Government to conduct third review of emerging technologies

A GOV UK blog post has disclosed that the government’s Horizon Scanning team is preparing to create a third review of technologies that have the potential to increase UK productivity and advance public services.

The Horizon Scanning team organises “strategic horizon scanning work” across departments and draws insights from experts both in and out of governments to “challenge our thinking”.

Horizon Scanning has been described as being about “exploring what the future might look like to understand uncertainties better”. According to the blog post, it is about predicting change, reducing risk and being prepared to adapt, and involves “long-range thinking about infrastructure, regulation, skills and public perceptions”.

Due to the fact it looks at information available about future trends, Horizon Scanning can help the government make knowledgeable long-term decisions.


A fresh look at the technology landscape

Previous reviews – in 2009 and 2012 –identified 3D printing, smart electricity grids and the Internet of Things as main opportunities for the UK. Technologies from earlier reports such as cloud computing and big data have now become familiar to the public, whilst others are yet to “break through”.

The blog post explains that, as “interest broadens”, the “pace of innovation” means that the government now needs to take another look at the technology landscape.

It said: “We need to determine which technologies are progressing as predicted, which have stalled, and which are new promising.”


Expert roundtables

The new report is due out by the end of 2015. In order to put it together, the Government’s Horizon Scanning team is “crowd-sourcing views” from industry and academic experts.

They will be pinpointing trends in “patenting and publically-funded research” linked to particular technologies.

The team will also be hosting expert roundtables to look over its findings, as well as explore “estimates of the future market value of various technologies”. The roundtables will focus on areas including: synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and advanced materials.

The blog post said:

Quantum sensing illustrates the sorts of opportunities we’re seeking to highlight and evaluate. It could, for example, deliver both private- and public-sector benefits by ensuring that councils and utility companies only dig holes in our roads where they’re absolutely needed.

“Unglamorous though it may be, this application – and there are many more – would save millions and cut down on traffic disruption.”

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