Geneva, Switzerland, 15 February, 2012The World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies has just released its list of "Important Technologies" that will change the world in the years ahead. The list highlights technology trends most likely to impact on the state of the world in the near future and was developed by a cross section of experts from science, businesses, and public policy. The technologies are expected to have major social, economic, and environmental impacts.
Many of the technology trends are currently below the radar of most policy makers. Council member Tim Harper emphasized that "Technology is a very powerful tool for change. If the Arab Spring demonstrated that many governments are still unsure how to respond to mature and simple to grasp technologies such as Facebook and Twitter, then they run the risk of being absolutely powerless in the face of science-based technological change."
Innovation in nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology is already helping solve pressing challenges as diverse as efficient "renewable" energy sources, malnutrition and hunger, access to clean water, disease diagnosis and treatment, "green" technologies, and global climate change and sustainability.
Council Chair Professor Sang Yup Lee at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) explained that "Accelerating progress in science and technology has stimulated a new age of discovery, and many of the technologies identified by the council are critical to building a sustainable and resilient future." Regarding job creation through emerging technologies, Council Vice-Chair Javier Garcia Martinez said, "There are no generally applicable shortcuts in the path that goes from emerging technologies to new industries and job creation. This path includes sufficient and sustained funding leaving enough incentive to the founders and real focus on scale, reliability, and safety." The report also cautions that without new understanding, tools and capabilities, ranging from public policy to investment models, their safe and successful development is far from guaranteed. Among the trends are advances in informatics, biotechnology, medicine, materials, education, and resource usage.
Informatics for adding value to information and handling "big data" for "data to decision" is highlighted, and has been the focus of idea generation during this year's Davos forum. In particular, the intelligent technologies for creating valuable information out of noisy data need to be developed.
In the biological domain, synthetic biology and metabolic engineering are expected to become increasingly important in manufacturing new drugs and producing chemicals and materials from renewable resources. Systems biology and computational modelling and simulation of chemical and biological systems are playing increasingly important roles in helping design therapeutics, materials and processes that are highly efficient in achieving their design goals, while minimally impacting on human health, resources, and the environment. Innovative technologies for a second green revolution that provide security in food supply for growing population and biomass for biorefineries are also selected.
Nanomaterials designed and engineered at the molecular scale are expected to continue to provide novel solutions to energy, water, and other resource-based challenges. Also listed are breakthrough technologies that potentially turn carbon dioxide from a global liability to a valuable resource.
The list also includes wireless power, high energy-density power systems, personalized medicine and nutrition, and enhanced education technologies.
Director of World Economic Forum Andrew Hagan said, "We believe that these emerging technologies to be announced annually by the council will provide a chance for all stakeholders to link technology trends to the global megatrends and solutions to the mega-challenges. The challenge will not just be the new ideas but leaving the old ones behind."
|Contact: Sang Yup Lee|
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)