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Five global megatrends that are influencing Swiss exports

Five global megatrends currently dominate developments in economics, society and politics: Globalization, demographic changes, sustainability, digitization & technology, and mobility. What does this mean for the business prospects of Swiss export SMEs?
A woman stands in front of a touchscreen displaying a skeleton.
Global megatrends also influence the SME sector.

1. Globalization: the middle class in emerging markets will create business opportunities for SMEs in the service and consumer goods sector

525 million people are currently included in Asia's middle class. By the year 2040, an additional 3 billion people will be part of the middle class. This growth will create new business opportunities in the service and consumer goods markets. Thanks to new technologies and the Internet, the economies in emerging countries will be able to bypass some developmental steps. Laws and regulations have to be adapted to the technological progress. This includes an increasing amount of importance placed on data security and protection of privacy.

2. Demographic changes: the population in industrialized countries is growing older

This has a range of effects on consumer behavior: Older people have different needs in terms of traveling, shopping and products. They also use digital technologies differently as their eyesight weakens, their hearing becomes poorer and their motor abilities diminish. This creates opportunities for exporting SMEs in the health and medtech sectors. In the Japanese export market, demographic aging of the population presents concrete opportunities for Swiss SMEs in the areas of robotics and sensor technology, as Stefan Barny, Senior Consultant Japan / South Korea at S-GE points out.

3. Sustainability: Swiss cleantech solutions are in demand

Alongside fair business practices (environmental protection and corporate social responsibility), there are major opportunities for exporting Swiss cleantech solutions. This involves everyday products as well as a diverse range of areas including environmentally friendly buildings, nanotechnology, chemical products, renewable energies, sustainable production and urban development. The demand for natural products and resource-efficient service provision is rapidly increasing. Swiss cleantech solutions are particularly in demand in Australia, Canada (sustainable construction and transportation), in India (solar energy) and in Brazil (wind energy).

4. Digitization and technology: e-commerce, big data and 3D printing are influencing value creation

Technological applications will have a massive influence on value creation. According to a McKinsey study, mobile Internet alone will generate a business volume of well over 10 trillion US dollars by the year 2025. The forecasts for the disruptive potential of new technologies is equally dramatic. E-commerce, big data and 3D printing are just a few buzzwords in relation to new technology. "In the medium-term future, we will all be printing our customized products on 3D printers at home," as Karin Frick, futurologist at GDI, said in an interview. "We will also be printing highly specialized parts that are not suitable for mass production such as replacement parts for space travel. This is very exciting for suppliers in the machinery industry: More textile and tool machines will be needed; it's comparable to the shift from the main frame to the personal computer," says Karin Frick. However, technological innovation will not be enough for global competition, according to Alexander Osterwalder, author and co-founder of Strategyzer AG: "An SME won't create any value for the customer with technology alone. The customer isn't interested in technology for its own sake, but in using technology to satisfy needs. For this reason, the chances of success are much higher when technologies are combined with the value proposition and the business model. Another consideration is that technologies can be copied relatively easily, but business models can't be."

5. Mobility: increasing demand for sharing and e-mobility solutions

Worldwide growth in transport services is creating new forms, such as car sharing, self-driving cars and ride sharing. Raphael Gindrat is CEO and co-founder of the Swiss start-up company BestMile, a platform for operating autonomous vehicle fleets. His program monitors and manages the autonomous vehicle fleet of PostAuto Schweiz AG in Valais. He emphasizes: "Traffic, pollution and increasing amounts of accidents are posing major challenges for cities around the world. In the long term, we want to find intelligent and efficient solutions and to offer a sustainable, effective and economical transport system so that people will no longer feel the need to own their own cars. This would drastically reduce pollution and traffic."

Tips, discussion material and events on the topics of business models in exporting

In 2017, Switzerland Global Enterprise is dedicating itself to the topic of "Rethinking business models: The international competitive advantage of tomorrow" in order to support, inform and connect Swiss SMEs with regard to the current challenges in international business. In our dossier, we will regularly be providing new articles, videos and studies on this topic. Sign up for monthly updates in our Export Newsletter and reserve a place now for May 18, 2017 at the Forum for Swiss Foreign Trade "Rethinking business models: The international competitive advantage of tomorrow".

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