Are these the next big things in technology investing?

WEF publishes its annual list of technologies that are set to have the biggest impact in the years ahead

Are these the next big things in technology investing?

While technology stocks have been on something of a rollercoaster ride in recent years, they remain a favourite among many investors.

But what are the emerging technologies that could provide the best returns in the coming years?

The World Economic Forum has published its annual report on the tech that’s set to have the biggest impact, providing investors with some idea of what could be the be the next big thing.

Chosen by an expert panel, the Top 10 Emerging Technologies Report 2023, produced in collaboration with Frontiers, features the tech that promises major benefits to societies and economies.

To be included, the technologies must also be disruptive, attractive to investors and researchers, and expected to have achieved considerable scale within five years.

The top 10

1. Flexible Batteries

Thin, lightweight batteries built from materials that can be bent, twisted, and stretched are expected to hit a market value of US$240 million by 2027 and could replace standard batteries in products such as medical wearables, biomedical sensors, flexible displays and smart watches.

2. Generative Artificial Intelligence

Already creating a buzz in business and investing, this tech is evolving rapidly and is set to disrupt multiple industries, with applications in education, research and beyond.

3. Sustainable Aviation Fuel

With the focus on climate change, the airline industry (responsible for 2-3% of global CO2 emissions) needs a solution to become more sustainable.   With long-haul electric flights some way off, sustainable aviation fuel produced from biological (e.g. biomass) and non-biological (e.g. CO2) sources could be the answer to decarbonize the aviation industry in the short to medium term.

4. Designer Phages

These organisms are viruses that infect specific types of bacteria and will be used in a research setting to start with. Scientists can now reprogramme phages to infect the bacteria of their choosing, so these “designer” phages could eventually be used to treat microbiome-associated diseases or eliminate dangerous bacteria in food supply chains.

5. Metaverse for Mental Health

Virtual spaces are set to evolve and grow rapidly and one use of the metaverse is to improve mental health. Video games are already being used to treat depression and anxiety and VR-enabled meditation is on the rise, combined with next-generation wearables that allow the user to feel touch and or respond to the user’s emotional state.

6. Wearable Plant Sensors

It’s not just people that will increasingly be wearing sensors, plants will too. These small, non-invasive devices can be “worn” by individual plants for continuous monitoring of temperature, humidity, moisture and nutrient levels. Assuming they can overcome scaling costs, wearable plant sensors could improve plant health and increase yields.

7. Spatial Omics

This tech allows scientists to ‘see’ inside cells to observe biological processes at a molecular level. This powerful new technology is poised to speed up our understanding of biology and help researchers develop new treatments for complex diseases.

8. Flexible Neural Electronics

This tech is about direct communication between the brain and external computers. They have potentially life-changing applications in medicine and neuroscience such as the treatment of epilepsy, depression or paralysis. The $1.74 billion market for this technology is expected to grow to $6.18 billion by the end of the decade.

9. Sustainable Computing

Currently, data centres consume approximately 1% of the electricity produced globally and changes are needed to boost sustainability. Net zero data centres are possible with “sustainable computing” technologies including liquid cooling systems, AI analytics and modular data centres that can be co-located with existing energy sources such as methane flares.

10. AI-Facilitated Healthcare

AI could be moving forward from diagnosis and drug design to support the entire healthcare system – from monitoring pandemic outbreaks to reducing hospital wait times by optimizing resource allocation.

“New technologies have the power to disrupt industries, grow economies, improve lives and safeguard the planet – if designed, scaled and deployed responsibly,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum and Head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.