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Ask the Experts: What’s the Biggest Deep Tech Innovation You Expect to See From Universities This Year?

Innovations in Healthcare, Artificial Intelligence — even Holograms may be just around the corner.

“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future for which I have really worked, is mine.”

— Nikola Tesla

If you’ve been following along, you’ll already know that we are obsessed with helping science-driven companies source the capital they need to get their breakthrough technologies out into the world. Though most of these meaningful innovations are ready to be commercialized, they are frequently the culmination of years of scientific research, experimentation, and lab work— what we like to call Deep Tech.

At Propel(x), we love deep tech.

We love the idea that while groundbreaking discovery and innovation can take time, these inventor-entrepreneurs are ready to bring new discoveries to market. They are ready to emerge from the lab and revolutionize their industry in the real world. We love that at the leading edge, science can feel as wondrous and improbable as magic. The alchemists were right: with the right equations, anything seems possible.

Every day, our network of scientists, innovators, and experts tell us stories that absolutely floor us. They are steeped in their respective industries. They know things.

And so we asked them. We asked them to peer into the horizon and report back what they’re seeing.

Specifically, this was our question:

What is the biggest deep technology innovation you expect to see coming out of universities in the next 12 months?

Below you will find a round-up of their answers. If more than one expert predicted the same innovation, we set that innovation off in its own category. Everything else is captured at the bottom.

Over the coming months, we expect to ask them more future-facing questions about their industry and where things are headed.

(By the way, if you are a scientist who would like to offer your subject matter expertise to these round-ups, please join our expert network.)

Without further ado, here we go!

1. Artificial Intelligence

What Is it?

Artificial Intelligence has a lot of definitions but it is most frequently defined as an algorithm that can teach itself by identifying patterns. Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems are getting rolled out in all areas to empower the automation of almost anything — from vehicle driving behavior to disease detection.

What Our Experts Said

“Probably AI in lots of different areas and the further enhancement of robot senses. That is good for early medical diagnostics but also for improving self-driving cars.

This also includes the development of what I call the Journalist Robot — using AI to render the truth. Detect fake news, fake porn, fake locations, fake everything, but also online bullying, and prevent it from spreading. It’s a battle against malicious AI that is improving the creation of fake everything and of automated bullying.”

— Marcel Bullinga
Futurist & Trendwatcher, Futurecheck.com

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its application such Machine Learning (ML) will be very hot buzzwords. The dramatic impact will shape a lot of organization in terms of restructuring, business models and delivery the final products. For example, telecom operators will reduce the workforce and they will need transformation strategy to cope with the new era of technology. New group of skills will be highly required and will be highly paid as well.”

— John Ayoub
Strategy and Technology Planning Consultant

“I believe that there will be an extended push for more AI development. Especially important is the movement to provide explainable AI because AI that is explainable is imperative in establishing any level of trust in the technology. Once the technology is proven and trusted it will encourage wider adoption of machine learning techniques.”

— Leslie Washko
President of Quadradyne Technologies

“Generalizations and auto-tuning tensor decompositions for AI and IoT runtimes.”

— Theodore Omtzigt
Founder and CEO of Stillwater Computing

“AI-driven machine vision.”

 — Pat Bahn
CEO of TGV Rockets

“I suspect that the study of artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on medicine and communication/information systems.”

— Charles Ivie
PhD. in Applied Astrophysics and Radio Astronomy

2. Blockchain Technology

What Is it?

The blockchain is a distributed and public way of storing digital information. Currently, most of our information is housed within the servers of the big tech companies. The Blockchain offers an alternative to this paradigm by returning the storage of information to anyone who participates in the network.

What Our Experts Said

“I think Blockchain based distributed applications will potentially challenge the big tech players of today (read Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple & Facebook).”

— Srikant Sreenivasan
Managing Director at Hash Include

3. CRISPR

What is it?

CRISPR is a medical technology that allows scientists to identify and permanently modify specific genes in living cells and organisms. Although the technology is new, the vision for CRISPR is that scientists may one day be able to correct mutations at precise locations in the human genome in order to treat genetic diseases like cancer.

What Our Experts Said

“Refinements in CRISPR for diagnostics will continue to progress… This will allow very specific, rapid development and cost-effective methods to quickly identify the causative agent [[e.g. cancer]] and also be transportable to a point-of-care methodology.”

— Larry Wray
Founder and CEO of Wray IVD Consulting

“Successful application of the CRISPR-CAS9 technique on a specific disease.”

— Edward C Kwok
Attorney at VLP Law Group

4. Disease Targeting and Treatment

“Over the next year, I would say, methods for improved precision in the targeting and disablement of cancerous cells, alternatively the targeting and destruction of non-bacterial pathogens like viruses.”

Martin Harnevie
MSc Electronics Engineering

“The area of nanobots to target disease, specifically cancer, has gained momentum lately with recent publications. I see this area growing further with conceptual real-world applications where these sort of organic bots can be trained using AI-based methods to recognize diseases and target them directly or to enhance imaging or biopsy/sampling. With the huge interest in personalized health and projects like the baseline project at Stanford-Google, these nanobots could even be further personalized and used to target individualized aspects of disease.”

— Ahmed El Kaffas
Faculty Instructor in the Department of Radiology at Stanford University Co-founder of Oncoustics, inc.

“Tracking of Circulatory Tumor Cells with Gold Nanoparticle and ablate them after they are tracked could be one of the deep technology innovations. Regenerative medicine is another area which I consider to be a growth niche. Particularly tissue engineered resorbable organ implants could see the light of the day.”

 — Mr. Tapan Mukerii
Vice President of Biomedical Devices of Kansas

“Intelligent “nanobots” that will seek out and destroy malignant tissue is a real possibility.”

 

— Charles Ivie
PhD. in Applied Astrophysics and Radio Astronomy

“Detection kits using antibody-derived raman nanoprobes to differentiate cancer cells types.”

— Dr. Rafaella Nascimento
PhD. in Chemistry

5. Graphene

What Is it?

Graphene is a form of carbon in which a single atomic layer of the element is arranged in a hexagonal lattice to look a bit like chicken wire. It is the strongest material ever tested and can be levitated by magnets. Graphene is a transparent and flexible conductor that holds promise for various material/device applications, including solar cells, light-emitting diodes (LED), touch panels and smart windows or phones.

What Our Experts Said

“Anything that has to do with graphene: a super-strong, super-thin, and super-versatile material.”

Sam Ximenes
Masters of Architecture specializing in Space Architecture

“New material development breakthroughs such as graphene, liquid metal, new compounds of silicon.”

Johnny Wang
Computer Scientist

6. Holographic 3D Printing

What is it?

While the word “hologram” has been misused to describe all manner of optical illusions, true holograms are interference patterns created by a split beam of coherent light, one side of which shines on an object in front of a photographic plate, the other half the beam illuminating the plate directly. When the plate is developed and re-illuminated from the same angle, a 3-dimensional image is produced which recreates the original object in space.

What Our Experts Said

“Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, working with academics at MIT, Berkeley and the University of Rochester have demonstrated the possibility of using a holographic object—essentially a cluster of light—to catalyze a photo-reactive resin instantly. This is a major innovation in the way things have ever been made. Rather than the relatively slow and laborious process of 3D printing, which is done one thin layer at a time, this is basically instant; the whole part is made all at once.”

— Andrew Werby
Owner of United Artworks and Computersculpture.com

“3D printing has a high probability of innovation.”

— Ed Bass
Instructor of NSF Grant at Hagerstown CC

7. Medical Technology

“I expect better implementation of analytics and integration of existing data sources to solve public health problems to be the most significant innovation born from academia in the next year. For instance, leveraging EMS response data to better make available self or community administered emergency treatment for opioid overdose, or Amazon Alexa or Google Home to help community dwelling elderly people better manage their medications.”

Neil Sehgal
Assistant Professor of Health Services Administration, University of Maryland.

“I expect to see high resolution neural retinal implants that will enable a reading level of vision restoration in patients that are blind due to a variety of retinal diseases. The technology to enable this interface will have many applications from enhanced limb replacement and function for amputees, to a potential for augmented integration of computing with conscious thought via central nervous system integrations.”

Dr. Barry J. Linder
President of Eyedetec Medical

 “The FDA has already approved the first blood glucose monitor that doesn’t require finder pricking. I expect more of these non-invasive technology innovations in the near future.  A major goal and vision of many Health Plans is to use technology to paint a picture of the future of healthcare.

The goal being to offer quality health care to their members and ultimately to the entire United states population.  I envision fully utilizing technology as one way of accomplishing this vision, examples of this are: non-invasive technology to monitor asthma or colon cancer, biometric technology via fingerprint and eye scanning, and workplace wellness technologies.”


— Aaron Pruitt, R.Ph, PD
PBM Consultant Pharmacist

“We are seeing an explosion of medical device technology coming out of universities. The wearable device market, in particular, is getting a lot of attention these days—and for good reason. These devices allow remote patient monitoring and data analysis in non-traditional healthcare settings. This gives us the ability to help improve health outcomes across so many conditions—diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis and more. These devices also offer increased utility for the medical home—giving primary care physicians real-time access to health records, and providing opportunities for quicker diagnosis and more customized treatment.”

Brad Younggren, MD
Chief Medical Officer

“Advanced atherectomy systems for crossing atherosclerotic total occlusions of coronary arteries for Percutaneous Coronary Interventions.”

— Guy Tremblay
Founder and CEO of Oligenix Research

“There exist devices that incorporate various materials and electronic systems that can accelerate healing and treat certain cancers through cell modification.”

— Mark Ettlinger
President of AnythingMED

“Telemedicine and tele-surgery.”

 — Dr Hazem Orabi, MD, PhD.

8. Everything Else

“The future is batteries. Rechargeable batteries made from junkyard scrap metals with high power density (i.e., fast charging and discharging) and high energy density (i.e., > 200 Wh/kg), plus great capacity retention (i.e., > 5,000 cycles). Rechargeable batteries that do not eat up and catch fire.”

— John Cheong, PhD.
Computer Scientist, UC Berkeley

“Much emphasis will be given to autonomous vehicles and drones.  Autonomous cars will make life much easier for parents who have to drive their children to and from school and then going to their own jobs, elderly who were able to drive themselves to places but not able to do it now.”

— Kamran Manteghi
Engineering Consultant/Contractor

“I believe that there is going to be a tremendous amount of focus on how to get FDD operation out of 28 GHz beamformers for analog / digital / hybrid beamforming.”

 Lloyd Linder
Semiconductors, integrated circuits, systems, and wireless communications Consultant

“Development of Non-GPS Navigation and location systems that will allow navigation and position determination in GPS denied areas, such as underground and in buildings. The Non-GPS system will provide the critical capability for First Responders and military personnel to operate in GPS denied areas.”

— Kenneth Morrison
Senior Project Engineer

“Over ten years of research at several universities has revealed that Microbial Fuel Cell technology could be highly adaptable to a sustainable pattern of wastewater treatment for several reasons:

(1) it enables direct recovery of electric energy and value-added products;

(2) produces good effluent quality and low environmental footprint can be achieved because of an effective combination of biological and electrochemical processes;

(3) it is inherently amenable to real-time monitoring and control, which benefits good operating stability;

(4) this technology is well suited in a future paradigm of sustainable wastewater treatment including water reclamation and nutrients recovery.

Practical application of MFC technology has not been realized, because of great challenges in cost, system development, and energy recovery. These challenges have been recognized and evaluated thus providing guidelines for efficient systems design and operation.”

— Jan Kochany, Ph.D., P.Eng

Information discussed here is not intended to be nor should it be construed or used as investment advice, a recommendation, or an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy securities. Any offer or solicitation of an offer to buy security can be made only through official offering documents that contain important information about risks, fees, and expenses. Private investments are highly illiquid and risky and not suitable for all investors.

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Deep Technology Expert Roundup
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