In the U.S., two-thirds of all of its R&D is invested and per- formed by industrial organizations. Industries in Europe and Asia similarly support and perform between 50% and
75% of their countries’ total R&D. Industry is what drives
the majority of global R&D throughout the world. The globalization of R&D through its industrial activities has leveled
the technological playing field making each company in each
country more competitive than they ever were in the past.
Still, specific companies can create their own advantages
within their industries by investing in the “right” technologies at the “right” time. There also are obvious leaders
within each industry which have been created through
tradition, innovation, administrative leadership, in-house-generated (and legally protected) intellectual property (IP)
and aggressive marketing, risk-taking and confidence.
There are numerous new technologies in play for many
industries. These include the ever-increasing information
and communications technologies (ICT), nanotechnologies, bio-technologies, artificial intelligence, mobile computing, smart software, intelligent computing
and more. Each of these technologies build on each
other and the industries they are integrated into. Add
to these the scientific and engineering expertise of the
R&D staffers and the educational and informational
resources they have access to—and you create the six
leading industries that are profiled in the next several
pages—life science, aerospace/defense, advanced
materials, ICT, automotive and energy. These six
industries account for well over half of the industrial
spending in the world.
And just as advanced technologies evolve, so too
the industries utilizing them have to evolve. Companies merge and are acquired, new facilities are
created, outdated ones are upgraded or shuttered,
technologies and proprietary processes wither and
fail while advanced procedures are created or purchased. For long-established firms, making substantial
changes or reinventing themselves to keep pace with
the changing technologies can be traumatic, but it is
what’s needed to survive.
The list of technologies in the Table was created
from a survey by R&D Magazine. It provides a picture
of those technologies expected to be of major importance to all industries by 2020. There should be no
surprises in this table for experienced scientists and
engineers working in successful companies. What
may be revealing is how fast some of these technologies have moved up in the rankings.
The generation of large amounts of data, or Big
Data, for example, has been acknowledged for many
years, but to be the second-most important technol-
ogy by 2020 may belie its importance to some researchers.
Similarly, nanotechnology has been noted by some as the
most important new technology, and while it still retains a
comparatively high ranking, it has shifted down in impor-
tance to other, more currently relevant technologies. And ro-
botics and automation have been relatively highly ranked in
the past, but are moving up in the rankings as they become
more integrated into all aspects of research endeavors.
Industrial R&D Continues to Evolve
What will be the Most Important
Technologies by 2020?
Information technologies 31%
Big data 27%
Software, analysis 26%
Cloud computing 22%
Medical diagnostics/healthcare 21%
Software, simulation 20%
Renewable energy 20%
Artificial intelligence 17%
Embedded processing 15%
Hybrid manufacturing 14%
Personalized medicine 13%
Systems biology 10%
Synthetic biology 8%
Quantum computing 8%
Space technologies 7%
Specific companies can create
their own advantages within their
industries by investing in the “right”
technologies at the “right” time.