Trend reports

Trend reports

The trend reports tackle innovative business practices from a policy perspective. They help policy makers better understand the latest trends in business and industry innovation and provide specific policy recommendations to unleash the potential of European businesses and scale-up successful innovative solutions in the EU.

Two trend reports are published every year, drawing on the case studies and the outcome of the workshops/conferences.

Sixth trend report: 'Optimal recycling, big data from space, and blockchain applications: disruption and policy response'

Read the full Sixth trend report (931 kB). The main messages are:

Innovation trends
  • Sustainable supply of raw materials: the development of new intelligent means to mine and process raw materials aims to enable a sustainable supply of raw material that would both reduce the dependency of EU companies on foreign providers and would allow the efficient exploitation of the resources still available in the European mines.
  • Space technology and services: some technologies and services can be transferred from the public funded space programmes to other market sectors not directly related to space domains. Applications vary from navigation to Earth observation data and electric propulsion, and all of them have the possibility to tackle some of the most pressing challenges today, such as fighting climate change, helping to stimulate technological innovation, and/or providing socio-economic benefits to citizens.
  • Servitisation: the move from product-based business models to the development of product-related services is accompanied by market transformation from product centricity towards customer centricity. The sale of maintenance contracts for capital goods or the pay-peruse revenue model are concrete example of this transformation.
Disruptive innovations
  • Optimal recycling as a part of the circular economy, can have a multi-faceted positive impact on both the economy as such and the environment. Its impact on the EU economy is estimated for: net savings of up to EUR 600 billion, 2 million new jobs, as well as reduction of greenhouse emissions. Stricter regulation is a main driver for optimal recycling, while exporting of waste is a key obstacle.
  • Big data in Earth observation describes technological breakthroughs in Earth observation which gave rise to a constant flow of large volumes of diverse types of data. Different stages of the Earth observation data value chain offer completely new business opportunities: data acquisition, data analysis, data curation, data storage or data usage. Moreover, Earth observation information not only fosters the economic development but also helps to create policies and to make decisions on a broad range of societal and business challenges.
  • Blockchain applications use innovative open source IT architecture that allows transactions to be carried out automatically and maintain an authoritative record of all the changes made. It was originally developed for peer-to-peer digital payment systems such as Bitcoin, which allows for the implementation of decentralised and verifiable exchanges, without the verification provided by a trusted third party, e.g. a bank. Beside this specific field of applications, there is plenty of room for innovation in other domains as the blockchain system allows to verify identity, execute "smart" digital contracts, implement multi-signatures and/or represent physical assets.

Fifth trend report: 'Disruptive innovations and policy responses: self-production, insects as food, flying sensors, graphene & others’

Read the full Fifth trend report (1 MB) or its Summary (62 kB). The main messages are:

  • Collaborative production: the traditional view on the role of companies as producers and individuals as consumers is disrupted. Internet-based technologies connect people in order to optimise the use of their resources. It empowers individuals to fund, design, prototype, produce, manufacture, distribute, market and sell their own goods.
  • Insects and algae as food: according to a recent UN projection, our planet will have to feed about 10 billion people by 2050. Currently, animal proteins account for about 40% of global protein consumption. Due to the increasing world population more efficient and sustainable sources of proteins are needed. Using insects and algae as food and feed is a good solution.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): based on developments concerning navigation, aviation materials, robotics and ICT, the spectrum of possible civilian uses of UAVs includes monitoring and surveillance of environmental, agricultural and fishery operations; security tasks, such as search and rescue support, disaster response, border control, etc. Civil UAVs present a huge potential for applications in a wide variety of sectors to the benefit of European society, creating jobs and addressing societal challenges.

Fourth trend report: ‘Disruptive innovations and forward-looking policies towards smart value chains’

Read the full Fourth trend report (2 MB) or its Summary (280 kB). The main messages are:

  • The trends of ‘Service Innovation for Smart Industry’; ‘Traceability across the Value Chain’; and the ‘Internet of Things’ are reshaping today’s global industries, creating opportunities for new sources of revenue, greater efficiency, and an improved customer experience;
  • Traditional value chains are being transformed into ‘smart’ value chains, which deliver better value for companies, intermediaries and consumers. Today’s hyper connectivity is leading to a major shift from linear value chains to a ‘value network’, which implies a drastic transformation in how the different actors (e.g. partners, customers) in the system are reached and engaged;
  • The development of smart value chains poses new challenges to be tackled at policy level, inter alia: data security and privacy, technology standards, and skill gaps and qualification mismatches.

Third trend report on ‘Smart factories, clean tech and customer experience’

Read the full Third trend report (979 kB) or its Summary (68 kB). The main messages are:

  • A sustainable future with less waste, more jobs, material and energy savings, as well as satisfied customers can become a reality. The trends of ‘Smart factories’, ‘Clean technologies’ and ‘Customer experience’ share a systemic view with circular feed-back-loops rather than the linear and short-term view of ‘passive market-transactions'. They focus on the co-creation of value rather than on its extraction and sale;
  • The business models of many of the companies that drive the aforementioned three trends are based on ‘learning by using’ and ‘learning by interacting’. In this context, existing EU policies on education and training are perceived as outdated;
  • The challenge lies in how to promote interactive learning between those who offer solutions and those who need and apply such solutions. This calls for a strategic view, active participation  and support from policy makers, because without 'smart factories' Europe will continue to lose jobs. Without 'cleantech' we will produce more and more waste. And  without offering a better 'customer experience' we will lose clients.

Second trend report on ‘Design for innovation, smart living and innovative business models’

Read the full Second trend report (1 MB) or its Summary (68 kB). The main messages are:

  • The policy gaps and challenges identified in the report call for framework conditions that are adapted to the new innovation trends, practices and models. An important policy instrument identified is the setting up of platforms that bring together solution finders and users, as well as various sectors and trend-specific actors;
  • Legislation issues (and also issues with standardisation, harmonisation, excessive bureaucracy, and outdated or strict regulations) are often an obstacle to the transformative power of innovative trends. Therefore the companies interviewed focus on regulation when recommending solutions; 
  • The main challenge is co-designing regulations and framework conditions so that they support: the uptake of the emerging trends; the scaling-up and international outreach of successful practices; and co-design activities;
  • Policy makers should become more active in 'co-designing innovation'. The need for co-designed innovation strategies is emphasised in the concept of Smart Specialisation Strategies. The choice of the regional specialisation should not be the result of a ‘top-down’ process, but rather of a oint entrepreneurial discovery process, in which policy makers interact with companies and other stakeholders;
  • In order to promote and reap the benefits of innovation, the speed and timing of policy adoption and scaling up are crucial.

First trend report: ‘Un-locking the potential of business and societal innovation’

Read the full First trend report (1 MB) or its Summary (457 kB). The main messages are:

  • The companies that drive the trends of ‘Advanced Manufacturing’, ‘Public-Private Partnerships’, ‘Big Data’, ‘Workplace Innovation’, and the ‘Sharing Economy’ have developed innovative solutions addressing the challenges of other companies and society at large. However, despite the socio-economic benefits that could potentially stem from a broad adoption of their solutions, the front-running companies need to be embedded in an environment that helps them demonstrate such solutions – thereby increasing the likelihood of their adoption;  
  • A higher demand is needed for scaling up innovative business models and practices and increasing their socio-economic impact and competitiveness. New trend-specific framework conditions will increase the number of trend driving companies, and diffuse their solutions to other companies;
  • Since one generic format cannot be recommended to all companies, those involved should ensure their staff are adequately educated as regards new models and practices. Companies should also be offered financing in the form of loans, to increase the likelihood of optimal success in the implementations of their solutions;
  • One of the main barriers to a wider up-take and scaling up of the innovations is the scepticism and the conservatism of potential customers.