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Infrastructure is the new plastic

infrastructure.jpgIn my “Where’s the growth?” trends overview written a few months back, I noted that one of the key drivers for growth into the future will come from the massive spending to occur on infrastructure — globally. One estimate suggests global spending will go from $750 billion to $1 trillion in a few years. I think we’ll see more.

This morning, I caught wind of a blog entry that commented on the general crankiness of American’s towards their “crumbling infrastructure.” For example, Thomas Friedman commented in a New York Times article this week: “A few weeks ago, my wife and I flew from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Singapore. In J.F.K.’s waiting lounge we could barely find a place to sit. Eighteen hours later, we landed at Singapore’s ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children’s play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons.

It’s the rapid ramp-up in sentiments like this that drive the reality that infrastructure is the new plastic. It’s one aspect of the global economy where spending is going to increase at a furious pace.

Consider the trends that are coming together that provide for this simple reality:

  • spending on infrastructure through what has been fondly known as the “first world” will increase, by virtue of the simple reality that much of what is there is crumbling and creaky. After 50 or 75 or 100 or 150 years or so, stuff simply breaks down, and needs to be replaced.
  • spending on infrastructure throughout Asia and the Pacific region will continue to ramp up as society moves up the rung of personal wealth
  • sophisticated solutions to challenging problems — think energy, and spending on solar / wind / tidal solutions — will drive ever more complex infrastructure projects, and hence, more infrastructure spending. Simply put, there will be lots more options of where to spend money as new ideas come to market.
  • global competition simply means that economic regions will have to boost their infrastructure — simply to stay as a global competitor. It’s a matter of economic pride — and necessity.

One really interesting aspect of all this is that anything that goes with infrastructure spending is set for a rocket ride. Think intelligent project management, global collaboration capabilities, and resource/skills scalability: these will be the defining success factors for anyone working in this global marketplace.
Who wins? Construction companies, specialized skills, economic regions that decide to invest — and most important, firms that have a deep, scalable global talent pool.

And perhaps one of the biggest, yet unforeseen markets, will have to do with “intelligent infrastructure.” Think thermostats!

:

  • Read Where’s the growth : global innovation opportunities for the long term
  • The reality of future trends: grab the What Comes Next trends overview
  • Intelligent infrastructure: When thermostats get connected
  • Read my Credit Suisse interview for my thoughts on “growth”

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