Well, why are predictions about the future important and why do we talk about them? That’s what experts in the field of innovation and related investment are wondering about during the European Innovation Days that will be held from 24 to 26 September in Brussels.

The reason why is that it is extremely important to define a mission and to understand what will matter, says Kerstin Cuhls, attached to the German Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation, and in the past also adviser on innovation to the European Commission.

No more mucking around

You can’t do anything and you can’t set a goal. But then, as a country or as the European Union, you are ‘durchwursteln’, as she calls it. In other words – mucking around. And you really shouldn’t want to do that. Here are the five most important predictions for the future between now and 2030 on which the EU should focus, according to the experts invited by the European Commission.

1. Recycling plastic will become serious business

According to the British consultant and scenario planner David Lye, plastic recovered from the oceans will become serious business because it will serve as a raw material for new products. He thinks that a technology will become available whereby enzymes digest plastic and convert it into new raw materials. These can be commercially exploited. Lye advised the European Commission in drafting the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 investment program. This will involve many millions of euros, so it wouldn’t hurt to pay attention to what he has to say.

2. Companies will all join the circular economy

In brief: the new standard in society will be that the economy will become completely circular, says Lidia Borrell. She is in her first week as Secretary-General of Science Europe, an organization which invests in exceptional scientific discoveries. By 2030, businesses will be using existing products and leaving no waste behind which they are unable to reuse. Companies that do not do this will probably fall by the wayside.

3. Climate damage will become part of a company’s risk profile

How that will work is made clear thanks to the prediction of investor Katarin Wagner from the HSBC investment bank. She expects that companies looking for funding will become more transparent about the way they manufacture their products. Plus they will be expected to clarify to what extent their production depends on methods that are detrimental or not to the climate. A method that is damaging poses a risk, as the market may reject it, which in turn makes its future prospects less solid. And in the end, that is less attractive for investors.

4. By 2030, the young people of today will all be short-sighted.

Expert on the future Kerstin Cuhls of the Fraunhofer Institute has a sobering message, as she herself describes it. Nobody had predicted that consumers would become addicted to streaming their social media. But that has happened. According to her, young people are ruining their eyes en masse, as their eyes are not suited to being focused on small screens for such long periods of time. Over the next ten years, they need to be taught that this is not a good thing. Technology needs to improve so that our eyes no longer get worse because of all of that staring at our screens. Otherwise we will all become short-sighted en masse by 2030.

5. Gene technology is becoming the basis of agriculture

According to the Lithuanian State Secretary for Education and Science, Valdemaras Razumas, all agricultural production in ten years’ time will be based on genetic engineering. He is currently discussing this with members of the European Parliament. According to him, this technology will be decisive for Europe’s future political course.

Also read our series about the 10 emerging technologies according to the World Economic Forum

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