• Scientific American Science Talk joins The Great Reset for a special episode.
  • Annual Top-10 Tech report highlights the most promising scientific advances.
  • This year many of the innovations relate to health or climate change.
  • Subscribe to the podcast here.

In the future, genetic sequencing will speed up the development of vital new drugs; they'll be tested on 'virtual' patients and the 'microneedle' used to administer them means you won't even feel the injection.

Those are three of the 10 technological innovations that a group of experts highlighted in their report on the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2020 as ones that are in the early stages now but could have a huge impact in the next three-to-five years.

The two people who chaired that group - convened each year by the World Economic Forum and the US-based magazine Scientific American - talked about all 10 innovations for a special episode of Science Talk and The Great Reset pocasts.

The guests:

Mariette DiChristina, Dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former editor-in-chief of Scientific American.

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 23JAN16 - Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American, USA Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies speaks during at the Annual Meeting 2016 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2016.  WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/swiss-image.ch/Photo Moritz Hager
Image: WEF-Moritz Hager

Our ability to reach across borders, find solutions that work for the planet and then act on them again is vital to humans not just surviving but thriving.

—Mariette DiChristina

Bernie Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer at IBM.

Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer and Vice-President, IBM Corporation, USA; Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies at the World Economic Forum, Summit on the Global Agenda in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 2015. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell
Image: WEF-Benedikt von Loebell

If we don't cooperate, if we don't develop global levels of trust and the governance around it then we're going to see this [pandemic] again and again and again … One could see it coming and nip it in the bud if we work together. Trust is the missing ingredient, not technology.

—Bernard Meyerson

Read their blog.

The tech:

These are the 10 technologies in the 2020 list:

Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2020
This year's list has lots on health and climate change.
Image: WEF

Digital Medicine - Apps and bots that can enhance traditional medicine and provide support to patients with limited access to healthcare.

Whole-Genome Synthesis - The ability to write our genome will inevitably help doctors to cure genetic diseases.

Virtual Patients - The use of computer models could make vaccine trials quicker and cheaper and would significantly reduce the number of human subjects needed for experimentation.

Microneedles for Painless Injections and Tests - These tiny needles promise pain-free injections and blood testing. Microneedles do not touch nerve endings. Since the process does not require costly equipment or a lot of training, they can be used in areas that do not normally receive cutting-edge medical technologies.

Electric Aviation - Electric propulsion motors would eliminate direct carbon emissions and could reduce fuel costs by up to 90%, maintenance by up to 50% and noise by nearly 70%. Electric planes could have a real market in short-haul flights.

Lower-Carbon Cement - If cement production were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter after China and the US. Researchers are working on lower-carbon approaches by changing the recipe, using different materials, and using carbon capture and storage technologies.

Sun-Powered Chemistry - This approach uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into needed chemicals currently manufactured with fossil fuel. It could reduce emissions in two ways – by using unwanted gas as raw material and using sunlight as the source of energy instead of fossil fuels.

Green Hydrogen - Current methods of producing hydrogen are not environmentally efficient. Green hydrogen uses renewable power in the electrolysis process that splits water molecules.

Quantum Sensing - Quantum sensors enable autonomous vehicles that can 'see' around corners, underwater navigation systems, early-warning systems for volcanic activity and earthquakes, and portable scanners that monitor a person’s brain activity during daily life.

Spatial Computing - 'Spatial computing' will allow technical advances in sensors and robotics to provide much quicker and more precise interactions between humans and the objects around them.

Read the report here.

Find all our podcasts here.

Join the World Economic Forum Podcast Club on Facebook.