Lux’s experts made 104 predictions about what innovation executives should be watching for in 2024, across our “Key Developments and Predictions” reports for leaders in chemicals, oil & gas, industrials, CPG, and utilities. Our teams selected five top predictions to highlight here:
Chemicals: Polymer producers invest in waste management infrastructure. Chemicals companies have been rethinking business models to uncouple growth from environmental impacts and find new opportunities. Instead of being at the mercy of waste management companies for feedstock, firms scaling advanced recycling will want to control the waste supply chain. Polyolefin producers have been owning waste collection already, but in 2024 look for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) chemical recyclers to secure feedstock, particularly as textile waste collection begins to take off. The recycling hub being built by SK Geo Centric, combining advanced recycling techs for polyethylene, polypropylene, and PET to take advantage of economics of scale in waste processing, as well as product off-take, is a notable model to watch.
Oil & gas: Commercial interest in white hydrogen explodes. Oil & gas is looking for ways to leverage existing competencies to accelerate novel low-emission technologies, and white hydrogen — naturally occurring underground hydrogen — is a perfect fit for this strategy. In 2023, there were sporadic but highly publicized announcements of white hydrogen activity, but expect investments and exploration to accelerate this year as companies seek to be first movers in this potentially highly disruptive space. Watch progress on HyTerra and Natural Hydrogen Energy’s Nemaha Ridge project in the U.S. to see how developers will answer questions about cost and scalability.
Industrials: Geopolitical tensions grow over critical minerals. China will make further policy moves to maintain its dominant position in the critical mineral supply chain, likely restricting exports of specific minerals and further curtailing exports of refining technology. Meanwhile, other countries will look to de-risk their own supply chains, announcing policies to support extraction, refining, and recycling of these materials. As a result, innovations like direct lithium extraction will benefit; investment in emerging lithium players will top USD 1 billion in 2024. Mangrove Lithium’s modular, electrochemical systems to refine lithium concentrates into a saleable battery-grade chemistry are the type of innovation that could benefit.
CPG: AI starts to transform ingredient discovery. Technologies like generative AI and ingredient informatics are opening new avenues for enhancing overall product experience and discovering new health ingredients. AI is promising, but approach it with caution and evaluate if it truly adds value to the consumer experience or internal R&D. Expect a boom in startups using AI for ingredient discovery as the tech becomes more usable. Maolac has an AI proteomic discovery system that it has already used to find novel anti-inflammatory and gut support ingredients based on plant-based functional proteins similar to those in human breast milk.
Utilities: Flexibility markets for distributed energy resources (DERs) proliferate. In a future grid powered by more intermittent and distributed renewables, enabling greater flexibility in demand is imperative. Utilities will need to create energy management platforms that communicate with devices like electric vehicle (EV) chargers, washers and dryers, and water heaters. Developers will leverage flexibility markets to monetize behind-the-meter (BTM) DERs; automatic control will create new revenues for asset owners while improving grid reliability. The EU InterSTORE project is developing software solutions to enable control of DERs including batteries, HVAC systems, heat pumps, and EV chargers from different suppliers, improving grid flexibility and resilience.
The year 2024 is shaping up to be one of transition for innovation, as climate urgency means that scale-up of sustainable tech is becoming a priority, and interest rates make long-term bets challenging. Innovation leaders need to focus on the right areas to begin showing impact, while not losing sight of the future technologies that will still be needed for sustained success. Reach out to the Lux team to discuss opportunities for your organization.
For more on technology developments and trends to keep a critical eye out for this year, check out our webinar, Tech Innovation in 2024: Themes and Technologies to Monitor.