Eyes peeled: Five technologies to watch next year
The year of the Great Tech Sell-Off is coming to a close. But in this Digital Age, technology is only going to get more exciting, useful, and ethically questionable – so here’s five technologies to watch out for next year.
Solar power is becoming cheaper, more efficient and increasingly attractive for Brits looking to join in the rooftop revolution. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) calculates the payback time for a standard set of solar panels to be just six years, while solar farms are becoming ever more cost efficient, generating electricity at prices as low as £54 per mwh, considerably cheaper than fossil fuels which have spiked to record prices since the energy crisis. The UK’s energy security strategy includes a target to ramp up solar generation from 14GW to 70GW by 2035, which would make it the largest renewable source in the UK’s energy mix – above even offshore wind. Solar developers secured a key victory recently, when the Government opted against extending restrictions on new developments across agricultural land. Green energy enthusiasts will be hoping for more successes in the new year as the UK steps towards a low-carbon future.
Britain is not going to ‘Just Stop Oil’ anytime soon, people value keeping the lights on too much. Nevertheless, there are questions over what to do with the UK’s oil and gas supplies, particularly as renewables become an increasingly dominant part of the country’s energy mix. The North Sea industry is eager to use oil and gas for blue hydrogen development, a lower carbon energy source that could be used for transport, storage and powering heavy industry. The UK is targeting 10GW of generation by the end of the decade of blue and green hydrogen (which is made through electrolysis powered by renewables). While it is unlikely to become a mass-produced energy source next year and there are questions over the extent of hydrogen’s role in meeting our energy needs, expect more projects, more announcements and further progress as fossil fuel companies look to repurpose their energy sources and contribute what they can to a greener world.
While still a way off from everyday usability, quantum computing is certainly a technology to watch for this decade – and even next year. Breakthroughs in quantum computing – which harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems too complex for classical computers – are expected to only become more common. It is already beginning to be used in the financial services industry to help make trades more efficiently. However, the tech can also help manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies discover new chemicals and landmark drugs at a much faster pace. The government earlier this year began working on a quantum strategy, as it seeks to better support British businesses with quantum adoption and skills, as well as gain some insight into the quantum ecosystem in the country, the knowledge pipeline and how regulation can support the blossoming sector. Onlookers pray the strategy will materialise faster than the government’s long-awaited semiconductor strategy.
We’ve heard about artificial intelligence (AI) for years. No, it won’t make you redundant next year. But, it could carry some pharmaceutical feats over the finish line. The national audit body last month urged that we use AI to help navigate the volatile economy, with the technology holding the ability to give quick and detailed insights into fast moving risks. In the technology’s vast applicability lies much of its power. The fact that AI can be injected into Big Pharma, the financial services industry and the increasingly not-so-silly notion of self-driving cars, means it will be. It is only, therefore, inevitable that concerns over the ethics of the tech will swell. While one government committee launched an inquiry into how we begin to regulate AI just months ago – the theoretical and practical uses for AI will certainly land it in next year’s headlines.
The golden years for biotechnology are not yet over, although lockdown restrictions feel like a distant memory. The pandemic put the biotech industry back on the map for many investors. In the UK’s first lockdown-free year since 2020, the biotech sector has continued to put its pandemic-era investment windfall to good use. This year we have seen significant breakthroughs in treatments for Alzheimer’s and RSV. While biotech companies were among the many tech stocks that were tipped into the out-tray during the tech sell-off earlier this year, biotech firm’s have used their pandemic cash to bolster their pipelines – with rafts of clinical trial data, fresh studies and new drug candidates to be announced next year.