Visions of the Future

By John Eichberger | December 2015

So often, those of us in industry talk about what the Millenials, or the next generation, want from products and services. We seek to understand their motivations and what might be important to them as they emerge into the primary target consumer segment. But what do we really know?

I like to think I am still young, but each morning I am reminded that my youth resides in my head and heart, but not so much in my back and joints. I am not the emerging target consumer demographic, so my comprehension about what makes them tick is based upon data analysis and various consumer surveys. While this data is very informative (check out the Fuels Institute's report from earlier this year, Driver Demographics), it is no substitute for getting input directly from this generation.

Hence, the Fuels Institute is hosting its second annual University Case competition. This program has invited students from across the nation to participate in a project in which they will share with us their visions of what the future of transportation energy might include. They are directed to imagine pressing a reset button and crafting a system without preconceived limitations of our existing market. Then they are asked to develop a transition strategy to progress from where we are to where they think we should go.

I am excited that 25 teams from 15 prestigious universities have submitted initial applications to compete in this program. The three top teams selected will be flown by the Fuels Institute to our annual meeting in San Francisco, April 27-29, to present their papers and engage with conference attendees in a meaningful examination of their ideas. The winning team will be announced at the event and presented with a $5,000 grand prize.

The question presented to the students is incredibly relevant for our 2016 annual meeting. We are currently working on the programming for this conference and are looking to examine how various stakeholders envision the future. Studies can be done about what is feasible and under construction, but by enabling our attendees to learn from various stakeholders about their respective visions of the future it is possible that some common ground can be identified and effective strategies developed. Incorporating the students' perspective in this program only adds to the value, because whatever strategy is ultimately brought to market it must resonate with the target consumer segment.

There are so many positive things that can come from this case competition-new ideas for consideration by market leaders; recognition of potential talent that can help lead the market into its next iteration; the initiation of strategic discussions by entrenched stakeholders that could lead to new and innovative market developments; and a host of other possible outcomes.

We are thrilled to have received such strong interest from the nation's leading universities and participation from so many innovative students. If you are interested in being a part of this program, we would love to have your input. Please contact Donovan Woods to inquire about options to support this student initiative.

And remember to mark your calendars for our 2016 Annual Meeting April 27-29 in San Francisco-it will be an event to elevate your own perspective about what the future may hold for the fuels and vehicles market.

Read more from the December Issue of our Fuel for Thought newsletter.