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INSIDEFDI


Thefuture is unwritten


JACOPO DETTONI REFLECTS ON THE WORLD BEYOND COVID-19 AS fDi ENTERS ITS 20TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR


ing year in recent history comes to an end, I findmyself reflecting on these words, which have been idling inmy memory sincemyuniversity days, when I had The Clash’s CDs piled up withmytextbooks. To be frank, Covid-19 has been a


P


rather defeating experience so far. It exposed a vicious invisible enemy, while also causing a wave of draconian regulations as govern- ments came to terms with the pan- demic’s exponential growth trajec- tory. The lingering feeling is one of helplessness, rather than empower- ment. Is the future unwritten, or simply unwritable? The year 2020 marks an inflection


point in ourmodern history, or, for the sake of this column, in the recent history of the globalmarket.Whole industries have beendisrupted. Some, like aviation, will bounce back as travelling resumes. Others will not. The collapse of once-revered brick- and-mortar retail groups Arcadia and Debenhams, with568 stores facing closure across the UK, reminds us of the seismic shift in our uses and cus- tomstriggered by e-commerce and digitisation. The outlook on several other sec-


tors is far less predictable. The energy industry is in themidst


of a widely acclaimedtransition. Renewable energycompanyNextEra Energy has temporarily becomemore valuable thanoil behemoth Exxon, once the largestpublic companyon earth. Yet fossil fuels are still at the heart of the global energymatrixand leadingproducers like Saudi Arabia will try tomanage the transition as much as they can(see page 94). Similarly, incumbent car produc-


ers,whoare nowworthjust a fraction of electric vehicle (EV) sensation Tesla, but stillemploy thousands of people


December 2020/January 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


unk rock legend Joe Strummer once said: “The future is unwritten.” As the most shock-


across the globe, will spend their efforts (and billions) to fight off the competition of up-and-coming EV pro- ducers, like Lucid Motors (see page 12). In the tech sphere, dominant


forces of the likes of Facebook and Google will perhaps be broken up by regulators, so that market forces can breath again, although this is not expected any time soon. Research shows that technological innovation has becomea way for incumbent market leaders to preserve the status quo rather than disrupting it. The future of the office and


whole cities is at stake too. More decentralised office modelsmay emerge to the benefit of smaller, even rural communities. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already rolling out a satel- lite-based internet service promising to bring broadband internet to any corner of the world, no matter how remote, for $99 per month. The world economy is adjusting.


This is the result of all the individ- ual forces active in the market. With so much uncertainty, the mar- ginal impact of each one of these individual forces can be enormous. In just a fewmonths, the likes of Zoom or Slack have become billion- dollar ventures. This is an inflection point for fDi


too, as we enter our 20th anniversary year—the first issue of the magazine came off the printing press in the autumn of 2001. Global investment is set to fall by 40% this year, and possi- bly another 10%next year. The pie is shrinking and competition for invest- ment is heating up. The hunger for leadership, data and direction is now bigger than ever, and addressing it will be our defining missionmoving forward (see page 26). The future is indeed unwritten—


and a new chapter for fDi is already taking shape.■


Jacopo Dettoni is the editor of fDi. 3


RENEWABLE ENERGY COMPANY NEXTERA ENERGY HAS TEMPORARILY BECOMEMORE VALUABLE THANEXXON


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