- Innovation is critical to the future well-being of society and to driving economic growth.
- The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer community is composed of early to growth-stage companies from around the world involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations.
- Each year, the Forum recognizes a new cohort of Technology Pioneers and incorporates them into its initiatives, activities, and events.
Innovation is critical to the future well-being of society and to driving economic growth, both of which are key priority areas for the World Economic Forum. To support these two pillars, the Forum launched its Technology Pioneer community in the year 2000.
The community is composed of early- to growth-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and poised to have a significant impact on business and society.
The programme aims to give next-generation innovators a voice in solving global issues and the opportunity to contribute to the exploration of future trends. Each year, the Forum recognizes a new cohort of Technology Pioneers and incorporates them into its initiatives, activities, and events.
We asked our 2022 cohort for their views on how technology will change the world in the next five years. From maturing of advanced technologies such as Web3 and quantum, to managing flexible grids and on-demand manufacturing, here are their predictions for our near-term future.
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‘Credit will become accessible to those ignored by traditional financial institutions’
Madhav Krishna, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Vahan
With an explosion in internet penetration across the world accompanied by the proliferation of digital labour marketplaces or platforms, 'gig-work' is going to become the predominant mode of work. This shift has larger ramifications for low-skilled/blue-collar workers who usually comprise more than 80% of the workforce in developing countries. Internet platforms in e-commerce, food delivery, ride-sharing, logistics and so on have low barriers to entry and are creating a wealth of earning opportunities in countries where there aren't enough jobs for low-skilled populations. Workers can engage with many platforms in parallel and maximize their earnings. Soon, digital labour marketplaces will embed financial services into their products which will make credit accessible for many people who are ignored by traditional financial institutions. Over time, technology will enable financial stability and discipline without the need for people to gain relevant knowledge. AI and machine learning advisors will become ubiquitous, constantly recommending the next gig, next investment or next online class to us, truly democratizing growth and financial wellbeing.
‘Web3 technologies will revolutionize the world of commerce’
Justin Banon, Co-Founder, Boson Protocol
By 2025, Web3 technologies will have revolutionized the world of commerce, in much the same way that Web2 transformed access to information. Physical and digital (phygital?) ‘things’ will be listed and traded on an open, liquid, digital market. In the early days of the internet, information was mostly siloed within proprietary online networks. However, the zero marginal cost of distribution, combined with consumer demand, led to the single, searchable, open internet of information we enjoy today. Understandably, commerce has taken longer to make the leap. With the exchange of physical assets, the need to manage counterparties’ risk, mediate disputes and ensure settlement, requires trust. This trust is vested in either trusted intermediaries or trusted sellers. Consequently, e-commerce transactions are mostly siloed within one of many, closed, proprietary systems. The advent of Web3 technology enables the automation of settlement by smart contracts and the tokenisation of physical asset commerce transactions into a universal standard such as NFTs. Just as decentralized finance’s ‘money lego’ applications have begun to unbundle traditional finance, an ecosystem of decentralized ‘commerce lego’ protocols and applications will evolve to create an open marketplace for things, where everyone can share in the value they create.
‘The data industry will become more inclusive and affordable’
Christine Qi, Chief Executive Officer, Databento
The amount of information - or data - about our universe and about ourselves, has grown exponentially over the past decade. But with enormous growth comes an array of issues: data privacy, management, access, and affordability are some of the biggest areas of debate amongst citizens and leaders alike. Who owns my data? Is my phone spying on me? How much money are companies making from it? These questions are becoming increasingly pertinent as companies continue to collect our data, whether we pay them or not, and with or without our permission. Issues also persist in industries like finance. Why am I paying a fortune for market data? In the next few years, so long as governments allow it, we'll see technology in the data industry become more inclusive and affordable as startups enter the space.
‘In the future, our focus will be on the human experience’
Isaac Castro, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Emerge
By 2027, we'll look back at our current digital interactions the same way we see our carbon emissions today. Social media has exposed the perils of technology designed without humans at the centre, and its harmful effects on our mental health and emotional wellness. We're missing what we removed from our interactions a decade ago: humanity, intimacy, depth, and empathy. Real conversations instead of mass influence. Interactions that make us feel closer to each other. In the future, our focus will be on the human experience. The transition to the metaverse will be not a technological but a sociological paradigm shift. The metaverse will be shaped by the communication of our emotions, enabled by technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, and brain-computer interfaces. New hardware, platforms, disciplines, and senses will come into play. We'll redefine social contracts in the virtual world, where emotion, trust, and safety become our most important currencies. We'll decentralize the platform experience in favour of the human being. We'll give our daughter a soothing caress from across the ocean. We'll hold the hand of our grandmother who has passed away. We'll treasure those meaningful moments. Our interactions with others will be centred on our human experience.
'Battery powered construction will underpin sustainability efforts’
Brandon Ng, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ampd Energy
The construction industry accounts for almost 40% of global CO2 emissions and much of this is driven by the urbanisation of humanity. Fossil fuels continue to power construction projects, resulting in around half a billion tonnes of CO2 emitted each year. Noise and exhaust fumes from fossil fuel use also negatively affect worker health and local air quality. This is rapidly changing. The industry is adopting battery energy storage systems (ESSs) tailored for construction sites that reduce carbon emissions by 80%–the remaining 20% is the carbon of electricity used to recharge the ESSs. The electrification of mobile construction machinery is also making giant strides towards commercialisation. All of this is driven by advances in lithium-ion battery technology. Looking into the future, long-duration ESSs–which only need recharging weekly, monthly or longer–make off-site recharging from solar or wind farms a real possibility. The world is still figuring out the right technology base for long-duration ESSs, but there are multiple options: flow batteries, non-lithium-ion non-flow batteries, gravity-based ESSs, heat-based ESSs and hydrogen–and a winner, or winners are sure to emerge. In short, the future for how we build cities is charged with potential.
‘Building will dynamically respond and adjust to support human wellness and comfort’
Francois Amman, Co-President and Co-Founder, Akila
90% of life is spent indoors and 50% of carbon emissions are created by buildings. Their impact is simply massive; so is the volume of building data that could be harnessed for better outcomes on people and planet. Today, we see buildings becoming smart and automated through increasingly cost-effective sensors and control points. Properly connected smart buildings can react to dynamics like equipment status, space occupancy, weather and more, using AI to optimize for best impact. Most building systems are still manually controlled, but in coming years, we'll see this status quo totally upended. Building will dynamically respond and adjust to support human wellness and comfort; minimize carbon emissions; and include building-to-building interoperability enabling true metaverse applications for the built environment. Driving this change will be a fundamental transformation in the construction industry; the emergence of digital twin and 5G/6G technology as key tools enabling new ways of assessing and optimizing value over the building lifecycle from design to construction into operations; and growing understanding of energy as a not just a direct cost to portfolio holders, but also a liability for those who cannot keep up with new regulatory and ESG frameworks.
‘Grid flexibility will phase out fossil fuels and jumpstart the clean energy transition’
Thomas Folker, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Leap
One pressing challenge that lies on the road to a clean-energy future is grid flexibility, and the need for more dynamic interaction between energy supply and demand. As we incorporate more intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar into the power mix, flexible load will be crucial to ensure that the grid can always meet demand. Unlocking a significantly more digitized, decarbonized and resource efficient future by 2025 will be made possible by market-driven software solutions that allow smart energy technologies, such as EV chargers and heat pumps, to respond to real-time grid requirements in targeted areas, optimizing the asset owner's earnings as well as supporting the electric grid when it needs it most. When aggregated together, these distributed energy resources can collectively offer the flexibility needed to phase out polluting fossil fuel-powered peaker plants and jumpstart the transition to the clean energy future.
‘People will eat more nourishing food’
Edwin O. Rogers, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Bonumose
Though nourishing, tasty food should be available to wealthy and poor alike, too often there is a great gulf between the “is” and the “should.” But there is nothing inherent in capitalism or the profit motive that demands the divergence. Good news is in the wind: thanks in part to new processing methods for healthy sugar or salt alternatives, good food will become an accessible, ubiquitous option for all consumers. People will eat more nourishing food even if in some cases they do not realize it – because cost and taste will be at par with less healthy, legacy foods. In the best of cases, production assets for questionable food ingredients (e.g., high-fructose corn syrup) will be redeployed for healthy counterparts. Finally, in a virtuous circle, global reductions in diet-related healthcare costs will have a deflationary effect on food prices, and global alleviation of health-related suffering will free individuals for inspired innovations that benefit humankind and the earth.
‘Central bank digital currency will revolutionize the financial system’
Inga Mullins, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fluency
A new digital form of a country’s fiat currency issued directly by a nation’s monetary authority or central bank is predicted to have one of the biggest disruptive impacts over the next 3-5 years. This form is referred to as a central bank digital currency (CBDC). When underpinned with blockchain technology, a CBDC has the potential to revolutionize the financial system and pave the way to increasing financial inclusion and improving the lives of billions of people globally by providing access to cheap and affordable financial services. Due primarily to its architecture, a well-constructed CBDC can support offline payments, shielded transfers, automation throughout the programmability layer, and possess cash-like properties. All these features when taken together will foster financial inclusion of the user by providing them with a digital alternative to physical cash, enhancing access to their money even in remote areas, and providing options for those that are currently unbanked. Innovative payment platforms will provide an on-ramp for building CBDC and bridging them together to existing payment networks, including both traditional banking and alternative finance. For banks and issuers, they’ll be able to integrate their existing infrastructure and be able to provide a broad spectrum of CBDC-linked payment-related services and exercise cross-chain interoperability protocols for universal payment access to digital national currencies, stablecoins, NFTs, the Metaverse and much more.
‘Supply chain intelligence will solve the food crisis’
Julie Gerdeman, Chief Executive Officer, Everstream
Several decades of accelerating climate change, a global pandemic, conflict, and fragmented supply chains impacted food production and distribution, driving the global food crisis to catastrophic levels. By 2027, major food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods manufacturers will use AI-driven supply chain technology to see future disruption and act before weather, labour issues, and other incidents can harm the global food supply. Contingency plans will be needed far less often because companies will have advanced insights exposing how future weather events will impact their suppliers, giving them ample time to find alternatives. They will predict spikes in commodity availability, change their purchasing habits and reformulate their products so shelves remain stocked. Food spoilage and waste during transit will no longer be a problem because manufacturers and shippers can spot unusual weather, labour issues, and other stoppages well in advance. Food distribution to remote locations that need it the most will no longer be delayed due to port and road closures. Predictive supply chain technology will enable companies to shift from reactive response to proactive action, keeping store shelves stocked and food flowing worldwide.
‘AI will reinvent how we think about education’
Asude Altintas, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Twin Science
The traditional education system was invented nearly 200 years ago to meet the needs of the industrial revolution – it is not functional today. Today, the needs of our world have been gathered under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. On the other hand, 21st-century skills that will serve these needs are listed by the World Economic Forum. The younger generation already has the desire to co-create solutions to the world's biggest problems and create a more compassionate world. Technological progress is a great chance to help every child develop skills and competencies to solve these problems and build a better future. AI will be used to understand children’s own interests to suggest the next step in their learning journey. AI will also generate insights for their parents and teachers and will turn them into mentors. The internet is already connecting children with the best experts, improving the quality of education and reducing inequalities. Every child will be able to ideate, prototype, test and iterate in a cost-effective way. In this way, they will innovate and improve the well-being of the world.
‘Technology will bring the best opportunities to the best talent’
Projjal Ghatak, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Onloop
The one sector that has gone through breakneck change in the last two years is the workplace. Office work has been the default for knowledge workers for decades and did not warrant a full re-think until the pandemic. The pandemic tested it to its fullest but although we saw flat to increased productivity, the loss in cultural connectivity and an increase in anxiety, fatigue, apathy and burnout are all also some of the effects being felt. In a pace of rapid change, it is hard to parse out each piece independently. The pandemic also lasted long enough to truly change the talent landscape for many companies to a permanent global and hybrid one. This means that companies can seize the day in thinking about a global talent market to tap into in a realistic fashion. So, if I had to be provocative, I would say that technology is going to be a true leveller. It will bring the best opportunities to the best talent irrespective of where they live thereby truly unlocking the full potential of a billion knowledge workers.
‘Advanced manufacturing and fashion technology could digitally transform the apparel industry’
Matthew Wallace, Chief Executive Officer, DXM
Transforming the apparel industry with localized, on-demand manufacturing. The apparel industry is riddled with excessive waste and supply chain challenges. Today, most brands and retailers are forced to mass-produce goods with limited consumer input, resulting in high merchandise return rates, waste from overproduction, and lower profit margins due to deep discounts of unwanted merchandise. And while on-demand apparel and footwear are believed to be a solution, traditional manufacturing models still require months of lead time and hundreds of miles of travel between order and delivery - a problem which has only been exacerbated by global supply chain instability. Advanced manufacturing and fashion technology can digitally transform the apparel industry by bridging the gap between creators, consumers, and local manufacturers. It can play an important role in producing custom goods locally, resulting in dramatically reduced turnaround times – days, not months. This innovative model has the potential to not only reduce the environmental footprint of the fashion industry but also improve supply chain security on a global scale. It’s a promising solution that can be achieved with an open platform that unites best-in-class partners for the greater good of the apparel industry, and the world.
‘The quantum internet is coming’
Jim Ricotta, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Aliro Quantum
The quantum internet is coming, and it will revolutionize the world just as the classical internet has. And just as classical networks enabled today's internet, quantum networks are required to build the quantum internet of tomorrow. The quantum internet is expected to have a profound impact on how we live our lives by enabling breakthroughs in energy, medicine, material sciences and more. In the next five years, we will see quantum networks emerge from local area networks and clusters into continent-scale area networks using quantum repeaters, which are the foundations of the quantum internet. As a result, we'll see more and more use cases emerge for quantum networks. For example, quantum secure communications leverage the power of physics to enable unhackable security. Distributed quantum sensing will enable ultra-high-resolution telescopes, as well as ultra-precise clocks and GPS. And to make the power of quantum computing useful, clustered quantum computing and ultimately distributed quantum computing will enable the quantum internet.
‘AI will power clinical decision making in fertility clinics around the globe’
Paxton Maeder-York, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Alife Health
Between now and 2030, over one billion people will suffer from infertility. As global population growth slows and drops below the replacement rate, utilizing AI-enhanced fertility treatments will help support the creation of new families and future generations. The most common infertility treatment today, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), is expensive, often requires multiple attempts, and is both physically and emotionally onerous. Successful pregnancies from IVF rely on a complex set of clinical decisions made by physicians to deliver the optimal care for each patient. The use of technology and advanced analytics to support this decision making will lead to improvements in care efficiency, clinical success rates, and personalization of treatment methods. By 2027, AI will power clinical decision making in fertility clinics around the globe, enabling physicians to deliver a new level of precision medicine to improve outcomes and expand access for patients.
'Human potential will be re-directed towards more meaningful objectives'
Gabriel Safar, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, LeasePilot
Documents as technology have served businesses well for centuries. In modern times, email may have replaced the need for a courier and documents may be stored electronically, but the underlying technology itself hasn’t changed. That’s a problem since documents are fundamentally an analogue technology and today’s world is digital. Computers aren’t very good at manipulating natural language (analogue), but they are great at manipulating information in a database (digital). So, taking a data-first approach to constructing agreements opens the door to hyper-efficient transactions facilitated by computers. By converting agreements into structured digital information, software can assemble, manipulate, store, share, and understand these agreements in ways that weren’t previously impossible. When done successfully, the end-user sees a document written in natural language and is able to edit the text of the agreement in the same way that they would in a traditional word processor. But behind the scenes, the agreement is still a collection of database values which are updated to reflect the user’s interactions with that document. Ultimately, the impact will be a future with radically more efficient markets that free up massive amounts of wasted human potential to be re-directed toward more meaningful objectives.
‘Remote sensing data streams will accurately monitor natural ecosystems’
Kevin Lang, Chief Executive Officer and President, Agerpoint
To achieve the United Nations goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and keep global warming below +1.5 °C, nature-based solutions to restore, conserve or enhance forests or agricultural lands are a valuable contributor to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and capturing it into the soil. However, to determine the impact of these solutions, measurements such as tree height, trunk diameter and biomass are required to accurately quantify the carbon stock potential in plants. These measurements are traditionally assessed through labour intensive and subjective manual methods. With the increased demand for credible carbon credits along with a heightened need for transparency, remote sensing data streams from high-resolution cameras and lasers (i.e., LiDAR) are enabling new scalable and efficient digital measurement techniques. Satellite imagery is increasing in resolution and frequency as more constellations enter into orbit. Rapid advances in smartphone optical sensors and positional systems provide extensive access for growers and conservationists to affordably capture rich datasets. These data sources, combined with cloud data processing, artificial intelligence and data fusion will empower accurate measurement and monitoring of plant health and carbon sequestration potential for natural ecosystems.