The ecosystem future

Issue 2, 2021


Once, when someone described an ecosystem, they would be talking about a biological community where living organisms interacted with each other and their environment – such as the coral reefs in our cover illustration. Then, about 10 or 15 years ago, it became hijacked by the business management community as a descriptor for an interconnected partner network. It achieved true buzzword status rapidly.

Our theme for this second semester Prism of 2021, The ecosystem future, is about both meanings of the word. Thinking in an ecosystem way is becoming increasingly central to our strategies for the future, both to meet the critical challenges of climate change and the environment, and to grow new businesses sustainably through innovation. Indeed, there is a growing realization that, ultimately, you can’t have one without the other anyway.

Our first article focuses on this point: how companies can leverage their partner ecosystems in the broadest sense to overcome key obstacles and finally bring about a true shift towards environmental ecosystem sustainability alongside business success.

Food is certainly a key issue for securing a sustainable future, and in our second article we provide some highlights of a fascinating study into the future of food, conducted together with three leading companies in the food value chain. Anticipating how consumer and technology trends are disrupting the future is key. Having a clear sense of purpose and shaping the right partner ecosystems to respond will be essential.

We then turn to healthcare and life sciences, a sector that has clearly been at the forefront of public awareness since the start of the pandemic. The success story of rapid vaccine development has been a salutary lesson in how working with partners in the right way can transform innovation speed. We look at how hyper-collaboration – working not just with a few partners, but with many partners in highly collaborative ways – is transforming the industry as it faces a new “Future of Health” propelled by digital and data-driven technologies alongside new molecular treatments.

Decarbonization of our transport systems is already underway, but there is still a long way to go. Everyone is aware of the move towards electric vehicles, but what about vehicles fueled by green hydrogen? Elon Musk has described the hydrogen solution as “staggeringly dumb”, but the rest of the automotive industry is divided. In our article we explore the complexities of the case for hydrogen, and we conclude that the new hydrogen-based ecosystem is something that cannot be ignored by automotive companies.

Finally, we return to what is perhaps the original concept of a partner ecosystem, physical locations where diverse players can interact to co-innovate for mutual benefit – Innovation Districts. You might think that in the post-pandemic world of virtual working and digital communications, such locations are no longer so important. However, you would be wrong. Our article explains why Innovation Districts that are designed the right way will be crucial to enabling the innovation ecosystems of the future.

We hope you enjoy the issue!

Rick Eagar
Chief Editor, Prism

Arthur D.Little

Table of Contents

Corporate sustainability

Sustainability has now risen to the top of the business agenda, with a combination of technology, financial backing, and greater government and consumer pressure all making it an imperative for every organization. Our lead article explains how taking a business ecosystem approach is crucial to sustaining our natural ecosystems.

Stefano Milanese, Stefano Decadri, Carlo Stella, Martijn Eikelenboom, Trung Ghi, Florent Nansé, Juan González

Appetite for disruption

The food value chain has changed dramatically over recent years – and promises to continue transforming, with ecosystems becoming ever more complex. Based on a comprehensive study carried out with three major players in the food value chain, the authors explore the trends and scenarios shaping the future of food.

Albert Meige, Sandra Einerhand, Philippe Letellier, Phil Webster , Kurt Baes, Maki Kurosawa, Serkan Somer, Rick Eagar

Hyper-collaboration in the healthcare and life science industry

The successful rapid development and rollout of multiple COVID-19 vaccines has demonstrated the potential speed of innovation within healthcare and life sciences. Our third article explains why the same ecosystem collaboration approach is underpinning wider changes in healthcare, transforming innovation speed as we move to the Future of Health.

Dr. Franziska Thomas, Ben van der Schaaf, Dr. Ulrica Sehlstedt, Robert Smolander, Matilda Berg, Jacqueline Gross

The role of hydrogen in building a sustainable future for automotive mobility

The pressing need to decarbonize mobility means automotive players are facing key choices around the fuels of the future. Taking a holistic approach, the authors explain why hydrogen is a strong candidate for powering automotive transformation and how a global green hydrogen ecosystem is likely to develop moving forward.

Dr. Klaus Schmitz, Dietrich von Trotha

The Future of Innovation Districts

Where innovation takes place has changed radically over the last decade, with the rise of physical Innovation Districts across the world that bring together researchers, start-ups and corporates to work and live in open ecosystems. Our last article outlines the Innovation District concept and factors for success in a post-pandemic world.

Phil Webster , Simon Pringle, Elis Wilkins, Ben Thuriaux-Aleman, Dr. Raymond Khoury