EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES – OUTLOOK 2022

January 6th, 2022 Innovation Insights

Futuristic technologies and innovative new products are changing the world and our daily lives. New ideas are shaping the business of the future and ensuring competitiveness in global markets. That’s why it’s worthwhile for companies and investors to take a look at tomorrow’s innovations. The Swiss investment analytics company ALPORA shows you what emerging technologies will look like in 2022.

RESEARCH FIELD: ENERGY TRANSITION TECHNOLOGIES

The latest technologies, sustainable methods and innovative ideas are the key to the energy transition. To secure the energy future, the world must move more quickly to a decarbonized energy system. The expansion of renewable energies as a regenerative energy source is also a central pillar of the energy transition. In this context, innovations are seen as indispensable. Only with effective and clean innovations can the energy transition succeed!

ZERO EMISSION TECHNOLOGIES

Climate neutral by 2050 – with Net Zero technologies. For a balance of energy generation and consumption, they not only help to save electricity, but in the best case they can also generate energy themselves! Green steel, low-emission raw materials and fuels, and zero-emission vehicles are currently still considered niche products. But 31 global companies from the transport, logistics and steel industries now want to change that. The climate-friendly raw materials and goods are to be bought and offered on a large scale by participants such as the German automotive supplier ZF, the DHL Group, but also Amazon, Apple, and airlines such as Boeing, United and Delta.

NEW BATTERY TECHNOLOGIES

On the road to the super battery, short ranges, charging processes that take forever and short lifetimes should soon be a thing of the past. Battery technology in particular is a valuable lever for the success of the electric revolution. A lot has happened in the field of battery research in recent years. Researchers are focusing on battery and fuel cell technology, both of which are expected to enable locally emission-free driving. Find out here whether the new battery technologies deliver what they promise:

SODIUM BATTERY DISPENSES WITH EXPENSIVE LIMITED RAW MATERIALS

CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology), now the world’s largest battery manufacturer has announced an eco-battery for 2023 with cell chemistry that does not use cobalt, nickel and lithium. The battery giant wants to use the far-reaching advantages in batteries for electric cars and thus replace the classic starter battery in cars. It can convince with several factors:

  • Significantly more fire-safe than conventional lithium-ion cells
  • Can be transported in a completely discharged state
  • More cost effective due to the elimination of expensive materials
  • Cold resistance (90 percent capacity at -20 degrees)
  • Fast charging capability (0 to 80 percent in 15 minutes)

However, the sodium battery still has weak points that need to be overcome. These include energy density and even shorter range.

RECYCLED BATTERIES FOR MORE SUSTAINABILITY

As electromobility becomes more widespread, a large new market for green and efficient battery recycling is emerging. The raw material extraction of lithium and cobalt is socially and ethically problematic. Therefore, recycling lithium-ion batteries holds great economic opportunities.

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute caused astonishment because they found that batteries made from recycled materials perform better than new ones. With a similar energy density, the recycled batteries can impress with a longer service life of up to 53 percent!

SOLID STATE BATTERY FOR MORE RANGE

Charging batteries at fast-charging stations is said to take little longer than an average refueling session. The new generation of batteries is expected to offer up to 80% more range and thus guarantee long driving pleasure. To significantly increase the range of electric cars, the energy density at the cell level must be significantly increased. Lithium metal has this potential as a solid electrolyte and is ideally suited as an anode material. There are other advantages:

  • Significantly more safety due to the absence of liquid and highly flammable components
  • Exclusively flame retardant
  • Increased robustness of the cells
  • Cost savings at cell, module, and system level
  • Increased lifetime has a positive impact on sustainability

Next-generation lithium batteries can definitely advance electromobility.

New, optimized or recycled batteries are a topic of the future. They can help reduce global emissions and meet climate targets. For the breakthrough of electrified mobility, all critical factors such as short ranges, time loss during charging and short service life must be eliminated., These are currently still seen by society as the biggest hurdle to modify. With the new battery technologies, even the critics could now be convinced, and the last reservations eliminated.

THE MOBILITY SOLUTIONS OF THE FUTURE

What does it look like, the mobility of the future? Often equipped with fuel cells or electric propulsion, electric vehicles are already an integral part of our daily transport. Autonomous vehicles, air taxis and hyperloops, on the other hand, are still in development, but could be our means of transport in the distant future.

TO THE RESTAURANT BY AIR TAXI

Can you imagine flying home in an air taxi after dinner? What sounds crazy is about to become a reality. The first prototypes from the manufacturer Uber Elevate are currently circling over the cities of Dallas and Los Angeles, completing their test flights.

Let’s go! Take-off and landing will be in the vertical. The electrically powered aircraft are completely emission-free during flight. Particularly high safety is to be offered since all critical flight and control elements are redundantly installed. In terms of range, there are different approaches from short to long range. Competitors position themselves with different business models. But one thing is clear: air taxi service will revolutionize urban transportation in city centers!

HYPERLOOPS: THE HIGH-SPEED TRANSPORT CAPSULES

Who doesn’t dream of a transportation system that can take us to a faraway place in no time at all? Hyperloops could make those dreams a reality in the future!

Hyperloop is an energy-saving and low-emission transportation system that carries passengers and goods in capsules at speeds of up to 1,200 km/h. Vacuum tubes make these high speeds possible. To further reduce air resistance, the aerodynamic shape and compressors attached to the front of the Hyperloops help. Thus, electromagnetically driven transport capsules glide on air cushions through the vacuum tube, which is laid on support pillars above the ground. In terms of sustainability, the tubes will still be equipped with solar cells for energy generation.

Despite the densely developed rail network in Europe, several European start-ups believe in the new technology and are working on their own Hyperloop concepts for a climate-neutral transport system.

SELF-PROPELLED VEHICLES

Measured by the innovation ranking of the Center of Automotive Management (CAM), German car manufacturers occupy the top positions. Volkswagen takes first place as the most innovative group, followed by BMW and Daimler. With world firsts and clever ideas, German carmakers are moving technologically ever closer to the fully autonomous vehicle. Daimler, for example, is focusing on networked transport systems in its new mobility, in which self-driving cars and buses without drivers play a key role. According to forecasts, autonomous driving is set to become a reality from 2040.

Behind the technology lies enormous potential. In fully automated driving, computers take complete control of cars and buses for specific applications. Not only should traffic run more smoothly and increase safety and comfort driving, but the transport of goods can also be more environmentally friendly and rational. In the future, autonomous driving is expected to reduce the number of traffic accidents and thus offer much more safety.

The automaker is going one step further. Not only is Daimler focusing on self-driving trucks, as this area seems to be more attractive, but the company is also reorganizing itself and Mercedes cars and trucks are now going separate ways. The trend of splitting the group is to push technological developments in order to ensure competitiveness on the one hand and to increase the value of the previous divisions on the other. In addition, there are high hopes that each division will perform better on the stock market on its own. Should this be the case, shareholders will benefit.

ALPORA’s TOP INNOVATIVE PORTFOLIO COMPANIES:

VAY

The motto of the Berlin start-up Vay is remote control for autonomous driving. Using only cameras, a so-called tele-driver will steer the vehicle remotely through the streets. The young company will offer a mix of taxi and rental car business and aims to have the first fleet of cars driving on Europe’s roads without a driver as early as 2022.

Daiseki Co., Ltd.

Daiseki MCR Co., Ltd. is a subsidiary of the Japanese Daiseki Group and the specialist in recycling used automotive and industrial batteries. For a clean environment, the company’s business strategy is based on advanced technologies that conserve natural resources and prevent pollution.

QuantumScape

US-based start-up QuantumScape is engaged in battery research and development. The company is currently working on solid-state lithium metal batteries that promise to solve several problems at once. International car manufacturers have high hopes for this innovative development.

FIELD OF RESEARCH: E-LEARNING APPROACHES

The world is getting smarter, education is getting digital. It has never been so easy and fast to acquire and share knowledge as it is today. Even then, the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561 -1626) knew what he was talking about when he said, “knowledge is power”!

The megatrend of knowledge culture, coupled with the megatrends of connectivity and digitalization, is influencing, and changing the way we know. New forms of learning, research and innovation are emerging in the decentralized structures where gigantic amounts of knowledge are generated. In the process, the elitist character of knowledge is being lost bit by bit and is becoming common property.

In the coming years, our society will face enormous challenges in the face of unstoppable change. These include the increasing complexity of systems and applications in the workplace and the interconnectedness of education. This will require a shift in focus and re-learning as some professions are replaced by cutting-edge technologies. The example of e-mobility can be used to show that retraining of workers is inevitable. Car mechanics will become software engineers so that futuristic vehicles can still be repaired in the future. Assembly line workers must evolve into IT programmers so they can work with robots. For this and also in times of the Corona crisis, e-learning is seen as a future opportunity for a successful career.

A COMPARISON OF TWO INTERNATIONAL ONLINE PLATFORMS

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are one of the new innovations in education and refer to interactive online courses that are free of charge and accessible worldwide. These efficiency-based online courses basically offer an unlimited number of participants the opportunity to continue their education or training without any admission restrictions or specific grade point averages. High costs for non-university continuing education courses, are also eliminated. The last thing you need is motivation and access to the Internet. Then the courses for free transfer are basically open to everyone.

The online platform Coursera is one of the international providers and was initiated by Stanford University together with other universities. Online courses can be taken on the platform, as well as certificates and degrees from over 200 renowned universities and companies. The broad spectrum of online courses ranges from computer science and natural sciences to personal development. Measured by the number of participants (>40 million) and with more than 1,000 MOOCs, the platform is thus well ahead of equivalent competitors such as edX or Udacity.

The online platform edX works similarly to Coursera. It offers free learning content, but you can also earn paid degrees here. The platform was also founded in 2012, but the founders are the elite universities Harvard and MIT. Unlike Coursera, edX functions as a non-profit organization and offers more courses in the natural and social sciences. Coursera, on the other hand focuses more on continuing education courses in computer science and business. Both online platforms are now among the most important e-learning providers for companies.

When comparing MOOCs to traditional courses, one can quickly identify inherent characteristics. These are openness, networking, personalization, and participation. Key features include learning videos consisting of short sequences, interactive user forums and discussion groups where valuable information exchange takes place. Learning takes place in a modern, synergistic environment that allows transparent communication for knowledge transfer.

E-LEARNING NEWCOMER WITH KI & MACHINE LEARNING

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that attempts to model the world. Systems should be able to learn from data, recognize patterns and make decisions so the machines should be trained to learn on their own, with minimal human intervention.

Create online learning content with just one click from any video, document, or PowerPoint presentation. Is that even possible? The company WildFire is proving it with the help of artificial intelligence. What normally takes months is done here in minutes. Here, large amounts of data are effortlessly transformed, and new e-learning content is created. Impressive, isn’t it? In addition, it uses open-response learning to improve concentration, retention, and recall. And finally, it can automatically link to content that goes beyond the course. This content can then be used to create online learning content in real-time.

If you want to learn English pronunciation correctly, Blue Canoe is the place to go. Non-native English speakers will get their money’s worth with the app. It gives instant feedback and guides the learner to speak more confidently and clearly. Using machine learning and brain-based methodology, errors are detected immediately. In response, the app provides personalized cues and brain-based advice for rapid progress. This all works because other “muscles” in the brain are engaged to overcome the brain’s resistance to perceiving new speech sounds.

Innovative companies are increasingly recognizing the potential of using machine learning and AI for education and learning. These startups have overcome the technological hurdles and are proving that learning management can be transformed through outstanding innovation.

ALPORA’s TOP INNOVATIVE PORTFOLIO COMPANIES:

SEEK LIMITED

SEEK Limited is an Australian based company consisting of a portfolio of online recruitment, education, retail and volunteering services. The seek-learning division offers a wide range of education and higher education courses, many of which are delivered online. Currently, expansion in online learning is the top priority.

CENTURY TECH

CENTURY is a teaching and learning platform developed from the combination of learning science, AI and neuroscience for schools and universities. It is an intelligent recommendation engine that identifies knowledge gaps and misconceptions. A personalized learning path is created for each learner based on their needs.

MICROSOFT

Microsoft Corporation, headquartered in Washington USA, is a technology company and international hardware and software developer. Virtual classrooms are used for the education and training of companies and their employees. Furthermore, to empower educators on the path to digital teaching, the company introduces online courses and teaching models that combine distance and hybrid learning.

FIELD OF RESEARCH: NEW AGE FARMING

The United Nations estimates that by 2050, about 10 billion people will live on our planet, about two-thirds of them in cities. New ways of producing and distributing food must be considered. Supply chain efficiency must be maximized, and environmental resources must be conserved.

As in almost all regions of the world, temperature and precipitation conditions are also changing in India. India is already facing a major crisis, as year after year, extreme droughts continue dramatic crop failures. Climate change, rapid population growth, water crisis and over-intensive use and inappropriate farming methods are further aggravating the situation. Can food supply and security in India still be guaranteed in 20 years’ time? Innovative solutions and technologies are needed to feed the world in the future. We present new approaches to solutions!

VERTICAL FARMING: THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE

A term from future technology and a unique way of growing without any chemicals at all: we are talking about vertical agriculture, also known as urban agriculture.

It goes high up! High up on the roofs of skyscrapers, mega-cities are growing crops in vertically stacked tiers in the tightest of spaces. Fresh and nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits are produced right on site. With vertical farming, climatic conditions can be precisely controlled. This allows food to be grown all year-round, regardless of the weather. Fertile soil and sunlight are replaced by artificial means. The three soilless methods of hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics provide the plants with a nutrient solution, i.e. water and nutrients dissolved in it. Energy-saving LED light, combined with natural sunlight, makes the plants sprout. The plants are watered by a recycling system. In addition, the temperature, air circulation and irrigation can be constantly monitored and adjusted.

In addition to the economic benefits, vertical farming also offers environmental and social benefits:

  • Improved food security through predictable yields
  • Local production shortens transport distances
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation of climate change
  • Minimal and targeted use of chemical pesticides
  • Reduced pest and disease infestation
  • Water conversation & water recycling
  • Reduction of agricultural waste water
  • Use of renewable energies (solar energy, geothermal energy, etc.)
  • New jobs are created

If food production returns to our cities through vertical farming, this could be a solution to ensure food security.

ARE GENETIC ENGINEERING AND HIGH-BIOTECH OUR SAVIOURS?

Farmers of the future face an immense challenge: preserving the planet while feeding everyone on it. Could genetic modification of crops be the answer?

Genetically modified crops are being grown on a large scale around the world and exported to many countries. The production of genetically modified major cereal varieties and microorganisms for additives in our food is increasing. Already, genetic material can be precisely edited, even to the point of altering a single DNA base with the latest gene editing tools.

Pasta, buns, cakes – we all love wheat! In terms of acreage, it is the most widely grown crop in the world. In 2018, more than 600 scientists collectively succeeded in sequencing the wheat genome. By understanding and modifying wheat DNA, researchers can improve wheat harvests and protect the crop for future generations. Not only can the new grain withstand extreme weather and disease, but it also contains twice as much iron as a normal grain. This could help reduce anemia caused by iron deficiency worldwide.

Additives such as flavors, enzymes, vitamins, sweeteners, and flavor enhancers provide the smell and taste in our food and are produced using transgenic microorganisms. For a long time, it was not plants or animals that produced them themselves, but microorganisms living in and on them. Experts are studying such fungi and bacteria and using them as biological flavor factories.

Vanillin, the main component of vanilla aroma, used to be produced on a synthetic chemical basis. Nowadays, the fine aroma is produced biotechnologically from various natural raw materials and without aggressive chemicals. Biotechnological processes use renewable raw materials, require less energy and are therefore more environmentally friendly. They are also less expensive than synthetic chemical production and produce a higher yield.

Genetic engineering in food is still considered highly critical and consumer skepticism is understandable. Until then, only assumptions can be made as to whether it will have a positive or negative effect on health. Nevertheless, genetically modified crops could help farmers adapt to the problems of climate change in the future. Improved yields could then continue to feed the ever-growing world population.

ALPORA’s TOP INNOVATIVE PORTFOLIO COMPANIES:

Pure Harvest Smart Farms

Agricultural startup Pure Harvest Smart Farms grows pesticide-free fruits and vegetables year-round in the Middle Eastern desert. In addition to bumblebees as its hardest workers, the company relies on machinery optimized for desert temperatures, artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation to improve growing processes.

Ebro Foods SA

Ebro Foods SA is a Spanish-based company that mainly operates in the food industry. Research activities focus on the development of new and improved products as well as innovative food processing technologies.

BetterSeeds

The Israeli startup BetterSeeds offers genetically modified seeds. It uses CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology that results in higher yields. Higher protein and metabolite content is guaranteed and adaptability to heat and drought is improved.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US?

If you would like to learn more technical and exciting background information, please feel free to contact us directly: ruth.schoenleber@alpora.com