Taking a deep dive into the world of deep technology
Deep technology is the latest addition to the startup universe and to the world of innovative problem-solving. The term “Deep Tech” was coined by Swati Chaturvedi, the founder of the digital investment platform PropelX. It refers to startup companies based on substantive scientific or technological innovation.
What sets deep tech apart from other startups is its heavy reliance on technological innovation. Today, deep tech is being heralded as the fourth wave of innovation. Investors have begun realizing the potential of deep tech. Funding for deep tech has gone from US$15 billion to more than US$60 billion between 2016 and 2020.
Before you make any deep tech investments, let us take a look at what deep tech is and what characteristics make up a successful deep tech venture.
Problem orientation and high impact
Deep tech ventures innovate in areas of pivotal importance such as life sciences, agriculture and clean energy generation. To succeed in deep tech entrepreneurship, companies must focus on the core principle—problem-solving. 97% of deep tech ventures today contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals. This means that while they are geared towards economic growth, they are also tackling pressing global concerns.
Discoveries in life sciences such as biotechnology can revolutionize medical treatments. For instance, the biotechnological company Biogenera SpA is working towards creating DNA-based patient-specific biotechnological medicines. By focusing on DNA-based patient care, the company is solving problems which were impossible to address before. They are working towards making cures for incurable diseases with a focus on childhood tumors, genetic, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and infective diseases.
Similarly, in other sectors such as energy generation, innovation by companies can open doors for the adoption of solar power. Ribes Tech, for example, produces flexible photovoltaic panels that make solar energy easy to integrate into anything from roads and buildings to handheld devices. Their goal is to overcome energy restraints of off-grid devices (those which rely on batteries) to enable the real Internet of Things (IOT).
Convergence of approaches
A successful deep tech venture combines science, engineering and design. Science provides the theory that underpins the solution. Engineering ensures the solution’s technical feasibility. Design ensure that the basic idea of a deep tech firm comes through.
For instance, the company Lexpore redefined the traditional reading assessment with the addition of artificial intelligence (AI). Instead of using a standardized assessment, Lexplore uses eye-tracking to figure out a child’s reading speed. These eye-tracking recordings then undergo machine analysis and Lexplore’s portal comes up with detailed personalized instructions on how to create programmes in line with a child’s reading level. It combines traditional pedagogy (a social science) with technology and the redesigned testing systems.
Convergence of technologies
According to a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 96% of all deep tech ventures combine two or more technologies. The three main clusters around which deep tech converges are: Matter and Energy, Computing and Cognition, Sensing and Motion.
The use of multiple technologies is lowering the barriers to innovate in various fields. Companies like Zymergen are using advanced AI, automation and biological engineering to create new and innovative products. These products include safe and effective insect repellents and green alternatives to the more conventionally used nitrogen fertilizers. Using green alternatives can help mitigate the negative effect nitrogen fertilizers have on soil health.
The future of deep tech
In a way, deep tech is like the new industrial revolution. Even though mobile technologies and the IOT are only the beginning of this new revolution, they have dramatically changed the ways in which we work and live our everyday lives.
What we cannot ignore when discussing deep tech are the barriers that still exist in their way to becoming mainstream. One of the main barriers is our own imaginations. Seizing opportunities to use science and technology in problem solving has been a struggle throughout history. For instance, it took mankind 20 years to go from using steam engines to electric engines. For deep tech to reach its full potential, there is a pressing need to constantly evolve and re-think how technologies can be used.
Another key concern is access to adequate funding. While the funding for deep tech ventures has risen, most investments have been restricted to machine learning (ML), AI and life sciences.
All of the companies previously mentioned and their innovative ideas are a testament to the potential of deep tech. As the amount of investment in technology continues to increase, addressing world concerns such as climate change and diseases will become easier.
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