Robot repair shops, bug burger bars and smart-tech VR travel agents could be the small businesses of the future, according to the forecasts of a new report released today that charts how we could live and work in the next 15 years.
In the near future, travel agents could be letting holidaymakers ‘try-before-you-fly’ through virtual reality experiences and the daily commute could take place in high-speed personal travel pods to beat city congestion.
Protein-rich insects served by ‘bug burger bars’ are predicted to become the fast foods of choice with fried locust or a greasy worm burger replacing the late-night kebab while AI fashion boutiques could use technology to design perfectly made-to-measure clothes.
These are the predictions of the NatWest Future Businesses Report , authored by leading futurist Dr Ian Pearson, consumer business guru Kate Hardcastle MBE, Shivvy Jervis, founder of FutureScape248 – the award-winning human-centred innovation lab – and futurist and author Tom Cheesewright.
The NatWest Future Businesses Report predictions include:
- Robot rentals, supplies and repairs: As home robots and drones become more common, we could see robotic repair, servicing and hire shops emerging to service and supply robots for home and garden chores.
- VR travel agents: A new era of local travel experts may bring personalised planning to holidaymakers through virtual reality (VR) with travel agents offering ‘try-before-you-fly’ experiences while booking, with a cocktail in hand.
- Bug and algae restaurants: Half of Brits (45%) would be open to eating insect and algae-based foods, which is good news as the report predicts we could start seeing ‘Bug Burger Bars’ and ‘Insect Pizzeria’s’ appear on our highstreets as a sustainable protein alternative.
- AI tailors: Fashion boutiques are likely to use AI scanners to create individual ‘made-to-measure’ clothes, reducing the need for retailers to house expensive stock as well as ensuring the perfect fit.
As technology advances, new industries will evolve, including:
- Digital health care: New ways to diagnose and treat ailments will emerge, like Smart Toilets, analysing urine and faeces to help spot signs of certain illnesses, ‘smart skin’ wearables inserted below the skin to provide constant health monitoring and 3D printed organs for transplant.
- Next-Gen transport : Dramatic changes to the way we commute could see high-speed individual driverless pods appear in town centres, as the next generation of the e-scooter, self-driving car hire and even drone-copter flying air taxis could be built within the next 15 years.
- Intelligent farming: Innovations in precision farming, using robots and drones to fly over farmland to analyse soil quality, track crop disease, distribute pesticides and help with sewing and harvesting predicted to be big business for SME’s in the future.
- Construction robotics: Exoskeletons could be coming to a construction site near you. Designed to increase safety and give the wearer superhuman strength, Alien-inspired full body suits will be piloted by workers, enabling them to lift heavier loads and reduce the need for heavy machinery.
- Immersive entertainment: Platforms acting as e-critics could provide hyper-personalised suggestions for what to watch, listen to and read – an end to spending 30 mins scrolling to decide what to watch and solving the current ‘crisis of choice’
- Virtual education: Like in famous sci-fi films, interactive holograms, capable of providing remote teachers to anywhere in the world could become big businesses – particularly with universities seeing to differentiate their teaching experience
- Haptics: Uses for haptics, wearable tech allowing you to feel heat and touch, were cited as opportunities in the future gaming and education industries. For example, haptic gloves could be used to help students learn how to touch type.
NatWest commissioned the report to discover the small businesses and start-ups we could expect to see within the next 15 years. The visions of Britain in 2036 were put to a poll of 2,000 Brits, who were asked to choose which business predictions they would most like to see become reality.
The top 10 future businesses Brits are most excited about becoming reality are:
- Robot rentals, supplies and repairs – 53%
Support and maintenance for robot and drones for home and garden chores
- Next gen transport – 50%
Rapid individual personal travel pods to beat city congestion – an evolution of the e-scooter, drone-copter air taxis and driverless car hire
- Smart fashion – AI tailors – 50%
Using AI to create individual ‘made-to-measure’ clothing in stores
- VR travel – 47%
Global VR holidays via smart headsets, VR travel agents providing ‘try-before-you-fly’ experiences and short 30 minute ‘mind-refresher’ VR holidays for stressed out workers
- Digital health – smart skin & AI doctors – 44%
‘Smart skin’ implants that monitor health, AI doctors that can instantly scour global databases for faster diagnosis, 3D printed organ production and smart toilets for human waste analysis
- Gourmet ‘grub’ – 34%
Bug burger bars, Insect and algae takeaways, insect snack food companies and lab-grown food restaurant experiences to promote new sustainable forms of protein
- Smart shops – 33%
VR shop assistants for a personal shopping experience and AR technology creating instant digital renders showing how furniture will look at home
- Intelligent farming – 32%
AI drones & robots for precision farming, sowing and crop management, urban food farms and livestock wearables to monitor animals’ location, health and welfare
- Individually tailored entertainment – 30%
Hyper-personalised curation platforms for TV, movies, books, podcasts which solve the ‘crisis of endless choice’
- Virtual education – 25%
Holographic lectures and VR and Augmented Reality tutors
Robot rental and repair shops (53%), servicing and providing droids and robots used to carry out household chores, is the service forecast to be on offer that Brits most want to become a reality. Robotics is also the industry Brits would most like a job in in future, with over half of those polled (52%) saying they would like to work with robots in the year 2036.
Over half of Brits (56%) agree that helping the environment via sustainable initiatives is the single most important factor when it comes to supporting new businesses.
Almost two thirds (64%) of Brits said their jobs would need to adapt within the next 10-15 years to keep up with new developments, but only 4% said that they thought their job would become totally obsolete.
Almost all Brits polled (94%) agreed that workers are likely to need a more diverse skill set to work in the businesses of the future.
Andrew Harrison, Managing Director for Business Banking at NatWest, said: “As this landscape evolves, NatWest continues to be the biggest supporter of UK small business at all stages of development. From our Dream Bigger programme in schools encouraging young people to explore entrepreneurial mindset; our fully funded Business Builder initiative for early-stage entrepreneurs; and our Entrepreneur Accelerator hubs for high growth, green and diverse businesses, our vision is to help more companies start, scale and succeed.”
Leading Futurist Dr Ian Pearson, one of the authors of the NatWest Future Businesses Report, said: “The NatWest Future Business Report helps to paint a picture of what changes we may see in the business environment over the next 15 years. What was clear to all of us was how a greater interaction with technology is going to revolutionise businesses and transform almost all industries. Many of the future businesses we predicted build on technologies that are often already in development, so it won’t be long until some of these futuristic-sounding businesses start appearing on our high streets and business parks.
“One thing the panel all agreed on is this is not the end of our high streets, which will thrive if businesses can offer good enough reasons to go there. Long term, more than 50% of retail will still be in high street shops with predictions like AI tailoring and insect food outlets showing how businesses could adapt in future.”
Contributors to the report from NatWest included, Roddy McLean, Director of Agriculture; Barrie Davison, Head of Healthcare and Education; Ian Burrow, Head of Renewable Energy; Neil Bellamy, Head of Technology, Media and Telecoms; David Scott, Head of Retail and Leisure and Richard Hill, Head of Manufacturing and Automotive.
The NatWest Future Businesses Report is available at natwestbusinesshub.com