Meta-trends are emerging events or scenarios that will impact entire populations at a national, regional or global level. The importance of metatrends is that problems may become apparent that can only be resolved through entrepreneurial technology. Brown and Flynn (2008) posited that climate change represents perhaps the most profound of the many environmental meta-trends expected to impact business in the twenty- first century. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth Assessment Report summarising a range of impacts and policy recommendations around predicted climate change trends. The report forecast that climate change will cause more variable weather, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flooding, droughts, intense storms and air pollution. The IPCC provided recommendations for policymakers with an eye towards the impact of these and other weather-related changes on population health, safety, business productivity, property loss, international trade and transport. The impact of the IPCC studies has been to cause governments to become concerned about global warming. In turn this has resulted in grants and subsidies that have accelerated entrepreneurial activity in areas such as emissions reduction in traditional industries and new renewable energy technologies.
Whilst scientists predict climate change will amplify global stresses over the coming decades, concerns around freshwater availability are also rapidly escalating. Currently agricultural irrigation accounts for 70 % of global water usage, representing much as much as 95 % of the total water use in developing countries. Industry follows with 22 % of global water use for energy production, processing, cooling functions, a resource input for many products and waste disposal. With only 8 % left for use by the domestic sector, more than 1 billion people worldwide currently have no access to safe drinking water (United Nations 2003).
Climate change will exacerbate existing problems of poor water quality and lack of accessibility in some areas, with increased frequency and duration of droughts, and quality degradation associated with storms and natural disasters. The United Nations’ prediction is that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, while two-thirds of the world’s population could be living without access to enough clean water to meet their needs (Anand 2006). These concerns have produced new interest in desalination technology, especially in relation to reverse osmosis. The process relies on membranes that permit the passage of water molecules but not salts. Desalination is an energy-expensive proposition; hence membrane research has focused upon improved performance which can reduce energy usage. The other adverse impact of inadequate water supplies is upon agriculture. This has resulted in entrepreneurial activities in two areas. The first has been in the area of improved, more efficient irrigation systems, exploiting concepts such as remote location sensors. Accompanying these efforts has been a focus upon using genetic modification (GM) to develop crops more resistant to limited availability of water (Dascher et al. 2014).
Another meta-trend is that of population ageing caused by people living longer and declining birth rates. The outcome is that people aged over 65 are becoming an increasingly dominant component of a nation’s population. This has two implications: the increase in age-related mental illnesses such as dementia and the rising cost of labour-intensive care for older people. Entrepreneurial opportunities related to mental illness are likely to arise from radically different medical solutions derived from ongoing research into brain mapping and the physiology of nervous system change and deterioration. Two areas for development that could reduce labour costs are the use of remote sensors to monitor people in their own homes and the introduction of robots to replace human carers (Chaston 2009).