The current EU-Russia-USA state of affairs must be making you ponder about the future. Are we in a dead end? Where do we go from here?
You might be on the right path if you believe the future of economy is in the hands of energy independence. Why so? Let’s do a quick recap.
First, EC imposed sanctions on Russia. In return, Russia banned the trade import of food and agricultural products from Europe. Now Ukraine is preparing gas sanctions on the Russian companies which pipe gas to Europe through its territory. This kind of news catch us on the hop for a third time this year – once in March, once in June, and third time now. Just for the record, Europe imports almost a third of its gas total from Russia, and some 6 countries’ satisfy more than 80% of their gas needs with Russian gas.
That said, imagine for a second that your country didn’t have to import fish, gas, and oil, didn’t need to export wheat, tomatoes, meat, and didn’t have to depend on somebody else’s currency, bank or interest to keep its GDP healthy.
I’m not saying we should become the next North Korea, and I certainly do not intend to talk about politics in this post. I do, however, spot the overlap of a country’s economic dependency and the so called industry “disruptive” technologies; the overlap of a need and the future and how they define each other.
What makes a technology disruptive?
Beyond Christensen’s well-known definition, “disruptive technologies” according to McKinsey&Compay share four characteristics: high rate of technology change, broad potential scope of impact, large economic value that could be affected, and substantial potential for disruptive economic impact.
McKinsey’s report identified 12 areas as potential economy disruptors. Let’s have a brief look at these industries and break down their applicability.
1. Mobile Internet
Highest impact: education, healthcare, and government services
Using your phone to access some applications and services is already getting ahead of desktop internet. Mobile internet enables more efficient delivery of many services and creating opportunities to increase workforce productivity. In developing economies, the mobile Internet could bring billions of people into the connected world.
2. Automation of knowledge work
Highest impact: education, healthcare and service
From artificial intelligence, to machine learning, natural user interfaces (e.g., voice recognition), and sophisticated analytics tools, automated knowledge can be used to augment the talents of highly skilled employees, and as more knowledge worker tasks can be done by machine.
3. Internet of Things
Highest impact: healthcare and manufacturing
Don’t be fooled, the IoT can be more than entertainment and wearables. From monitoring the flow of products through a factory to measuring the moisture in a field of crops to tracking the flow of water through utility pipes, the IoT allows to manage assets, optimize performance, and remotely monitor the health of patients.
4. Cloud Technology
Highest impact: enterprise IT
Cloud computing not only cuts costs, but also helps companies implement new applications and add services and computational capacity more quickly than they can using in-house staff. It also lets SMEs avoid tying up capital in IT and frees them from IT infrastructure management and demand planning, giving them the ability to compete more effectively with big companies.
5. Advanced Robotics
Highest impact: human, industrial, and surgical augmentation
Advances robotics can substitute human labor in manufacturing tasks, as well as in a growing number of service jobs, such as cleaning and maintenance. This technology could also enable new types of surgical robots, robotic prosthetics, and “exoskeleton” braces that can help people with limited mobility to function more normally.
6. Autonomous and Near-autonomous Vehicles
Highest impact – car and truck industry
Yes, sounds crazy that your car will self-steer but it is already a fact. The potential benefits of autonomous cars and trucks include increased safety, reduced CO2 emissions, more leisure or work time for motorists, and increased productivity in the trucking industry.
7. Next-generation Genomics
Highest impact: healthcare, agriculture, energy
Your DNA can be scanned in 10 minutes. And not only yours – advanced genetic science could have profound impact on medicine, agriculture, and even the production of high-value substances such as biofuels—as well as speed up the process of drug discovery.
8. Energy Storage
Highest Impact: electricity distribution and hybrid vehicles
Advanced energy storage technology could make electric vehicles cost competitive with vehicles based on internal-combustion engines. Advanced battery storage systems can help with the integration of solar and wind power, improve quality by controlling frequency variations, handle peak loads, and reduce costs.
9. 3D Printing
Highest impact: production and supply chain
The idea is that with a 3D device anyone can go directly from a 3D design file to a finished part or product, potentially skipping many traditional manufacturing steps. Importantly, 3D printing enables on-demand production, which has interesting implications for supply chains and for stocking spare parts—a major cost for manufacturers.
10. Advanced Materials
Highest impact: medicine, construction
Smart materials can make your house perfectly isolated from the cold and humidity, reduce losses from industrial pipelines, and equip your house with low-energy cost consumer electronics. There si more: self-healing or self-cleaning; memory metals that can revert to their original shapes; piezoelectric ceramics and crystals that turn pressure into energy; and nanomaterials.
11. Advanced Oil and Gas Exploration
Highest impact: alternative fuels
To be honest, this is a tricky one because here we are talking mostly shale gas. And share gas exploitation has been particularly banned in Europe because of its controversial and potentially harmful environmental impact. However, improving technology for oil and gas exploration could unlock new types of reserves.
12. Renewable energy
Highest impact: energy and clean technology
Renewable energy brings both economic growth from the emergence of solar and wind technology and clean energy as a substitute for the unsustainable exhaustible oil, gas, and coal.
Where the overlap lies
5 out of these 12 technology areas have direct impact on the energy sector and almost all the rest will influence it indirectly. The report talks about more technology areas on their disrupt radar that include nuclear fusion, fusion power, carbon sequestration, water purification, etc. Brought together, all 12 areas and their runner-ups have the potential to grow a more independent national economy.
As one can read in McKinsey’s survey: “Not every emerging technology will alter the business or social landscape—but some truly do have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, and rearrange value pools.”
If you look at the status quo as a chessboard of political power games, such as the one we are living right now, why not work towards minimizing the possible mates.