Disruptive Innovations VIII

Ten More Things to Stop and Think About

In our new report, the eighth in our Disruptive Innovations series, we once again look at some of the leading-edge concepts across sectors and identify new products, which could ultimately disrupt their marketplace. A few of the “new” concepts may not seem quite that new — e.g., alternative proteins and psychedelic drugs — but new technology and increased acceptance could make them game changers. Psychedelic drugs have been around in various forms since the 1950s, and despite showing promise at the time, regulation kept the class of drugs on the sideline. Today, their benefits are being explored in conditions such as treatment-resistant depression and anxiety. Plant-based alternative proteins are already changing the traditional “meat” households put on the dinner table, but new lab-grown cultured meat, with better taste and a eventually a lower price, could become the next alternative protein.

Sustainability remains a big focus not only for governments, corporates, and investors, but also innovation. The battle on climate change has continued in earnest and the need to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has become even more of a global priority. Removing carbon dioxide for the benefit of the planet is explored in three ways: (1) nature-based solutions, including afforestation and reforestation; (2) enhanced natural processes, including land management and bioengineered plants; and (3) direct air capture (DAC) — the “alchemy of air,” where machines capture carbon dioxide straight out of the atmosphere. In past issues, we have explored innovations in green transportation, including hydrogen-powered rail, autonomous vehicle networks, hyperloop, and electric vehicles. This year we look at the use of ammonia as a source to fuel jet engines. Although hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels are further along as potential renewables solutions, most jet engines can be retrofitted to use ammonia, it is easily storable, and there is already an ecosystem for production and distribution in place. Finally, we explore how to close the recycling loop using de-polymerization methods that will cut down on plastic waste filling our landfills.

2021 has been a great year for innovation in healthcare. mRNA was largely unproven in 2020 despite decades of scientific research, but today has become one of the most powerful weapons against the pandemic. Given the rapid proof-of-concept for mRNA vaccines during COVID-19, we now know that mRNA can produce highly effective and safe vaccines — and COVID-19 vaccines could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Finally, a report on disruptive innovations would not be complete without looking at some new technology. The introduction and increasing popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) coupled with the transition of retail into the metaverse highlights the blending of fintech with both consumer and gaming. Semiconductor manufacturing is on the verge of transforming from two-dimensional to three-dimensional architecture, which could increase the speed of chips by five-fold. And artificial intelligence could be coming to your next flight, protecting both your health and your safety.