The curse of COVID-19 | Sectors that are successfully weathering the storm
Many sectors are struggling in the current climate of COVID-19, with restrictions on personnel in the workplace to deal with, alongside a chronic economic downturn.
But despite all this, several sectors are undergoing a boost. The biggest success stories are tied to the pandemic we find ourselves in. Some sectors are managing to survive and even thrive. Such groups include pharmaceutical groups hunting down the vaccine, tech giants benefitting from the new trend to work from home, suppliers of COVID-specific goods like signage and PPE, and retailers offering lockdown necessities online, according to the FT.
COVID-19 and R&D
The impact of COVID-19 on R&D (research and development) can seem less apparent than in other sectors, as it is early on in the manufacturing pipeline and comes long before consumers notice any product disruption. This lack of investment in innovation now may hit us hard when those R&D cuts make their way through to the consumer.
With reduced engineering capacity, efficiency losses, supply chain disruptions and inadequacies in tools, environment and network, R&D is being grossly affected. Evidently, the focus must remain on employee safety, but if production is shut down for now, product development lacks attention and impetus. The R&D arms of several sectors (like the aforementioned big pharma) have managed to escape scot-free, but many continue to suffer.
So, although the pandemic continues to require evolution, quick thinking and problem-solving across all industries to stay abreast of changing regulations in a changing world, several sectors seem unscathed by the pandemic’s pressures, even registering promising opportunities for growth.
The pandemic has necessitated a huge boom in new signage, with COVID-awareness messaging a prerequisite for most customer-facing businesses. Technavio has been monitoring the safety signs market, and predicts that it will grow by USD $258.65 million between now and 2024, progressing at a CAGR of more than 3%. Technavio predicts growth expected at 2.45% in 2020 alone. When will the market normalise for the safety signs sector? Technavio predicts a best-case scenario at Q3 2021.
We’ve undergone a boom in public desire for contactless interactions when ordering and purchasing. As well as our reliance on ‘track & trace’ software for virus prediction and protection, we have also seen a boom in the technologies surrounding remote working apps and software. As many tech companies fell in value, FM magazine noted the ones that rose through the ranks. Lockdown-favourite Zoom saw its share price rise as the pandemic spread. Microsoft Teams, meanwhile, saw a 37% gain of users in comparison to rival Slack, in just one week, reaching a mammoth 44 million users.
China’s DingTalk (owned by Alibaba) and Tencent’s WeChat Work, which are two of the most well-used workplace collaboration software platforms, crashed temporarily through overuse on the first day of working from home in China. The continued drive for at-home working is currently predicted to continue post-pandemic, driving businesses to invest in virtual office solutions and rely on remote access Cloud storage systems, and continuing to support this sector.
For big pharma, the main goal has been the race to provide COVID vaccinations. Big pharma brand Sanofi, for example, has invested €610 million in a COVID vaccine production site and R&D centre, in France (which includes a €490 million spend on an industrial site for vaccine production).
Having increased demands for both medical supplies and care, COVID is still sucking in huge amounts of resources into finding vaccines, cures and treatments for COVID – we can’t know yet what the detrimental effects of this might be in terms of stunting the progress of innovation in the treatments of other illnesses and diseases.
The manufacturers’ organisation MAKE suggested that Covid-19 will stunt manufacturing growth until 2022. It suggests that digital, global and green initiatives will be central to aiding recovery.
The manufacture of PPE, of course, has seen massive investment, with million-pound contracts for PPE supply given out by the government to all sorts of manufacturers – from those with a history in sweets to pest control. Although some of these appointments have come under criticism (with questions over proximity to important government figures, and a poor record for quality and delivery), this also highlights how quickly the manufacturing industry has been able to respond, and quickly pivot their production, in a time of crisis.
Other industry sectors which have managed to benefit from the terrible economic climate around COVID include the entertainment sector, E-learning, logistics and virtual healthcare. So, although the economic hit of COVID will resound through the years to come, some sectors have benefitted and stand to continue to do so. Whether this is by happenstance and the sudden utility of their product, or through canny evolutions the brand has taken, it’s clear that there is value being added by the virus, in some sectors.
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