Visualization of icons against the background of the city

A must-attend event in your author’s diary is Groundbreakers. Prologis, the largest owner of industrial real estate (or big box warehouses) in the world first launched this forum of thought leadership in 2021. This year’s event took place live in New York last week and while your author was sadly unable to attend in person, virtual participation was well worth it. The idea behind Groundbreakers is to gather leaders from across the ecosystem of global commerce, energy, logistics and more to learn how they see the future. Our three main take-aways were –

Leaders talking to people in meeting

Decarbonisation is top of mind. Almost every speaker emphasised the importance of sustainability in their strategic thinking. Such prominence is a function of both sales-push and customer-pull. Part of the impetus is pragmatism; if smaller businesses do not have the scale to implement solutions themselves, they are naturally looking to other players in the supply chain to provide them. ‘Energy as a service’ was a term used by several speakers. Practically, Prologis is installing solar panels on its warehouses as well as charging points for electric vehicles at them.

Expect to see more automation. A combination of rising labour costs, availability of appropriately trained staff and the falling cost of technology solutions is driving an acceleration in the pace of warehouse innovation. Two topics which occurred with regularity among the panellists present were cobots and drones. Collaborative robots (cobots), we were told, have the ability to “work hand in hand with people”, per one speaker and have higher (perceived) workforce safety relative to robots. They are also, often, cheaper. Meanwhile drones – for which we made the case recently – can help connect communities and enable business continuity. We concur.

Governments have a clear role to play. While the purpose of an event such as Groundbreakers is to be inspired by bottom-up innovation, almost every speaker highlighted that they could not go it alone. State authorities would, for example, need to take some responsibility in helping to build out renewable infrastructure whether in the form of a more extensive electric vehicle charging network or smart grids (we discussed the latter topic in detail earlier this year). Better grassroots education, particularly in STEM subjects was also deemed a priority. Lots of food thought. We’re already looking forward to Groundbreakers 2023.

3 November 2022​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Heptagon Capital is an investor in Prologis. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

Alex Gunz, Fund Manager


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