food system more robust and resilient to future crises like COVID-19, growing population demands and increasingly recurrent natural disasters such as floods or droughts. To achieve this, value chains must move towards becoming more biodiverse and resilient.
In recent years, global population growth has been slowing down, but the world still faces a significant population. Although the average birth rate is decreasing, some countries like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are experiencing growth. Moreover, people are living longer than ever before due to advancements in healthcare and technology. As a result, it is estimated that by 2030, 12% of the world’s population will be over 65 years old. This increase in longevity presents challenges and opportunities for societies worldwide.
As older adults may require more healthcare and support services, more jobs may be generated. Additionally, they may bring valuable knowledge, skills, and experience to the workforce and society.
However, the trend of decreasing fertility rates is also related to urbanization. The United Nations estimates that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, leading to the challenge of building smarter cities due to the significant energy resources and global emissions generated by cities.
|💡Developing new solutions for aging populations AAL2Business was an initiative funded by AAL, a funding program that focuses on improving the quality of life for older individuals and promotes technological and innovative opportunities in the healthy aging field. They achieve this by providing funding for projects that aim to develop market-ready products and services for older people, with each project involving SMEs, research institutions, and end-user organizations. Since its establishment in 2008, AAL has supported more than 300 projects that address various concerns, including the management of chronic conditions, social inclusion, access to online services, mobility, daily activity management, and support for informal caregivers.|
With technology evolving at an unprecedented pace, we are now more connected than ever before. Innovation in areas such as cities, mobility, energy, and economic growth is driving improvements that will affect all industries in almost every part of the world.
Technology has the potential to revolutionize human life, and recent advancements in healthcare are the perfect example of this. From telemedicine to precision medicine and the development of artificial organs, technology has transformed healthcare and will continue to do so in the coming decades.
|💡An example of ambitious initiatives in medicine is PHIRE. The team works on the first artificial intelligence-assisted theranostic approach (combination of therapy and diagnosis performed at the same time) for human bladder cancer lesions. PHIRE solution aims to overcome the limitations of the current clinical approaches for the management of human bladder cancer (BCa) lesions < 1mm, which are responsible for 40% of relapses of high-grade disease.
Other examples include OXiNEMS, which develops Nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) from transition metal oxides to measure weak magnetic fields generated by brain activity, and ECLipse, focused on the design of a nanobiotechnological platform that will make pathogens detection more economical, faster, and efficient.
Energy production is currently the primary cause of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is the main contributor to climate change. According to ESPAS, energy consumption is projected to increase by 1.7% annually, resulting in a rise in oil, gas, and coal prices. This is correlated with more people living in cities and with climate change.
However, there is an increasing awareness among the population, and several trends are emerging, such as the shift towards renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro power. There is also an emphasis on energy storage to ensure a reliable and stable energy supply.
The rush for sustainable and cheap renewable energy has accelerated in the last years. There are lots of EU funding possibilities in the energy sector and many ambitious projects aimed at decarbonizing the European industry and making Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels before 2030.
|💡One of them is ECO2Fuel. Funded under Horizon2020 (Green Deal), it brings together 15 international partners from the chemical, energy, hydrogen, mechanical engineering and automotive industry, and several research institutions set out to contribute to this goal by building the worldwide first CO2 conversion system to convert 742 tons of CO2 per year into economic and sustainable liquid e-fuels and chemicals.
“With the international consortium of ECO2Fuel from Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Greece, and the Netherlands, we will be driving the electromechanical carbon dioxide reduction towards commercialization in the coming five years, assuring the leading position of the EU in developing green technologies for a brighter future.” – says Dr. Schwan Hosseiny from DLR, the coordinator of the team.
The global economy is expected to continue growing at a rate of 3% per year over the next decade, according to PwC. This growth will coincide with a rise in the middle class, with most of the world’s population being part of this group by 2030. The emergence of countries such as China, India, and Brazil as economic powerhouses will be a key factor in this trend, with urbanization and industrialization driving demand for resources and energy in these regions.
Europe has taken several measures to deal with the economic megatrend affecting the region. Some of these measures include:
- Investing in Innovation: Europe has been investing heavily in research and development to spur innovation and create new technologies. The European Union’s Horizon Europe program, for example, is investing over €100 billion in research and innovation.
- Promoting Sustainability: Europe is taking steps to transition to a sustainable economy by promoting the use of renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing energy efficiency. The European Green Deal, for example, aims to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050.
- Supporting SMEs: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a vital part of Europe’s economy, and several measures have been taken to support them. These measures include providing access to finance, promoting entrepreneurship, and creating a favorable business environment.
- Fostering Digitalization: Europe is embracing digitalization to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and create new business models. The European Union’s Digital Single Market strategy aims to create a seamless digital marketplace across the EU, promote the use of digital technologies, and support innovation.
- Investing in Human Capital: Europe is investing in education and training to develop the skills needed to adapt to the megatrends. The EU’s Skills Agenda for Europe, for example, aims to improve the quality and relevance of education and training, promote lifelong learning, and support the mobility of workers.
|💡One example of initiatives addressing many of these measures is CircularInvest. It helps circular economy projects across Europe become investment-ready and increase their chances to secure financial resources. CircularInvest services include tailor-made support to improve their circularity, develop a business plan (including IP and legal), and make circular economy projects more appealing to investors. The objective of this project is to promote economic growth in European regions and cities, as well as enhance opportunities for circular economy projects. These projects are expected to generate economic wealth and employment opportunities.|
- DELOITTE – Tech Trends 2023
- PWC – The World in 2025
- EY – Are you reframing your future or is the future reframing you?
- BlackRock – Megatrends Insights on the forces shaping our future
- IPSOS – A New World Disorder? Navigating a Polycrisis
- REPORT ROLAND BERGER
- ESPAS – The Mega Trends
- World Economic Forum – Megatrends and their impact on the global investment landscape
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1)
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2)
- United Nations