Top Emerging Technologies to Watch in 2021: Lux Research Releases Annual List of Transformational Technologies

After a tumultuous 2020, organizations need to re-examine their outlook on what emerging tech innovations will be critical for their future opportunities.

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After a tumultuous 2020, organizations need to re-examine their outlook on what emerging tech innovations will be critical for their future opportunities. To help them do so, Lux Research, a leading provider of tech-enabled research and advisory services, released its annual report on the top tech innovations that will have the greatest impact over the next 10 years, based on proprietary data science tools and expert insight. 

The new report, “Foresight 2021: Top Emerging Technologies to Watch,” identifies and ranks 12 key technologies that will reshape the world. The technologies are chosen based on innovation interest scores from the Lux Tech Signal, a composite measure assembled from a variety of innovation data sources, along with input from Lux’s experts. In addition to highlighting the 12 key overall technologies, for the first time ever, this year’s report ranks the top five technologies across five key industries: chemicals and materials, automotive, food and agriculture, electronics and IT, and energy. 

The top three technologies cited in the report are:  

  • Autonomous vehicles: Improvements in safety and efficiency are happening at all levels of vehicle automation, benefiting both consumers and commercial operations. Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles will transform mobility and logistics by removing the need for a driver behind the wheel of a vehicle. 
  • Natural language processing: Powering devices like voice assistants, machine translation, and chatbots, natural language processing (NLP) patents have had a 44% CAGR over the past five years, now reaching more than 3,000 publications annually. 
  • Plastic recycling: Concern about plastic waste is nothing new, but major consumer product companies have made commitments to increasing recycling rates and innovations that can convert waste into higher-value products. Over the past decade alone, 155 startups addressing plastic waste have been founded. 

Ten of last year’s 20 technologies don’t appear on this year’s lists, showing how dynamic changes in the innovation landscape have been over the past year. Notably, 5G networks, which claimed the top spot in last year’s report, are absent from this year’s list – as 5G rollout begins, they’re still important but are now firmly established on everyone’s radar.  

Technologies from the Foresight 2021 will also play a role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. “Technologies from our lists like digital biomarkers and AI-enabled sensors can help bring businesses back to work,” explains Michael Holman, Ph.D., 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.”