Brexit and the other nationalist/isolationist movements that have taken hold of both Europe and the U.S. in recent years don’t bode well for companies that require the free flow of funds and trade across jurisdictions. As we move to a world where some jurisdictions are isolated from advantageous trade situations while some jurisdictions remain linked (tenuously at times), it seems inevitable that companies residing in isolated jurisdictions will suffer in relative terms to their global peers in the same industry. The unfortunate implication will be that companies with historic ties to a particular place will either be uprooted and will move to different jurisdictions or they will fail. The competitive disadvantages of unfree trade are too great for firms to survive in a globalized world.
Hm — interesting quandary, Charis. I’ll add one thought to the comments above. I can think of one additional climate-change-lens through which I think it makes sense for Acciona to view its investment (and divestment) decisions moving forward: political uncertainty. If ‘long-tail’ scenarios of climate change impacts come to fruition it seems possible that there will be socio-political changes that take place across the world as populations and governments adjust to new environmental realities. I think its entirely possible that these new realities add even more risk on top of what you mentioned for a multinational energy producer.
Blue Ocean — really enjoyed your post. I wrote about something similar (Udacity’s attempt to become the go-to credentialing entity for technical occupations). I think you’re right to consider blended learning as a more sober and pragmatic alternative to the early MOOC efforts. There are few places where thoughtful technology application cannot be used to improved learning outcomes. Whether you’re San Jose State or Harvard, blending learning applications stand to improve education outcomes. We’ve only seen the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I would imagine classrooms will look very different for our children’s children.
To answer your question regarding the sustainability of the broader concept of brick-and-mortar colleges and universities I think it’s useful to think of these entities of offering two related, but distinct, services: education and credentialing. The former represents the transfer of knowledge. This is where technology is particularly helpful and will only become more prominent going forward. The latter — certification or credentialing — serves as the “currency of exchange” in labor markets has almost nothing to do with technology. I imagine a world in which Harvard and its ilk offer value to their students that is increasingly more oriented to credentialing than knowledge transfer (which technology will increasing facilitate). Instead, social networks and the validation gained through acceptance will become the true value of a brick-and-mortar college experience. While edX and others might spell the democratization of education, they won’t spell the democratization of opportunity.
So this is kind of mind-blowing: “For the longer-term, J&J is taking the supply chain a step further, exploring the opportunity to continue monitoring their products once inside the human body.”
This whole idea of technology suddenly allowing a company to ‘follow’ its product over the entire lifecycle of its product is both exciting and worrisome for things like drugs. I suppose this isn’t necessarily a novel concept — lots of firms follow the effectiveness and performance of their products once they are in the hands of final consumers (e.g. smartphones, automobiles with computer systems, etc.). However, what’s really interesting about this concept as it’s applied to drugs that a firm would have to collect (either explicitly or implicitly) biometric data of the drug’s final consumer. This seems like both massively advantageous for drug development efforts and also incredibly invasive in terms of personal privacy.
I’m struck by your account of Illy’s efforts to address head-on what is fundamentally an industry-wide issue. While there are aspects of Illy’s “Planet20” plan that represent valiant efforts by a single firm to mitigate climate change, its the company’s “adaptation strategies” that I find both most compelling (from a potential impact standpoint) and most problematic (from the individual firm’s perspective). For example, investments in genetic alternatives to the Arabica bean have potentially immense positive externalities. If such projects are successful, the industry as a whole stands to benefit. While Illy invests alone today, I would imagine that as more coffee firms start to recognize the enormous threats that climate change poses (and the enormous costs evolved in successfully adapting), there will be more joint-efforts around adaptation efforts. While this will be a positive development, I worry about the financial sustainability (and feasibility) of a single firm taking on such enormous industry-wide priorities without dedicated and well-resourced allies that share similar incentives.
Fascinating read, Curtis. I generally agree with Dan’s logic above: developing a new launch vehicle breaks your reliance on a single supplier if you’re the ULA. Though, I also believe in the utility (both technical and diplomatic) of a healthy trade relationship between the Russians the Americans when it comes the RD-180s. If I had a vote, I’d probably lean towards encouraging the reopening of trade per Congress’s recent effort.
I read ULA’s potentially unstable supply of RD-180s as an opportunity for ULA, Blue Origin, and the larger project of space exploration for one key reason: it could encourage faster development of key technologies that allow the industry to advance overall. When so much of the R+D in this sector is concentrated in a few firms and government-sponsored agencies, progress is slow as there isn’t the existential imperative that keeps firms innovating in well-functioning, competitive markets (man’s “last frontier” is being explored with Cold War technology…). This lack of dynamism seems to result in a conservative mentality where “good enough” is accepted — especially when it comes to costs. I guess my hope would be that while Vulcan might ultimately be an expensive bust, it does provide the community of engineers and managers working in this sector a valuable learning opportunity. The more projects for new launch vehicles or booster designs that are greenlighted, the more failures (of both projects and firms) we’re likely to see. However, ideally, this failure is the very thing that speeds along progress for the sector as a whole.