Trends like sustainability and digitalization are going to dramatically change the chemicals and materials industry over the next 20 years. Investing in technology innovations will be critical for companies to keep up. Our annual report, “Foresight 2021: Top Emerging Technologies to Watch,” identifies and ranks 12 key technologies that will reshape the world. In addition to highlighting the 12 key overall technologies, for the first time ever, this year’s report ranks the top five technologies across the chemicals and materials industry.
To kick off 2021, we’re taking a closer look at the chemicals and materials sector and reviewing what topics emerged and which technologies rose to the top during an event-filled year.
- Plastic Waste Recycling: As concerns about plastic waste rise, billions of dollars are at risk. Advanced recycling tech is necessary to tackle this issue and creates opportunities for higher-value products.
- Materials Informatics: Applying machine learning to materials development can not only improve R&D cost and efficiency but also help enable new business models and greater agility.
- Digital Sales Platforms: E-commerce and sales automation are coming to chemicals, along with services around customization and product use.
- 3D Printing: 3D printing provides material firms unique growth opportunities – but firms need to be prepared to move down the value chain to capture their share of profits.
- Synthetic Biology: Synbio can boost sustainability claims but also enable more flexible, distributed production of chemicals and, in the right cases, can enable new markets and lower costs.
The impacts of climate change and digital transformation will be substantial – as the chemicals industry is forced to adapt to the circular economy, waste plastic will become the most valuable feedstock. This will create a more decentralized industry that relies increasingly on economies of multiples. At the same time, digital sales platforms will commoditize customization, eroding the difference between specialty and commodity businesses.