Evonik scientists have adopted a scenarios method to develop visions of the future on specialty chemicals – considered the largest study of its kind ever conducted in the world – to initiate innovations in an agile and targeted manner. Such scenarios can also be used to adjust and update long term strategies.

The question of the important forces that could have a long-term impact over specialty chemicals companies pointed to five scenarios based on comprehensive data collection and analysis.

The scenarios describe possible international developments between the present and 2040 that are plausible, but in some cases also contradictory. Digital Champions, Chinese Dream, Deceptive Calm, Turbulent Times and Sustainability Paradigm: titles already indicate the trends they describe.

“We now have a wealth of information that can help us understand and analyze in a more accurately way the important trends in the world. Our scenarios may come true or not, but they are certainly a very well-founded science fiction, ”says Harald Schwager, VP of Evonik Industries and a member of the Board of Directors responsible for innovations.

In addition to product development, it also refers to new business models and efficiency strategies. “The connection between innovativeness and customer proximity is a key success factor and an agent of profitable growth.” According to him, it is an instrument that assists in evaluating today’s innovation ideas against potential developments of tomorrow.

There were over 100 interviews with internal and external experts in the fields of chemistry, politics and economics, as well as other sources such as international futurology studies and more than 15 workshops in a twelve month space. In a painstaking process, experts identified and analyzed crucial factors and influences arising from this information, extrapolating potential developments and combining them with plausible and coherent scenarios.

The scenarios:

In the ‘Digital Champions’ scenario, the largest Internet companies with their unique knowledge and mindset increasingly benefit from the value chain of traditional industries.

Sustainability Paradigm describes a case in which sustainability becomes the determining economic principle.

In Chinese Dream, China becomes a technological, economic and political world power.

In the ‘Turbulent Times’ scenario, factors such as nationalism, fake news and populist forces end up leading to a broad process of deglobalization.

Deceptive Calm analyzes the future from a different perspective: In a system dedicated to maintaining the status quo, problems accumulate – up to the point where the system can collapse.

All of them, according to the study, may be important to the company in the medium and long terms.

Evonik emphasizes six areas of growth in innovation: Sustainable Nutrition, Healthcare Solutions, Advanced Food Ingredients, Membranes, Cosmetic Solutions and Additive
Manufacturing. The company expects innovations in these areas to account for additional sales of one billion euros by 2025.

The first positive results are already visible to the company: in 2018, Evonik recorded sales of over 250 million euros in these growth areas. Total spending on research and development (R&D) was at the levels of the previous year, totaling 459 million euros.

“We are going in the right direction, but we want to become even more focused and more efficient. Our ideas need to reach our customers quickly and in the form of perfectly customized products. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of our long-term future, ”says Schwager.