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What an Urbanised World Means for Our Innovation Outlook

What an Urbanised World Means for Our Innovation Outlook
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In this post, we’re taking another look at a global megatrend that could affect your business, as outlined by the European Environment Agency’s state and outlook report.

We’re focusing on urbanisation and how growing cities can mean a growing impact on the environment, industries, and social wellbeing.

Did you know that estimates suggest that 67 percent of people on Earth will live in cities by 2050? Combined with a new global peak of 10 billion people by that time, the impact of a highly urbanised population could have untold effects on how humans interact with each other and how businesses operate.

To offset the downsides of a largely urban world, new innovations will need to be developed. Greener technologies and more inclusive industrial patterns will help offset growing slums, high levels of unemployment and environmental degradation that can occur from rapid urban growth.

If you missed our first post about how population and demographic trends affect the world around us, it might be a good time to check it out.

To find out more about urban trends that will shape our global innovation outlook, read on.

Urban forces

Urbanisation is characterized by rural-to-urban migration, causing cities to grow in population size. This occurrence is happening most rapidly in developing countries.

There are three big factors affecting the megatrend of urbanisation. It’s important to understand each in order to determine the greatest potential for innovation and technological advancements.

1. Industrialisation

Industrialisation, particularly in developing nations, causes many traditionally rural-based communities to migrate to cities.

People tend to follow where the work is. In an increasingly globalised and industrialised world, the work is found in factories and in other commercial activities that can be found in cities.

In addition, the most developed countries increasingly outsource their production needs and the extraction of source material to the developing world. Suppliers in the developing world, who supply better work and wages than can be found in rural settings, are therefore driving much of the urbanisation in those regions.

There’s also a snowball effect that happens with urbanisation. Industry and jobs attract workers to the cities. Then, once they’re settled, they too need access to products and services. This creates a perpetuating effect of growth in the cities, fueling more businesses and economic activity to satisfy the needs of new residents.

Studies suggest that once a city’s population doubles, economic productivity increases by 1.3 times. While it’s not exactly a target for urban planning purposes, the less than one-to-one effect of urbanisation on economic output suggests a fairly unsustainable pattern.

Policymakers and business owners will have to consider whether the price to pay for urban economic output is too high. A balanced approach of adding environmental resiliency and new and creative solutions for urban-bound communities may be best.

2. Agricultural advancements

Today, new agricultural techniques include far greater mechanisation and automation than the world has experienced before. Modern agriculture requires fewer but more highly trained workers to achieve the same level of output.

This shift has occurred gradually in the developed world. But for developing countries, the reduction in the agricultural workforce has caused large numbers of rural people to seek out cities to make a living.

3. Environmental change

Nations that rely on natural resource extraction suffer the most from changes to global production patterns. Industries like forestry and fishing have a dependence on freshwater or other natural resources and are therefore poised for radical change. Growing domestic and international demand for products or services may lead to more scarcity and more conflict for control over those resources.

Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of south-east Asia are expected to experience high population growth in the coming decades. Coupled with a reliance (and scarcity) of natural resources, the environment could be damaged beyond repair if sustainable practices aren’t put in place.

Urban growth and its impact on innovation

 The effects of industrialisation and advancements in agriculture fuel an urban demographic megatrend that is set to completely change the way that populations inhabit the Earth.

One particular area of interest is in megacities, which are categorized by having more than 10 million inhabitants. Before 1970, there were just two megacities – New York and Tokyo. There are now approximately 30 and are expected to be more than 40 by the year 2030. Megacities bring their own needs and complications to the mix, but urbanisation is still expected to be driven by small and medium-sized cities.

For developed regions such as Europe, it’s important to consider the effect that urbanisation has on land-use. Areas around already-established urban areas are growing into suburbs and peri-urban areas, which bring their own unique challenges and opportunities.

Innovations in sustainable and green infrastructure are important to protect local biodiversity and reduce the carbon footprint of newly-urban landscapes.

Europe also relies heavily on natural resource imports from the developing world. Sustainability practices should be embedded into importation and supply chain management in order to combat the environmental and social impacts of often reckless business practices.

There are opportunities abound for innovation projects and new businesses devoted to urban green technologies and infrastructures.

For innovation opportunities in developing nations, socially and environmentally sustainable technologies could greatly benefit the growing urban population. Expanding slums and informal settlements mean that substantial populations in developing countries will be exposed to inadequate housing, unsafe drinking water and dangerous sanitation services.

New waste disposal or recycling technologies, water filtration techniques, and low-cost but safe residential construction methods are some of the new technologies that will power the future.

The needs differ between developed and developing countries. However, investments and innovations that can improve lives in all regions will be important for the urbanised world to come.

Our first two posts in the global megatrends series focused on population growth and demographic shifts. In the next article, we’ll look at what happens, from a public health perspective, when a global population must face diseases and pandemic risks.

Series Navigation<< 3 Reasons Your Business Should Keep Track Of Global Population TrendsBeyond COVID-19: Mega Trends in Global Health >>
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