DEEP TECH FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE- THE FOURTH WAVE OF INNOVATION
Updated: Mar 27, 2022
Today, we stand on the brink of a total technological revolution which is changing the way we live our lives. Dubbed as the fourth industrial revolution, Deep technology is a set of advanced groundbreaking innovations in science and engineering which aim to solve problems which until now were considered beyond the bounds of possibility.
It is a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the ‘physical, digital, and biological spheres’ like Artificial intelligence, Virtual reality, Big Data, Robotics and blockchain. Deep tech is not separate from the technology sector but is its subset. One major difference in tech and deep tech is based on risk involved. Tech deals with market risk whereas deep tech deals with engineering risk. Deep tech brings in revolutionary solutions and creates a new market for itself. Innovations based on deep tech create enormous economic and financial value.
For the better part of the last decade, the IT industry has grown tremendously. In 2020, it accounted for about 8% of India’s GDP with revenues estimated at $7 billion in the first half of 2021. However among the razzmatazz of the dot coms and digital technology, the deep tech industry was somehow left out of the limelight. While digital tech is essential, it isn’t going to help us solve the pressing problems of our time. It isn’t going to feed the billions around the globe or undo the tremendous amount of damage we’ve done to the environment. To build that future, we need to pay more attention to deep technology, the innovations that actually promise a sustainable future. While digital technology provides a quick fix to these situations, deep tech helps in the realization of all those futuristic dreams from the past.
“We wanted flying cars and we got 140 characters”
This is what Peter Thiel said back in 2011 to show his dissent with the pace of innovation in technology. Now fast forward to 2022, we have multiple companies like Airbus and Lilium close to having operational commercial air taxis.
Pioneers in AI and Machine Learning are constantly discovering new opportunities for radical, disruptive, and imaginative Deep Tech solutions to deliver unrivaled improvements in people’s lives.
With the world population exploding at alarming rates, problems like overpopulation, excessive urbanisation and extreme climatic conditions are threatening our existence. To tackle clean energy generation, deep tech startups are building compact fast nuclear reactors which will be fueled by existing energy generation costs by billions, reduce carbon emission manifold and connect underdeveloped countries to the global energy grid.
Innovations in cell-based meat and sustainable farming methods are solving the ongoing global food crisis. Precision sensors for weather forecasting and advanced data analytics to predict crop efficiency and water use are turning the face of global agriculture.
Further citing a recent example, advancements in biotech engineering and immunology enabled companies like Moderna and Pfizer with their vaccine for COVID developed in nine months with a novel mRNA approach. Big consumer-based manufacturing companies are constantly moving towards the use of AI to increase efficiency and bring down their costs.
A combination of technology and scientific talent forms the backbone of deep tech startups but they take years to build due to the requirement of extensive research and testing of the product along with large investments to fund it.
Very often the research duration can stretch without any real guarantee of success. Thus Funding is likely to go to Organisations developing consumer products due to a predetermined proof of concept. Also, with these significant transformations being driven mostly by academic scientists turned entrepreneurs, problems of scalability and lack of understanding of how the products and services can be commercialized play a role in their success.
The Covid pandemic dragged the world economy towards a plummeting graph. And while it did have an impact on the technology world, there was a bright side to it in the Deep Tech domain. The pandemic ensured the implementation of technology considered ‘nice-to-have’ until now into ‘must have’. Deep Tech solutions have enabled work-from-home, distance learning, home-based fitness, immersive entertainment, and networked social interactivity making it a part of the new normal.
Deep tech can be considered the cavalry to fight the ever-growing environmental challenges. It is a sector that does not provide an end product to consumers, but provides a solution for the future. Its real motive extends to creating a social and environmental impact in our everyday lives. Deep tech driven innovations have proved to solve cost issues, resource inefficiencies and environmental sustainability. The impact of Covid 19 has led to the realisation of the need for rapid and affordable healthcare. As the environmental issues are growing day after day, deep tech is becoming more socially relevant. It is not just proving to be beneficial but is also coming up as a necessity for a better tomorrow.