International. Evonik scientists adopted a scenario method to develop future visions of specialty chemicals, considered the largest study of its kind conducted in the world, with the aim of initiating innovations without delay and in a specific way. Scenarios can also be used to adjust and update long-term strategies.
The beginning of the design of the "Future of the Specialty Chemicals Industry" scenario revolved around a fundamental question: What major forces could have a long-term impact on specialty chemical companies?
The responses provided by the five resulting scenarios are based on comprehensive data collection and analysis. The scenarios describe possible international developments between now and 2040 that are plausible, but in some cases also contradictory. Digital Champions, Chinese Dream, Deceptive Calm, Turbulent Times and Sustainability Paradigm – the titles already indicate the trends they describe.
According to Harald Schwager, Vice President of Evonik Industries and member of the Board of Directors responsible for innovations, "We now have a wealth of information that can help us understand and analyze important trends even more accurately in the world. Our scenarios may or may not come true, but they are certainly very well-founded science fiction." For Schwager, the connection between innovation and customer proximity is a key success factor and a profitable growth agent. "The results of scenario design give us a fascinating strategic tool. An instrument that will help us evaluate current innovation ideas against the possible developments of tomorrow," Schwager said. In addition to product development, he also referred to new business models and efficiency strategies.
Evonik's Corporate Foresight Team has spent twelve months developing solid foundations for its scenarios: more than 100 interviews with internal and external experts in the fields of chemistry, politics and economics, as well as other sources, such as international studies, futurology and more than 15 workshops. In a painstaking process, the experts identified and analyzed crucial factors and influences that arise from this information, extrapolating potential developments and combining them with plausible and coherent scenarios.
What emerged were five future scenarios that may be important for the company in the medium and long term. In the 'Digital Champions' scenario, the largest internet companies with their unique knowledge and mindset are increasingly benefiting 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 world technological, economic and political 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 looks at the future from a different perspective: in a system dedicated to maintaining the status quo, problems accumulate, to the point where the system can collapse.
Ulrich Künsthard, Head of Innovation at Evonik, sees an important opportunity in the varied and multifaceted nature of future scenarios: "We are starting to use the results of scenario design for our innovation processes and strategies.
We plan to hold workshops in which participants will analyze the impact of scenarios on topics such as the innovation environment, business models and customer expectations, as well as working conditions and material flow. In addition, Evonik's business areas and even entire regional organizations will use the scenarios to test the robustness of existing strategies, further develop them if necessary, and devise new strategies." Küsthardt explains the fundamentals: "We are opening up additional stock options to further drive innovation."
"Our innovation strategy is already firmly anchored in our corporate strategy and has consistently targeted key growth segments for us, such as health, nutrition and resource efficiency," says the CIO. Evonik emphasizes six growth areas in innovation: Sustainable Nutrition, Healthcare Solutions, Advanced Food Ingredients, Membranes, Cosmetic Solutions and Additive Manufacturing. The company expects innovations in these areas to represent additional sales of one billion euros by 2025.
The first positive results are already visible: in 2018, Evonik recorded sales of more than 250 million euros in these growth areas. Total expenditure on research and development (R&D) stood at the levels of the previous year, totalling €459 million. As Schwager makes clear: "We are going in the right direction, but we want to focus even more and be more efficient. Our ideas should 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."