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Understanding and shaping the future

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 21 February, 2005  (Company News)
No one knows what the state of the economy, politics and society will be around the world in the year 2020. For a research organization, 15 years can be referred to as 'the near future,' in view of the huge amount of time and expense research demands.
Bayer MaterialScience AG is therefore intensely involved in our world 15 years down the road. Taking a globally networked, interdisciplinary approach, it is searching for materials for new products and markets. In this pursuit, the company relies not only on its own expertise, but also on that of competent partners.

This need for collaboration is what prompted Bayer MaterialScience AG to co-found the 'Future Living 2020' network project, in which 13 participants from industry and university communities collaborated to develop scenarios for the future. The partners come from a variety of sectors and include well-known companies such as Hella KGaA, Melitta Haushaltsprodukte, REHAU AG + Co., Pfleiderer AG, Busch-Jaeger Elektro GmbH, Vorwerk, Sonus, Mensen Creationeers, Degenhart-Consult and HOCHTIEF Construction AG. The University of Applied Art in Vienna is another participant. Böttcher Consulting has assumed responsibility for project organization and management.

'With the help of future scenarios, we want to define a strategy for our organization and tap into new business, both in existing and completely new markets. To do so, we're working together with skilled partners who complement our know-how. Our objective is to be the solution supplier of choice around the globe with our raw materials and technologies for key industries of the future,' says Eckard Foltin, head of the New Business Creative Center at Bayer MaterialScience. One primary task is to identify future consumer needs and new market trends (market pull) as early as possible, and to match them up with technological developments (technology push) at precisely the right time.

Workshops were held to develop two future scenarios for the year 2020: a world of 'polycenters' and 'oligocenters.' Polycenters are regional economic and growth zones that can extend across country borders. One example is the extensive interaction between Ticino in Switzerland, Piedmont and Liguria in Italy, and areas of Provence in France. Economic competence is controlled by a closely networked management class, which is open to a broad middle class. The centers are marked by distinct cultural differences, which have a positive effect on social and economic development.

The alternative scenario is a world of oligocenters, or hubs of global trade, finance and information. They comprise a small number of networked megacities, like those already developing in Asia. A management class based in global corporations and institutions, and clearly separated from the general population, sets the standards for economic activity. An enormous gap exists between the social classes; the middle class has virtually disappeared. Capital resources flow only in high-profit regions with explosive growth. For this reason, many people relocate to these areas.

The information provided by both scenarios is incorporated into detailed studies in individual subject areas, such as transportation, logistics, energy generation and management, communication, recreation, home living, work and diet. Analysis in each area focuses on consumer needs, which result in new applications.

For instance, the large-scale migration of people to regional centers and megacities requires new transportation and logistics concepts. It changes architecture as well, because work, home living, recreation and supply are concentrated for a great number of people in a multifunctional building complex. This configuration leads to new applications, such as intelligent walls with functional surfaces, or new solar energy and lighting concepts.
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