Antenna account professionals have spent 2018 deep in the weeds of the industries that we cover. As always, and in partnership with our clients, we have helped prioritize, report and shape the cleantech, mobility and health care news topics that have filled newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs and social media news feeds. It has been a year of change at breakneck speeds, and whether your area of interest is global warming, micro-mobility solutions, immunotherapy breakthroughs, or cell-based meat, Antenna’s client partners continue to push the limits of the possible.
What does 2019 have in store for us? I’ve asked some of our most prescient Ants to dust off their crystal balls and reveal their educated predictions for the year to come. I hope you enjoy their insights, and please ping us with your predictions for 2019!
Aggregating Distributed Energy Resources
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, renewables have led U.S. power generation capacity additions for more than three years running, and Bloomberg predicts that wind and solar will make up 50 percent of global generation by the year 2050. Distributed renewable energy adoption will only gain more momentum as costs continue to trend downward.
Now, other distributed energy resources (DERs) like EV chargers, energy storage, and connected devices like smart thermostats are playing a larger role in the grid. These DERs are starting to be incentivized within the energy mix, and companies like Leap are enabling these distributed assets to easily participate in programs like demand response, helping to balance the grid and reduce energy costs. In 2019, we’re predicting more business model innovation in the DER space with the value proposition of aggregated DERs on the grid becoming more clear.
Liz Crumpacker, Account Supervisor
Carbon Capture Tech Primed for Growth
2018 was a big year for carbon removal technologies: the federal government passed the foundational 45Q tax credit, companies like Econonic Technologies, Inventys, and Climeworks all closed big funding rounds, and Carbon Engineering announced they could get the price of carbon dioxide sucked from the air to as low as $94/ton (down from $600/ton). The UN’s IPCC report on climate change also seems to have been a significant industry catalyst – after its release, direct air capture company Global Thermostat reported they’d received $200 million in investment offers in a single day.
As Noah Deich of Carbon180 and others have noted, there is still a major need for R&D investment into this space. But as those investments become more commonplace, tax credits get optimized (carbon removal tech has been pretty bipartisan to this point, with its critical role in fighting climate change and potential for “clean coal”), and the public grows stronger in its demands for cleaner, potentially earth-saving technologies, look for carbon removal tech to take a big step forward in 2019.
Ari Marder, Business Development Executive
Traditional Mobility Goes “Future” on us
2018 saw serious seismic activity in the mobility sector. We learned that some of the world’s top automakers are going to focus less on vehicles and more on the larger ecosystem – smart cities, autonomy, connectivity, etc. Growing up, I never expected the company that made my Corolla would become part of ‘the future’ in such a way.
The result? Billion-dollar acquisitions by automakers (think: Silicon Valley meets Detroit, and ‘computer, take the wheel!’), dramatic vehicle manufacturing cuts and a red hot year for mobility company investments. In addition, we saw ride-sharing companies, which just recently disrupted how we get around, get cast aside to make way for the scooter wars. Their revenge (and fight to stay relevant)? Getting in the scooter game themselves, accomplished via acquisitions, investments and the launch of competing services.
What will 2019 hold? A lot more disruption. We expect more shared mobility options, a leap forward for the electrification of all things that move, and the first self-driving taxi services hitting the road.
Mike Salmassian, Account Director
Unexpected Companies Make a Debut in the Healthcare Space
Look out for familiar names in unexpected places as Amazon, Apple, Uber, and other members of Silicon Valley’s finest head into the healthcare arena. While companies that thrive on the “work fast and break things” mentality may not seem to fit in such a tightly-regulated world, these customer service and user experience experts may be just what the doctor ordered.
While suspicions continue to swirl around how Amazon will innovate the space, companies like Apple and Uber have already started. Apple’s apps for iPads, iPhones and Apple Watches aid medical professionals in delivering personalized care and allow patients a consumer-friendly way of monitoring their health – tapping into the heart of user experience.
Uber, meanwhile, is in the fast lane to address the 3.6 million Americans who miss medical appointments due to lack of transportation. As a curbside customer service company they are driving the idea to offer patients with non-emergency needs a ride to their appointments. While the concept is still a way down the road, Uber’s beta mode is currently working with select centers and hospitals and on pace to service others in the coming year.
Vanessa Donohue, Account Supervisor
Agriculture and the Future of Food
It is a good time to be in the agriculture industry. 2017’s ‘Agtech Investment Boom’ continued this year as investors doubled down on companies in fields like indoor/vertical farming and drone/sensor tech. As those indoor farming companies mature and the market feels the yield growth from those drones and sensors, look for those investment trends to stay on the up.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the alternative protein space either. Plant-based meat companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat significantly expanded their reach in 2018, signing partnership deals with the likes of White Castle and Kroger, and that growth is likely to rise. This could also be the year cell-based meat companies solve major research hurdles and starts pivoting to commercialization. Don’t listen to claims you’ll see these products in U.S. stores this year though – most companies estimate that’ll happen sometime in 2020 or 2021.
But the industry to watch out for most is cannabis. States across the U.S. are moving fast to advance cannabis-friendly policies for medical and adult use, with their Canadian neighbors providing a case study for legalization at scale. Expect more states (such as New York and New Jersey) to legalize adult use in 2019, and watch out for a rise in startup consolidation as larger holding companies ramp up M&A activities on their march to becoming vertically integrated cannabis conglomerates.
Ari Marder, Business Development Executive
Increasing Equity in Cleaner, Smarter Technology
Smart technology devices and mobility innovations tend to be built for and marketed toward specific audiences, such as elite buyers and early adopters. Many smart tech products that ultimately offer cost-savings are still sold at price points that are out of reach, and disadvantaged communities are often overlooked by the corporate entities that are leading the disruption. There are a wide range of barriers that can prevent individuals who are unbanked, low-income, don’t have smartphones or are differently-abled from accessing new mobility services.
Next year, we will see more smart technology providers and mobility leaders recognize that working towards equal opportunity access benefits both consumers and the bottom line. The Google-Nest Power Project aims to install one million smart thermostats in income-qualified households within the next four years. This will save users energy while increasing the penetration of connected devices — ultimately helping Nest utility partners increase energy program participation. Optibus is a mobility innovator working alongside some of the nation’s largest transit system operators. The company uses machine-learning and advanced algorithms to improve services for all users while cutting operational costs. Envoy There is another example. The shared electric vehicle startup aims to to install 50% of their vehicle and chargers in low-income and disadvantaged communities, enabling residents to not only use their vehicles themselves but provide ride share services with them, creating another revenue stream for the communities. 2019 will provide us with more examples of corporations expanding access to smart technology and mobility offerings, ensuring everyone benefits from the latest and greatest innovations.
Liz Crumpacker, Account Supervisor
Thoughts or predictions to share? Contact us to continue the conversation.