But what about foresight? The art of forecasting into the distant future is only for a select, brave few. And it’s definitely not for the guy who always has to be right. That said, forecasters have predicted with remarkable accuracy one—and even two—decades into the future with enough confidence to inform a company’s innovation strategy, at least to some degree. In a 2007 Harvard Business Review article, Paul Saffo states: “The role of the forecaster in the real world is quite different from that of the mythical seer. Prediction is concerned with future certainty; forecasting looks at how hidden currents in the present signal possible changes in direction for companies, societies, or the world at large.” Mr. Saffo should know—he’s been a technology forecaster for over two decades, exploring the dynamics of long-term, large-scale change.
Many of you might find yourselves in the unofficial role of forecaster, making decisions based on what you think will happen. And while intuition helps, it’s no substitute for astute observation, hard data and statistical modeling. Here’s an interesting excerpt from Instrumentation Outlook 2020, a Pittcon 2010’s Official Show Guide article which took a look at the projected analytical instrumentation landscape in the year 2020: “The varied and wide-ranging technology and business environments involving such topics as synthetic chemistry, nanobiotech, personalized medicine, genomics and proteomic, global warming, renewable energy, quantum electronics, sustainability, artificial intelligence and global economics, among others, will all leave their imprint on the changing face of analytical instrumentation over the next 10 years.”* A survey conducted by Laboratory Equipment magazine yielded the following:
*Source: Laboratory Equipment, 2010
And for a bit “closer in” projection, here’s what we came up for the distribution of lab funds in FY2009 and FY2010 in our October 2009 report The Market Outlook for Research Products in FY2010.