As science and technology advance rapidly, they open up radical possibilities to tackle the world’s fundamental challenges. The winners of this ongoing revolution will be organizations that enhance their approach to innovation – while those who pass up opportunities to invest in the cutting-edge will be left behind.
Faster innovation is a top priority for virtually every organization. Recently, Accenture surveyed more than 2,600 C-suite executives to assess how impactful key signals of business change will be to their organizations, and to gain more detailed insights into how these executives are responding to them.
One of the top six Signals identified by our survey as critical to companies’ future success is the New Scientific Method, where every company will be a scientific company. Eighty-five percent (85%) of high tech executives agreed that increased scientific capability is critical to the future competitiveness of their organizations.
What are the bigger technology bets driven by this scientific method that companies are making?
How are investments in these areas going to change in the next 3 years?
Survey results are captured in the areas of quantum computing, space tech, advanced electronics and phonotics, robotics, nanotechnology, new energy, materials science, bio-machine interfaces, cell, tissues and organ engineering, genetic molecular engineering.
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Compared to 26% of other industries, 33% of high tech companies are significantly increasing their investments in robotics (e.g. drones, self-driving vehicles, factory automation).
High tech companies are flat on their investments in nanotechnology compared to 38% of other collective industries.
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The high tech industry is aligned with other industries at 38% with their level of investment that is dedicated to quantum computing.
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Source: Accenture research
Several high tech companies have been investing in quantum computing. Microsoft has released “Azure Quantum,” a full-stack, open cloud quantum computing ecosystem intended to help the customer accelerate its development lifecycle. Google also offers a Quantum Computing Service that provides remote access to Google’s quantum processors and simulators. It also aims to build scalable quantum computers. Amazon has also invested in quantum computing in several ways. It introduced Amazon Bracket, a fully managed service that allows scientists, researchers and developers to begin experimenting with computers from multiple quantum hardware providers in a single place. It has the AWS Center for Quantum Computing, a research center intended to bring together the world’s leading quantum computing researchers and engineers to accelerate development of quantum computing hardware and software. Lastly, there is the Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab – a new program to connect AWS customers with quantum computing experts from Amazon and a very select set of consulting partners.
More companies are expected to follow. Our survey results shows that 89% of executives say their organizations have engaged or plan to engage with quantum computing in some way – including 34% who have already scaled up.
A report by New York venture capital firm Space Capital noted that investment in space companies had a record $4.5 billion second quarter of 2021.
Fifty-four percent (54%) of executives who responded to our survey said technologies such as satellite navigation and space imagery were on their radar to grow or significantly increase within the next three years. Several companies have already increased their investment and focus on space. AWS has a new space unit called Aerospace and Satellite Solutions, which helps commercial and government customers build satellites, conduct space and launch operations, and reimagine space exploration. Microsoft has also partnered with the space community to create Azure Space, a set of products and services that are aimed at extending the utility of Azure capabilities with worldwide satellite connectivity and at discovering insights into space missions and satellite capabilities. Lastly, SpaceX is committed to the goal of creating the next generation of reusable rockets to carry people to different parts of the solar system.
Robotics can be used by high tech companies in many ways. Amazon Robotics and Advanced Technology labs is working on testing and developing new technologies to help move totes, carts and packages through Amazon facilities. IBM recently acquired a robotic process automation (RPA) provider to advance its AI-Infused Automation Capabilities for Enterprises. Tesla invested in automation in its robotic assembly line for manufacturing its cars and in its self-driving technology. During a conference call discussing Tesla’s Q1 2021 financial results, Elon Musk said, “Although right now people think of Tesla as a car company or as an energy company, I think long term, people will think of Tesla as much as an AI robotics company as we are a car company or an energy company. I think we are developing one of the strongest hardware and software AI teams in the world.”
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Nanotechnology, compared to the other trends discussed here, is underdeveloped in high tech, but there are some early use cases. Apple acquired a nanotech startup in 2019 that specializes in developing image sensors. The company also uses nanotechnology to reduce the glare on its iPhone screens.
Google is also investing in nanotech through its Google X research lab. Its aim is monitoring health from inside human bodies through nanoparticles circulating in one’s blood stream.
New energy (renewable batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, carbon capture, storage)
Most major high tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft, are investing in renewable energy to varying degrees. Google and Apple have both been 100% renewable since 2017 and 2018, respectively. Microsoft has completely offset its carbon emissions since 2012 through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and renewable energy certificates (RECs), but it aims to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove its historical carbon emissions by 2050. Facebook has achieved net zero emissions in its global operations and plans to reach net zero emissions for its value chain in 2030.
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