Smart fabrics, 3D printing and renewable energy are amongst the technology areas identified by a Government report to drive economic growth over the next 20 years.
This is the first time a governemnt report has identified such very long-term technology trends.
“It is more important than ever to invest in long-term opportunities for growth,” said the government’s chief science adviser Sir John Beddington, who led the research.
The Technology and Innovation Futures report lists no fewer than 50 technologies which its authors’ reckon could generate billions for the economy in the future, provided Government and businesses seize the opportunities.
“The Government’s core role, facilitating collaboration between industry and researchers, will be crucial to seizing opportunities for the future of the UK’s economic prosperity,” said Beddington.
“Looking ahead to the future, far beyond the usual political cycle, is the central plank of our industrial strategy,” said Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts.
“Providing industry with greater certainty helps companies make long-term investment decisions,” said Willetts.
Technologies and trends identified in the report include:
‘Smart’ fabrics (one of several ‘human-centred’ design innovations) – technology woven into fabric which could be used to make clothes to monitor potential falls of an elderly wearer or the heart-rate of a patient. The development of new interactive materials incorporating sensors or communications technologies will transform how everyday objects function, and produce novel medical and engineering applications.
3D printing (additive layer manufacturing) – an emerging technology that has moved from the research and development environment to commercial applications; ranging from housing units to fabricating biological tissues, and could offer people the chance to manufacture their own products.
Energy transition – the move away from reliance on fossil fuel energy sources to a more mixed supply model. There are major challenges to overcome, such as tackling intermittent supply from renewable energy sources and making renewable energy generation more affordable. However, there are also opportunities such as hybrid energy systems, exploiting advances in battery technology and ‘smart grids’ which could use information about supplier and consumer habits to improve the efficiency and reliability of electricity production.