Access to nearly limitless computing power is creating a new acceleration in science and engineering, a trend which has become known as deep tech. There are clear examples in the automotive and in aerospace industries.
In the 1970s, when geneticists first started discussing the practicalities of synthetic biology, they had nothing like the access to computing power researchers enjoy today, says Massimo Portincaso, partner and managing director for Boston Consulting Group.
If you wanted to do synthetic biology, you needed huge computing resources to analyze billions of molecules. Unless you had access to a large university computer, that was unthinkable in the past. Now, all you have to have is an idea, and with Amazon Web Services, you can start working very quickly.
Access to near limitless computing power is creating a new acceleration in science and engineering, a trend called deep tech.
We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. If you look at the barriers to innovation, they have been reduced significantly. It is the merging of the two worlds of science and computing which is seeing a commoditization of the prerequisites for innovation.
Deep tech exploit advances in information technology such as cloud computing, machine learning and internet of things not only help researchers and engineers improve how they work; they are also inspiring new ways of working.
Modular Production in the Automotive Industry
German engineering firm, Arculus, for example, is setting out to redesign the founding principles of the assembly line, an idea that has underpinned large-scale manufacturing for more than 100 years. Founded in 2016, the firm is already working on projects with Audi, Porsche and Siemens.
Arculus’ model is to make products based on a modular production grid, rather than a line. Robots deliver resources and material to each workstation on the grid, which can be re-organized according to the production and performance needs of each station. Nodes can come in and out without halting production, while if one stage in production slows down, it can receive more resources without slowing down the whole system.
Central management software decides on the optimum production configuration based on IoT data, and can adjust organization of the system on the fly.
Arculus chief operating officer Witold Kopytynski says pilots with Audi found a 30% efficiency gain compared with a linear approach to assembly.
The firm offers its robots, analytics and management software as part of a service bundle, which it believes reduces barriers to implementation.
Kopytynski says developments in big data analytics and the Internet of Things turn the new way of thinking into a reality.
The main thing is IoT in industry. Whether or not the [management software] is hosted in the cloud, we rely on the idea that the robots and the factory are going to be connected and share data via the internet.
Aviation is another sector benefiting from the power of deep tech. US-based start-up Ampair is planning to transform aircraft design using electrically powered propulsion.
Ryan Bilton, co-founder and chief financial officer says:
As soon as you no longer have combustion or jet fuel on the plane, all sorts of interesting and unique things become possible with architecture of the aircraft.
Ampaire’s core technology is the Tailwind turbine system which it says reduces cost and noise, as well as improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact.
While improvements in battery energy density and the weight of electric motors makes electric aircrafts practical, adoption of them is likely to take a leap forward with the arrival of autonomous flight technology, Bilton says.
That’s where we see the real synergy. The low noise and zero emissions, combined with autonomous flight, makes them ideal for urban areas.
Companies and researchers are applying the deep tech philosophy across a number of domains including pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, as well as engineering and manufacturing. As such it has become a hotbed of start-up activity. According to the investment firm Atomico, the number of deep tech startups founded in Europe grew three and half times between 2011 and 2016. It estimates European deep tech firms received $3.5 billion in investments in 2017. With advances in AI, blockchain and quantum computing coming on-stream in the next few years, the acceleration in deep tech is only set to increase.