Six trends set to shape your world

Vision visits the Global Innovation Summit for a heads-up on the trends and innovations poised to make a global impact

“Innovation is not limited to technology. Every sector stands to be disrupted and transformed through innovation.” With this clarion call by His Excellency Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, this year's edition of the Global Innovation Summit kicked off in Dubai.

Over 1,000 attendees – including government dignitaries, entrepreneurs, business executives and university students – convened at Atlantis The Palm, eager to discover the fast-moving medley of developments shaping the future of innovation in the region and worldwide.

In a fireside chat on-stage, HE Al Janahi emphasised how a variety of sectors could benefit from a “new, radical, creative” approach. He noted: “Look at how companies like Uber and Careem transformed a conventional sector like transportation,” adding, “I believe sectors such as real estate, retail and hospitality, which play such a major role in this city, could benefit from a game-changing innovator that fundamentally reengineers the way we interact, experience and consume goods and services in these sectors.”

HE Al Janahi also highlighted the commitment of Dubai SME to supporting the city’s entrepreneurs: “Dubai SME focuses on enabling innovative entrepreneurs to step forward and boldly work towards translating their ideas into successful, global companies, in much the same way Dubai has boldly transformed itself into a global destination and a city of the future.”

The summit saw thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and disruptive thinkers debate and explore subjects ranging from the ROI (Return on Investment) in innovation to smart cities to the promise of “Open Source” for tomorrow’s technological advancements.

Here’s our round-up of the top six themes and trends impacting innovation and shaping the road ahead:

1) The Global Center of Innovation Shifting from East to West: In the opening keynote, Tim Jones, Programme Director of Future Agenda, explained the steady and palpable power shift from West to East as emerging economies, led by India and China, take centre stage. “The circle is finally closing. The region that once was the seat of knowledge some 1,000 years ago is slowly regaining its momentum.” Jones, a globally recognised expert on innovation, growth and foresight, pointed to the increasing focus of the developed world on Asia and the Middle East, which by virtue of its combined population is “fertile ground for designing innovative solutions that can impact far greater numbers of people.”

2) Institutional social responsibility will be mandatory for businesses: According to Jones: “By 2025, social responsibility and accountability will be as crucial to business viability as is pricing or customer acquisition. The leading businesses of the future will be those that champion the development of their communities.” As the need for a systematic form of corporate accountability continues to mount, businesses can benefit from being socially innovative, with both their employees and customers, in order to flourish.

3) As the educational experience moves online, schools of the future will be more museum than mega-campus: With a dizzying array of educational content now freely available on the internet, students will not replace face-to-face learning with devices but will instead expect educators to serve as “curators of knowledge” versus top-down disseminators.

Global Innovation Summit 2
Forecasting and innovation speakers ponder key future trends

4) Food technology is the new item on the menu: as the world population continues to grow and land dedicated for agriculture dwindles, technology is critical to creating healthy, nutritious food outside of farming, and is a viable solution to both combatting and utilising food waste.

5) 3D printing is the housing solution for future population growth: “As the global population is slated to hit 8.5 billion by 2030 and with the growing refugee crisis presenting housing challenges in many parts of the developed world, the need for more affordable and high-quality 3D printing is growing by the day,” suggested James Woudhuysen, a forecasting and innovation speaker and Visiting Professor at London South Bank University.

6) Cities should evolve from an “urban space” to a “people place”: Nadine Bitar, Founder and CEO of urban innovation lab Placemaking, painted a rich picture of how cities of the future must be innovatively approached across both urban planning and design.  “To truly transform a city, you need to holistically and symbiotically synthesise the inputs of all the stakeholders of the urban environment, especially the community that lives in it,” Bitar said. She emphasised how municipalities can become more proactive, using technology and crowdsourcing platforms to gather inputs from residents and apply the information they receive to make tangible improvements to communities and neighbourhoods. In her view, this kind of “placemaking” strengthens the sense of liveability, security and connectedness in a city for all space users (residents and visitors).