It’s a technology jungle out there! Here’s some orientation

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(from left to right) Panel discussion about how we will live in the future with
(from left to right) Panel discussion about how we will live in the future with Benedikt Knüsel (ETH Zurich), Marco Salvi (Avenir Suisse), Judith Bellaiche (Swico), Mirko Kovac (Empa), Sirpa Tsimal (Switzerland Global Enterprise) and Matthias Michel (FDP). Image: SATW
The new Technology Outlook of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW) showcases the most important findings of numerous Swiss experts from science and industry for a prosperous future. In the areas of Energy and Environment, Manufacturing Processes and Materials as well as Life Sciences, eleven scientists contributed to the identification of the most important trends and their impact on technology and society.

New technologies often bring about radical changes in the economy as well as in society. It is therefore of utmost importance to provide orientation and to highlight both the significance of the technologies for the economy and the consequences for our society. "The Technology Outlook looks ahead to the multifaceted technology world of tomorrow for economy and politics in Switzerland. In other words, into a future that fascinates and inspires us, but can also arouse fears. With a focus on health, construction and nutrition, we are highlighting areas that have particular potential for innovation and transformation," says project manager Claudia Schärer at last week’s Technology Outlook vernissage, held at ETH Zurich.

The independent study highlights vital opportunities for Switzerland in three areas: interdisciplinarity, high-tech and niche applications, and knowledge export. Switzerland as a research and business location thrives on ecosystems in which players from different research fields and industrial sectors come together, and is thus predestined for interdisciplinary approaches to deliver solutions. These are particularly in demand for the development of innovative technologies that ensure greater efficiency, improved safety and more effective environmental protection in various areas, explains the study director. "Certain high-tech and niche technologies such as bioplastics, digital twins or antimicrobial surfaces, as well as their applications, offer interesting business cases for companies of all sizes. In addition, it is obvious that Switzerland is taking on a pioneering role for some technologies and exporting know-how instead of products. These include technologies such as mobility concepts, negative emission technologies and personalized nutrition."

SATW’s Technology Outlook scores points for its thematic breadth, its shortto medium-term time horizon and its free availability. In addition, its Swiss focus sets it apart from similar analyses. The study is based on interviews with more than 180 experts from close to 90 institutions such as CSEM, EPFL, ETH Zurich, Empa, IBM, Migros Industrie, Mobility and Nestlé. It classifies technology trends in terms of their importance for Switzerland as a center of thought and work and compares developments in Switzerland with other countries. A total of 32 technologies and 22 Swiss industry showcases as well as national and international trends are presented in the new edition. The centerpiece is a quadrant presentation with the four technology categories of hopeful, niche, self-starter and star, which makes the economic importance and research competence of each technology visible.

At the end of the Technology Outlook event, Judith Bellaiche (GLP, Swico), Mirko Kovac, Head of the Sustainability Robotics Lab (Empa), Matthias Michel (FDP), Marco Salvi (Avenir Suisse) and Sirpa Tsimal (Switzerland Global Enterprises), together with moderator Benedikt Knüsel (ETH Zurich), discussed what scope Swiss society has for shaping technologies, their use and innovation. It was emphasized several times that cooperation - above all, in an international context - is indispensable. Mirko Kovac adds: "The aspect of multidisciplinarity is central. Networking on an international level remains important. But even more important in research and for innovation is co-development. This is essential today and not optional." The example of robotics shows how important co-development is: In a life-like robot that moves in the environment, functions like a living being and adapts adaptively, materials cannot be considered separately from the control system. They must necessarily be co-developed. This premise sets entirely new requirements in training future researchers.

About SATW

The Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW) is commissioned by the Swiss government to carry out early identification of technologies. The Technology Outlook results from these foresight activities and presents forward-looking technologies that will be relevant for Switzerland in the coming years. The following Empa experts have contributed to the current edition of the Technology Outlook: Christian Bach (Vehicle Propulsion Systems), Frank Clemens (High Performance Ceramics), Irene Ferretto (Advanced Materials Processing), Manfred Heuberger (Advanced Fibers), Ali Jafarabadi (Structural Engineering), Mirko Kovac (Sustainability Robotics), Christian Leinenbach (Advanced Materials Processing), Barbara Lothenbach (Concrete and Asphalt), Moslem Shahverdi (Structural Engineering), Lars Sommerhäuser (Surface Science and Coating Technologies) und Patrick Wäger (Technology and Society).