UN SDGs – a $12trn new research and innovation opportunity

Posted on June 16, 2017 by Cambium Insights

In an uncertain world, this $12trn market opportunity is catalysing new research and innovation to help business leaders build a sustainable competitive edge.

At the start of 2017, its clear we are living in an uncertain world.  Unexpected world events fuel our increasingly diverse and divergent media 24 x 7. Recent global political events have shaken traditional alliances and structures. Economically the income for many working people has been flat for a long time, whilst national and personal debt remains at record levels. In the natural environment disasters fuelled by a changing climate have doubled in frequency since the 1980s.

Faced with these uncertainties it’s no surprise that businesses are holding back from long term investment to create business growth and are more focused on share buy backs or dividend increases to keep investor returns high. Amidst the gloom just how can ambitious leaders find new innovation opportunities that offer long term, sustainable growth and value for businesses, but at the same time can deliver wider societal benefits?

The UN SDGs are catalysing catalysing new research & innovation driven markets

These global challenges also offer an opportunity

A recent report “Better World, Better Business (1)” by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission offers a practical way forward. It has estimated that the global agreement to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the world offers not only hope, but a huge opportunity worth $12 trillion of value by 2030. This analysis has come from an assessment of successfully achieving just some of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the leaders of 193 countries in September 2015.

The report estimates that if the goals are achieved then in four economic systems, up to $12 trillion of new market opportunities will be created specifically:

  • Cities

  • Energy and materials

  • Food and agriculture

  • Health and well-being

Developing a successful research and innovation strategy to make the most of these new markets

Whilst half the battle may be a mind-set shift in seeing these challenges as an opportunity, success will require other key ingredients and a smarter way to improve the productivity of research and innovation. “Business as usual” will not be sufficient. The systemic and interrelated nature of these challenges mandates a change to a more collaborative approach in order to create the new value chains and business models and solutions that can deliver upon the goals. Equally innovation in these markets will need to harness the latest developments in advanced technologies and applications to release value from the big data set that are now available, as low cost sensor networks proliferate. We call this collaborative data-centric approach – Smarter Innovation.

A sustainable first mover advantage

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission estimate that Business leaders who align their organisations, resources and business model in support of the SDGs stand to gain at least a 5 year competitive advantage. They can also expect to capture an unfair share of the growth opportunities in the new markets that will be created. Success will be greatest for those organisations that adopt a Smarter Innovation approach.

Smarter innovation offers a sustainable future for all.

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