As the economy recovers in the wake of the pandemic, many businesses will face a changing business environment, affected by technological developments, as well as societal and environmental shifts.

The NatWest Future Businesses Report looks at what new kinds of businesses and sectors we could potentially see over the next 10 to 15 years.   

“At NatWest, we champion the potential of businesses that build tomorrow,” says Andrew Harrison, Head of Business Banking. “The findings from this report demonstrate that many exciting opportunities lie ahead for those with the passion and drive to succeed.” 

Ten major trends

Authored by four leading futurists (see ‘Expert panel’, below), the report’s predictions include:

  • Healthcare: New ways to diagnose and treat ailments are likely to emerge, such as smart toilets, which analyse their contents 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. 

  • Transport: Changes to the way we commute could see individual driverless pods appear in town centres, as the next generation of e-scooters, self-driving hire cars and ‘drone-copter’ air taxis may be built within the next 15 years. 

  • Agriculture: Innovations in precision farming – using robots and drones on farmland to analyse soil quality, track crop disease, distribute pesticides and help with sowing and harvesting – are predicted to be big business for SMEs.

  • Construction: Exoskeletons, designed to increase safety and give the wearer superhuman strength, could be piloted by workers, enabling them to lift heavier loads and reduce the need for heavy machinery. 

  • Media: Platforms acting as e-critics could provide hyper-personalised suggestions for what to watch, listen to and read. This could put an end to the scrolling and browsing of uncurated content.

  • Education: Interactive holograms, capable of delivering remote teachers to anywhere in the world, could become big business. Universities especially may seek to differentiate their teaching experiences.

  • IT and security: Private security via drone-mounted surveillance could replicate living in a gated community without the cost. 

  • Food and drink: Insects and algae can provide high-protein food sources and will likely feature in a wider range of snack foods and supplements in future. 

  • Leisure: Too much tech time could lead to a resurgence in activities that get us away from our screens and smart glasses. This might mean boosting our adrenalin through experiences such as motorsports or rock climbing, or more sedate activities like meeting new people and sampling slow-cooked food. 

  • Energy: Localised energy grids could prevent larger-scale energy shortages and harness a range of local energy sources including solar and wind. New businesses – microgrid managers – will likely spring up to source the space and hardware, connect everything up, maintain and manage the systems.

“For many, these predictions might seem a little hard to imagine, but the innovative spirit that lies behind them is exactly what drives NatWest to support small businesses in the UK to turn their dreams into tangible business ventures,” notes Harrison. “As this landscape evolves, NatWest continues to be the biggest supporter of UK small business at all stages of development.”

Expert panel

The report has special significance as it was authored by a number of renowned and successful futurists. These are:

  • Dr Ian Pearson: a futurologist for 29 years, Ian writes and consults globally on all aspects of the technology-driven future and has made more than 1,850 inventions.  

  • Shivvy Jervis: nominated as one of Britain’s Women of the Year for 2021, Shivvy is a futurist who advocates for human-led innovation and focuses on the intersection of digital advances, scientific developments and psychology.

  • Tom Cheesewright: an applied futurist, Tom helps Global 500 corporations, government departments, industry bodies and charities across the world predict the future and respond with innovation.

  • Kate Hardcastle MBE: a multi-award-winning broadcaster and global business expert, Kate specialises in helping businesses build stronger relationships with their customers. 

Contributors to the report also included NatWest’s specialist experts: Barrie Davison, National Sector Head for Healthcare and Education; David Scott, Head of Retail and Leisure; Roddy McLean, Director of Agriculture; Ian Burrow, Head of Agriculture and Renewable Energy; Neil Bellamy, Head of Technology, Media and Telecoms; and Richard Hill, Head of Manufacturing and Automotive.


Download a copy of the NatWest Future Businesses Report

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

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