10 emerging technologies to address global challenges

AI-powered scientific discovery, carbon-capturing microbes and elastocalorics are among the top 10 emerging technologies to address global challenges, according to the World Economic Forum.

The forum’s annual Top 10 Emerging Technologies Report features technologies with the greatest potential to make a positive impact in the world in the next three to five years.

Managing Director, WEF and Head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Jeremy Jurgens, says in a statement that organisations make better choices when they understand the factors shaping the future.

“The report identifies technologies poised to significantly influence societies and economies. It also spotlights technologies with immense potential for revolutionising connectivity, addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and driving innovation across various fields.”

Frederick Fenter, Chief Executive Editor, Frontiers says that drawing on the expertise of its Chief Field Editors worldwide “brings our shared commitment to transformative science into … focus, bringing insight and clarity to breakthrough technology that has the ability to change societies, economies, and lives for the better. This is open science in action and we are delighted to partner with the World Economic Forum in bringing these technologies to the attention of business, science and political leaders across the globe.”

The WEF’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2024 are:

1.AI for scientific discovery: While artificial intelligence has been used in research for many years, advances in deep learning, generative AI and foundation models are revolutionising the scientific discovery process. AI will enable researchers to make unprecedented connections and advancements in understanding diseases, proposing new materials, and enhancing knowledge of the human body and mind.

2. Privacy-enhancing technologies: Protecting personal privacy while providing new opportunities for global data sharing and collaboration, “synthetic data” is set to transform how information is handled with powerful applications in health-related research.

3. Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces: These innovative surfaces turn ordinary walls and surfaces into intelligent components for wireless communication while enhancing energy efficiency in wireless networks. They hold promise for numerous applications, from smart factories to vehicular networks.

“These systems can extend mobile network access to remote regions…”

4. High-altitude platform stations: Using aircraft, blimps and balloons, these systems can extend mobile network access to remote regions, helping bridge the digital divide for over 2.6 billion people worldwide.

5. Integrated sensing and communication: The advent of 6G networks facilitates simultaneous data collection (sensing) and transmission (communication). This enables environmental monitoring systems that help in smart agriculture, environmental conservation and urban planning. Integrated sensing and communication devices also promise to reduce energy and silicon consumption.

6. Immersive technology for the built world: Combining computing power with virtual and augmented reality, these technologies promise rapid improvements in infrastructure and daily systems. This technology allows designers and construction professionals to check for correspondence between physical and digital models, ensuring accuracy and safety and advancing sustainability.

“As global temperatures rise, the need for cooling solutions is set to soar…”

7. Elastocalorics: As global temperatures rise, the need for cooling solutions is set to soar. Offering higher efficiency and lower energy use, elastocalorics release and absorb heat under mechanical stress, presenting a sustainable alternative to current technologies.

8. Carbon-capturing microbes: Engineered organisms convert emissions into valuable products like biofuels, providing a promising approach to mitigating climate change.

9. Alternative livestock feeds: Protein feeds for livestock sourced from single-cell proteins, algae and food waste could offer a sustainable solution for the agricultural industry.

10. Genomics for transplants: The successful implantation of genetically engineered organs into a human marks a significant advancement in healthcare, offering hope to millions awaiting transplants.

The forum says its Top 10 Emerging Technologies Report, now in its 12th edition, draws on insights from scientists, researchers and futurists.

“In addition to promising major benefits to societies and economies, these emerging technologies must also be disruptive, attractive to investors and researchers, and expected to achieve considerable scale within five years,” it says.

This year’s edition introduced a trend analysis methodology “incorporating academic literature, funding trends and patent filings, to ensure the accuracy and relevance of the selected technologies. The technologies featured in the report, produced in collaboration with Frontiers, were identified through a rigorous selection process involving over 300 world-leading academics and experts.”

Click here to see the full report.

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