Discover the trends that are set to impact the world of innovation next year
The last twelve months have been an exciting time for innovation, with several important milestones passed. For example, in aviation, we saw successful test flights of electric aeroplanes, the first A380 flight powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel, and on-the-ground tests of a hydrogen jet engine. Meanwhile, in the world of energy storage – crucial for the energy transition – we saw the first commercial-scale sand battery and plans for a long-term energy storage facility that will use carbon dioxide to store and release energy.
Important milestones were also passed in other sectors. These include the world’s first commercial CO2-to-methane plant, which was completed in China, and the start of pilot manufacturing for the world’s first cell-cultivated leather.
We had to wait until December, however, for the year’s biggest innovation news story: a breakthrough in nuclear fusion. At the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, scientists carried out the first ever nuclear fusion experiment that produced more energy than it consumed. This could pave the way for nuclear fusion as an almost limitless source of renewable energy.
But as 2022 comes to an end, it’s time to consider what 2023 will have in store. Here are five trends we think will impact the world of innovation in the year ahead.
Proteins are crucial building blocks for life on earth and can be harnessed by humans for a range of applications, such as vaccine design and drug discovery. In July this year, Google-backed DeepMind announced that its AlphaFold programme had uncovered the structure of 200 million proteins – almost all of those known to science. This breakthrough is likely to speed-up the development of protein-based innovations in the coming years, with implications for everything from food security to plastic recycling.
But when most of us hear the word ‘protein’ we think of food. And here too we expect to see innovation in 2023. For example, the feasibility study for a plant in Qatar, which will convert methane into protein for fish and animal feed, is expected to conclude early next year. And molecular farming startup Miruku could begin partnering with growers, formulators, and brands to produce dairy proteins from plant cells before the end of 2023.
Satellites for nature
Satellites may seem distant, but they impact our daily lives in many ways – from providing internet to helping us navigate through Google Maps. And scientists have long been using them for all kinds of research. But as the importance of nature-based solutions such as reforestation grows, and the impacts of climate change become more apparent, we are increasingly seeing satellites used for monitoring vital eco-systems and tracking climate impacts.
Through a combination of high-resolution satellite imagery, AI, and LiDAR, US company CTrees plans to map all trees – both inside and outside forests. The company plans to release important reports using its technology in mid-2023. Meanwhile, German startup Constllr has ambitious plans to use micro-satellites to monitor water availability around the world. And the company’s first constellation is set to launch next year.
A real estate reckoning
With buildings responsible for 39 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions, innovators are increasingly reckoning with the need to decarbonise real estate – both through cleaner construction and retrofitting. And this is likely to accelerate next year.
In terms of construction, tests of a new 3D-printed house made of bio-based materials will be completed in early 2023. The University of Maine researchers behind the prototype hope that it will solve the challenge of speed and sustainability in the 3D-printed home market. And when it comes to retrofitting, Audette, an artificial intelligence platform that analyses the most efficient way to decarbonise real estate portfolios, will be rolled out to cities in North America next year.
Green is the new black
Fashion has long been criticised for its poor sustainability credentials. But as pressure on the industry grows, innovators are increasingly working to give fashion a makeover. This year, we have seen developments such as compostable materials and platforms that create a market for unused fabric. And next year we expect to see even more innovation.
In 2023, Sizekick, an AI-powered website plugin that helps shoppers find the correct size for almost any clothing brand, is set to launch with a goal to reduce emissions from e-commerce returns. Meanwhile Rothy’s, a sustainable fashion brand that Springwise has been tracking for several years, is committed to becoming fully circular in 2023.
Innovation is not limited to the world of business. The impact of digital technologies on art and culture has been nothing short of transformative. And in 2023 we expect to see some exciting creative developments.
Art Explora, a cutting-edge initiative that is making contemporary art accessible to everyone, plans to bring art to the waves by converting one of the world’s largest catamarans into a mobile digital art museum. The floating museum is due to set sail from Marseille for various locations in the Mediterranean basin in September 2023. Meanwhile, Dutch startup Metaseum is opening culture to a wider audience by creating a space for museums in the metaverse. The company hopes to progress to an Alpha launch in 2023.
Written by: Matthew Hempstead
To keep up with the latest sustainable innovations, sign up to our free newsletters or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
23rd December 2022