For hundreds of years man has ensured continual progress through technological advances. While at the end of the 18th century it was the first mechanical loom that turned the textile industry on its head, now it is digitalisation that is revolutionising a wide range of sectors. This phenomenon is aptly described by the term "disruptive technologies". Just how important such leaps in innovation are can be seen in the current coronavirus pandemic. Until just recently it would have taken researchers many years, sometimes even decades, to find an effective vaccine against a new pathogen, but new technologies such as the mRNA process have shortened the time required to do this for the current SARS-CoV-2 virus to a few months. These innovative vaccines do not involve inoculation with a viral antigen as usual, but are instead the genetic instructions for building it, as it were.
The majority of experts agree that genomics will herald the dawn of a new age. This field includes technologies such as bioinformatics, gene therapies, molecular diagnostics and stem cell research – all of them areas that offer enormous potential for growth. ARK Research reckons that the market for DNA sequencing alone will enlarge by an average 43% a year between 2019 and 2024, rising from USDbn 3.5 to USDbn 21. It is not only in healthcare, though, that disruptive technologies are changing the rules of play: mobile internet, big data, robots, 3D printers and even autonomous vehicles will, in the truest sense of the word, "reprogram" life, working practices and the global economy as well over the years and decades to come.
When it comes to the workflows of the future, automation and hence robotics will play a decisive role. Humanoids will ensure more efficient work routines while at the same time boosting production. What is more, robots have long been able to do more than just simple jobs like screwing, soldering and wiping: in coexistence with humans they have even made it into the operating theatre. According to the latest "World Robotics 2020" study published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), a total of 2.7 million industrial robots were used in factories around the world last year, an increase of 12%. "That number marks the highest level in history," says IFR president Milton Guerry. Stimulated by the success of intelligent production and automation, the proportion of industrial robots worldwide has thus grown by around 85% within the space of five years. The growth engine is Asia and especially China, which saw a further 140,500 new robots last year. Overall, the proportion of newly installed intelligent machines in Asia represents around two thirds of new acquisitions across the world.
Among the new technologies to have already unleashed disruptive innovations is fintech. The digitalisation of the financial industry is in full swing, reflected in considerable investment by banks in technology-based solutions. However, companies previously outside the industry are also looking to win a share of the pie with facilities such as mobile payment, crowd investing and peer-to-peer transfers. And that pie is getting ever larger: according to forecasts by MarketsandMarkets, the global fintech market is expected to grow by around one fifth every year between 2020 and 2025 and is set to reach a volume of some USDbn 305. The analysts anticipate significant growth in the artificial intelligence and blockchain sectors especially. AI interfaces and chatbots will also help to redefine customer service.
e=expected; source: IFR "World Robotics 2020"
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