Report: 3D printing named alongside green hydrogen, autonomous vehicles and AI sensors as top emerging technologies to watch in 2021

A new report by Lux Research has ranked 3D printing as one of the top 12 emerging technologies to watch as we enter 2021.

Having consistently made the annual list in years past, 3D printing continues to drive innovation, interest, and investment as its capabilities expand. Lux’s annual report indicates the top technology innovations that will have the biggest impact over the next decade, based on innovation interest scores from Lux’s Tech Signal measurement which summarizes data on patents, academic papers, funding, and more, and combines this with expert input from Lux’s analyst team.

New for this year, the report grades the top five technologies expected to impact five key industries, namely chemicals and materials, automotive, food and agriculture, electronics and I.T., and energy. Among other things, many of these technologies are expected to play a role in combating the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“Technologies from our lists like digital biomarkers and AI-enabled sensors can help bring businesses back to work,” said Michael Holman, vice president of research and lead author of the report. “But for all the changes that the pandemic has brought, the key megatrends shaping the future are still in force.

“Technologies that support these transitions, such as autonomous vehicles, alternative proteins, and green hydrogen, will maintain their momentum as a result.”

The Top five across key industries

Taking the top spot on Lux’s list of emerging technologies to watch is autonomous vehicles (#1), which have seen improvements in safety and efficiency across both consumer vehicles and commercial applications to open up new mobility and logistics possibilities.

Plastic recycling (#3), AI-enabled sensors (#4), and green hydrogen (#6) were also named within the five technologies driving innovations across the aforementioned key sectors, joined by alternative proteins (#8) within which developments are helping to meet the growing global demand for sustainable protein supply.

In the report, Lux stated: “We calibrated the final choices to represent a breadth of innovation across energy, materials, health, and digital. Based on the Lux Tech Signal alone, digital innovations would dominate the list due to the world’s intense recent focus on digital transformation.”

Lux Research's Foresight 2021 Top Technologies to Watch. Image via Lux Research.
Lux Research’s Foresight 2021 Top Technologies to Watch. Image via Lux Research.

3D printing insights

Ranked #9 in Lux’s report, 3D printing is continuing to have significant impacts across multiple sectors. Emphasis on end-to-end workflow automation and integration advances in new materials and 3D printing technologies, and concerted efforts towards achieving serial production have all helped in keeping 3D printing on Lux’s list of technologies to watch.

Lux echoed this in its report, stating: “3D printing has been growing in innovation interest for years, but it is now reaching an inflection point where it can be used for production parts, not just prototypes – particularly for polymers. The capabilities of 3D printing of metals and other materials are growing too as new printing technologies advance, opening up further possibilities.”

A summary of the latest 3D printing business news and market insights can be found here.

An extract from Lux Research's Foresight 2021 report. Image via Lux Research.
An extract from Lux Research’s Foresight 2021 report. Image via Lux Research.

Top 12 emerging technologies to watch in 2021

The Lux Report’s executive summary ranks the most important technologies to watch based on their potential to transform the world over the next decade, as follows:

1. Autonomous vehicles. The first limited applications of on-road L4 vehicles could emerge during the mid-2020s for commercially owned vehicles.

2. Natural language processing enables rapid analysis of huge volumes of text to improve processes such as technology landscaping, competitive analysis, and weak signal detection.

3. Plastic recycling. In the past decade, 155 startups have been founded to address issues surrounding plastic waste.

4. AI-enabled sensors. Companies developing or using this technology have raised more than $1.8 billion to drive forward innovation in this sector.

5. Bioinformatics harnesses the collection, classification, storage, and analysis of biochemical and biological information using computers.

6. Green hydrogen. There have been more than 10,000 patent publications in water electrolysis for green hydrogen over the past decade.

7. Shared mobility, in which the market now exceeds $60 billion in value across China, Europe, and the U.S.

8. Alternative proteins. Tools such as computational breeding or CRISPR will drive new heights in protein content and quality.

9. 3D Printing. Lux expects 3D printing to be a $20 billion market by 2025.

10. Materials informatics utilizes artificial intelligence techniques to accelerate chemical and material development.

11. Precision agriculture. The market for precision farming is projected to grow from its current value of $4 billion to over $12 billion by 2025.

12. Synthetic biology involves the development of microorganisms to convert bio-based feedstocks into products for the petrochemical, agrifood, and health sectors.

The full report can be requested from Lux Research.

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Featured image shows Lux Research’s Foresight 2021 Top Technologies to Watch. Image via Lux Research.