Supply chain disruptions are increasingly frequent and complex. We often read about food shortages, critical drug shortages, and even toilet paper shortages. But behind the panic buying and consistent news coverage, it is clear that existing supply chain models are failing us.

The era of easy frictionless supply chains is over

Between 2019 and 2021, the mention of ‘supply chains’ increased 13-fold across social media platforms, reaching 25,636 mentions. Supply chain disruptions have become the new norm. The last half-decade has seen countless changes disrupting supply chains. With growing geopolitical tensions, ESG demands from consumers, inflation, worker shortages, port congestions, and the pandemic, things will only get worse. Business must reconfigure their individual supply chains to become resilient once again.

Supply chains are homeward bound

Globalisation can no longer prop up supply chains. With growing geopolitical tensions and uncertainties, businesses and nations must reinvigorate their own local supply chains via reshoring. While regulation can encourage reshoring, technological advances are what catalyse it. Companies can deploy advanced data analytics, factory floor digitalisation, 3D printing, and the growing capabilities of local alternative energy sources to reshore.

Synthetic biology is an understated savior of reshoring efforts

One growing field capable of supporting reshoring efforts is synthetic biology. Synthetic alternatives can be used to meet our demand for meat, fabrics, precious metals, fuel, medicines, and much more. The environmental benefits of these innovations are plenty, for example, synthetic meat has to travel fewer food miles, but synthetic alternatives will mainly facilitate the next stage of supply chains. That is, synthetic biology will enable lean supply chain management, having few products in global circulation, and decreased reliance on imports while supporting reshoring efforts.

One fast-growing example of synthetic biology success is seen in meat alternatives. According to GlobalData’s data on meat substitutes, the value of the industry reached $6.9 billion in 2021, up from $4 billion in 2015. Synthetic biology has the potential to make the meat industry less vulnerable to supply chain disruptions as companies develop cultured, printed, or fermented meat alternatives. While these innovations will not become widespread overnight, the synthetic biology revolution is coming, and only by harnessing it, alongside other emerging technologies, will companies secure the health and performance of their supply chains.