Back in 2012, the UK government identified ‘eight great technologies’ where the UK can lead the world, and committed to significant investment to support their development.
These ‘eight great technologies’ consist of:
- big data and energy-efficient computing
- satellites and commercial applications of space
- robotics and autonomous systems
- synthetic biology
- regenerative medicine
- advanced materials and nanotechnology
- energy and its storage
A further two technology areas were subsequently added to this list:
- quantum technologies
- the internet of things
Patents clearly play a role in driving innovation and also extracting value from innovation. In 2014, the UKIPO published a series of documents giving a patent overview for each of the aforementioned technology sectors. Among other things, the reports predicted that the most valuable applications are likely to come when companies develop new combinations of these technologies. Although a little out of date, the reports provide interesting reading.
We have recently lodged a request at the UKIPO for the analysis to be refreshed and a new set of reports to be published, assessing how things have progressed over the past few years.
In this regard, the eight (plus two!) great technologies framework continues to provide a useful reference point for developments in science and technology in the UK today, and it is clear that significant advancements have been made in these sectors over the past five years since the technology strategy was introduced. It has also been proven that the most valuable applications seem to be coming from new combinations of these technologies. For example, advancements in energy generation, storage and usage, data acquisition and processing, and autonomous systems are being combined to develop autonomous electric vehicles.
From a materials perspective, whilst advanced materials has its own sector heading in the eight great technologies framework, it’s clear that the materials sector overlaps, and feeds into, all the other sectors. In fact, new materials solutions are required to address some of the main challenges facing the world today including: energy generation, storage, and usage; pollution reduction, environmental monitoring, and clean up; improvements in medical technologies required for an increasing and ageing population; and developments in new materials platforms for computing to address limitations such as the thermal constraints of current silicon-based technologies. Solving these challenges requires advancements in new materials to be combined with advancements in systems incorporating these new materials. This reflects the conclusion of the eight great technologies reports specifying that the most valuable innovations come when companies develop new combinations of technologies.