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  • David A. Smith

Innovation in a post-pandemic world

Balancing investment and saving is a core issue during any recession yet the COVID crisis looks like, a) increasing investment in technologies that ultimately save money, such as automation and b) also creating new space for products tied to the search for vaccines that could then impact the wider economy.

The need to continue operations with fewer people, in some cases without people all together, and doing things in different ways as a result, all create a compelling logic for why the pandemic could act as a catalyst for AI use[i] across a range of industries. For the 75 percent of global executives thinking AI was critical for their pre-COVID company’s future[ii], plans for developing, testing and trialling such solutions will almost certainly assume new urgency.

When considered alongside biotechnology, it could be argued we are well on the path to a post-digital society. At both the organisational and societal level we remain unprepared for the changes that biotechnology could instigate not just within the healthcare, industrial and agricultural spheres but for various sectors in which ‘...biotechnology has become the driving force of radical changes[iii].’ Our health, our houses, manufacturing processes, electronics and built environment and our food will likely all be impacted, as could the way we consume. Innovations within the industry could impact sectors at best considered tangential in our current economic orthodoxy. Assumptions, limits and possibilities underpinning our thinking could all be revisited in due course. If data mastery has shown to erode existing industry boundaries, biotech could further rewrite our expectations.

There is also an organisational dimension that could impact the future of innovation that complements these technological drivers. Gary Hamel of the London Business School notes that while ‘...in a small crisis power moves to the centre, (in a big one) it moves to the periphery[iv].’ This could change the nature of innovation strategies for a prolonged period. The status-quo leading into the crisis would appear unsustainable at any rate: only a fifth of execs believe they understand the best ways to achieve agility and innovation[v]. New approaches to innovation, metrics and strategies are inevitable. The notion of innovation at the edges could also be replicated by the rise of edge computing. Tech will propel new working, health, entertainment and shopping practices that will probably become a permanent fixture of the next normal. Our data compact may also shift, with The Economist suggesting that tech companies ‘...best defence is to propose a new deal to the citizens of the world. That means clear and verifiable rules on how they publish and moderate content, helping users own, control and profit from their own data[vi].’


Key changes - New technologies – chiefly biotech and AI - will create new paradigms of innovation. - Innovation will ‘diffuse’ through an organisation – building an architecture to encourage and capture this will be key. - Data is key to many innovation efforts: becoming data driven will likely become increasingly difficult without some new consumer compact.


Read about how change could unfold, over 40 different sectors, in our ‘Big Break’ report, accessible for free via https://www.thegff.com/research-reports

[i] Source: Lifeboat foundation, 2020 https://lifeboat.com/blog/2020/03/coronavirus-may-mean-automation-is-coming-sooner-than-we-thought [ii] Source: Forbes, 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/03/04/how-can-ai-impact-work-in-ma/?linkId=100000011022266#47fc82878bc4 [iii] Source: Entrepreneur, 2020 https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/345226 [iv] Source: Economist, 2020 https://www.economist.com/business/2020/04/25/the-pandemic-is-liberating-firms-to-experiment-with-radical-new-ideas [v] Source: Bain, 2019 https://www.bain.com/insights/change-is-the-new-superpower-forbes/ [vi] Source: The Economist, 2020 https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/04/03/big-techs-covid-19-opportunity

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