Today, the Wall Street Journal ran an article,”Why Saudi Arabia’s Oil Giant Aims to Be Big in Chemicals, Too“, with the subhead: “Aramco’s plans to vastly expand its petrochemical operations are part of the kingdom’s effort to remake its economy as oil’s future clouds.”
Why would one of the world’s largest oil companies shift to a new focus on the chemical industry as their key opportunity? One reason is that the math, and hence the scope of the opportunity, is so overwhelming. (The other being that in a world awash in oil, energy is no longer a growth industry. So after the world gets flat, you put a ripple in it!)
Here’s why: years ago, I dug out a fascinating observation having to do with the world of chemistry. I’ve used this in keynotes for BASF, the American Chemical Society, and many others. Consider the simple math at hand that spells opportunity with a capital ‘O’.
- “…The number of known chemical substances has been growing exponentially since 1800, from some hundreds then to about 19 million today….”
- “…. the number constantly doubles every 13 years….”
- by 2025: 80 million chemical substances
- by 2050: 300 million
- and by 2100: 5 billion……
19 billion known chemical substances to 5 billion? That’s a pretty exponential change….
Why is this important? I always point out on stage, when using these stats, that the discovery of a single new chemical substance led to the opportunity for Apple to miniaturize the hard drive — that led to the first iPod.
Which was the birth of a multi-billion market.
For every new chemical substance, similar massive new opportunities exist.
That’s what it means to live in an exponential world! And that is what it means to focus on future opportunities through innovation. Which is precisely what Said Aramco is focused on….