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Future Forward – Ten Disruptive Technologies Set to Make Waves in 2023 and Beyond (Part 1)

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently released their flagship report on the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2023. Encompassing findings and opinions from a variety of academics, industry leaders, and futurists, this report provides a snapshot of what types of technology are going to have an impact on the world’s industries. In this two-part story, Xeraya summarizes what these ten types of technology are, and how some of them will also be shaping the future of healthcare.

Technology 1 – Flexible Batteries

The battery industry – like any other technology dependent sector – is rapidly changing. In the wake of an increased demand for innovative wearables, foldable tech, and tech-infused clothing, manufacturers are now looking at flexible batteries which are made of a lightweight material that can flex and bend.

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An example of ultra-flexible lithium-ion batteries which are fabricated by electrodeposition and solvothermal synthesis. Source: ScienceDirect.

There are already many flexible batteries in the market today that are rechargeable and incorporate lithium-ion or zinc carbon systems placed on conductive polymer current collectors. The electrodes of these batteries can be coated or printed on to carbon-based materials such as graphene, carbon fibres, and cloth. Household names that have entered this space include LG Chem, Samsung SDI, and Apple. In 2021, the flexible batteries market was valued at $406.76 million, and is expected to hit $3133.63 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 29.08% from 2022 to 2030.

For the healthcare industry, the invention of flexible batteries makes the idea of enhanced medical wearables a reality; when used with apps that are focused on the wellbeing of an individual, these batteries can help power devices that are able to transmit real-time data on a patient to their physicians, thus allowing medical staff to monitor their vitals such as heart rate and blood pressure remotely.

Technology 2 – Generative AI

A rising buzzword in the business world for several months now, generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can create its own content just by picking up patterns in data; it also uses complex algorithms and learning methods which echo how a human’s thought processes work.

The most famous generative AI tool today is ChatGPT, which is being used to create everything from whole essays to company slogans, and even charts and graphs, all of which it generates from a few pieces of information that is provided by a human being. Naturally, the media has written extensively about the marvels of this tool and has also touched on how many jobs generative AI tools could replace. For example, this story from CNN reports that economists from Goldman Sachs have predicted that as many as 300 million jobs could be automated in the US; additionally, the economists estimate that 18% of work globally could be computerised. Interestingly, the article also highlights the fact that the effects of generative AI displacing jobs would be felt deeply in more advanced economies than emerging markets.

On the medical front, researchers have been exploring the use of generative AI to help with drug design. Generative models can exploit the joint probability of a chemical species with target characteristics. This then creates a system that can produce novel compounds with a desired set of chemical features. The result? The ability to generate candidate drug molecules that target specific conditions.

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A visual of how generative modelling can help with drug design. Source: Springer Link

Technology 3 – Sustainable Aviation Fuel

As reported by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the aviation industry emitted 915 tonnes of CO2 in 2019, accounting for approximately 2% of the world’s total emissions. As such, the global aerospace industry has pledged to replace petroleum jet fuel as much as 100%; to meet this goal, researchers are turning to the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This fuel has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 80% on a life-cycle emissions basis.

SAFs are a product of biological and non-biological resources – one type of biological resource that has gained attention recently is microalgae biofuel, which does not have any major drawbacks that are typically associated with oil crops and other biofuels. They are also viable and cost-effective when managed well. Additionally, micro-algae have the highest productivity of oil per unit of area or land, require minimal water use and have high photosynthetic efficiency for CO2 absorption.

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A look at the SAF funding levels in the US from 2018 to 2022. Source: Federal Aviation Administration.

While large-scale commercial production of SAFs will take some time because of the instability of biomass concentration at scale and expensive downstream processes, to date, the American Society of Testing and Materials has approved 9 SAFs for blending with petroleum-based jet fuel.

Technology 4 – Designer Phages

Scientists and researchers are now looking at microbes – tiny organisms that can only be seen via a microscope – and their ability to help improve a human’s well-being and their role in supporting agricultural production.

Bacteria, archaea, and single-cell eukaryotes form communities called microbiomes and it is these communities that experts are now engineering, with a specific focus on phages. These are viruses that can selectively infect specific types of bacteria; the phage injects genetic information into bacterium, and via the use of synthetic bio tools, this genetic information can be reprogrammed by scientists and thus can be used to execute a bioengineered set of genetic instructions, such as making bacteria sensitive to a particular drug. Furthermore, because the phages only infect one type of bacteria, scientists can target individual bacteria species within the microbiome.

In terms of medical applications, designer phages can help treat microbiome-associated illnesses such as the uncommon haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); this rare disease is more common in children under the age of 5, and has been identified as the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children, with the Virginia Department of Healthreporting that there are about 200 – 300 cases of HUS in the US annually.

The use of designer phages to combat diseases like HUS was recently granted the orphan drug designation by the FDA, which provides researchers focusing on this technology to do clinical trials; in fact, the first trials began on 9thDecember 2020 and focused on the efficacy and safety of bacteriophage therapy for patients with E. coli and K. pneumoniae UTIs. On the agricultural side, this technology could also be used to manufacture supplements for livestock, treat plant diseases, and to eliminate bacteria found in food.

Technology 5 – The Metaverse for Mental Health

As mentioned in our previous article on sleep and technology, excess screen time and a reliance on social media can lead to a decrease in the physical and mental health of a person, but experts are now arguing that they can also be used to improve their well-being. In this instance, the type of technology that is being focused on is use of shared online spaces that can help provide support to people living with mental health issues.

In 2022, the WHO released their latest World Mental Health Report, which found that rates of already-common conditions – such as depression and anxiety – increase by over 25% in the first year of the pandemic, which meant more people began suffering from these disorders because of the situation at hand. The WHO further estimated that prior to the pandemic, there were already almost 1 billion people suffering from a mental disorder.

To tackle this, the use of a shared online space, or the Metaverse, as it is popularly known, could help reach anyone and everyone suffering a mental health issue. Combined with the use of augmented reality or virtual reality tools, the space could act as a platform for conversations, treatments, and consultations. The same report by the WHO found that there is a shortage globally of mental health experts, with approximately half of the world’s current population living in countries where there is just one psychiatrist to serve 200,000 or more people. Additionally, on average, nations dedicate less than 2% of their healthcare budgets to mental health, and over 70% of mental health spending in middle-income countries still goes towards psychiatric hospitals, not private mental health experts.

As such, there is truly a need for a Metaverse that focuses specifically on treating mental health patients, especially those living in countries where illnesses of the mind are still considered a lower priority than physical ailments. This virtual space must also have the right infrastructure in place so that it can support all aspects of mental health treatment, including prevention, diagnostics, therapy, education, and research. All in all, the exploration of using the Metaverse for mental health is an extension of the current push for remote healthcare via apps and telemedicine tools, a market which is expected to grow to $57.1 billion by 2032 with a CAGR of 19.8%, according to Prophecy Market Insights.

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Due to the ongoing mental health crisis, market research in 2022 predicted that mental health apps would see a rise in downloads. Source: Deloitte.

5 More Technologies Take the Stage

Don’t miss Part 2 of this story, in which Xeraya highlights five more technologies identified by the WEF: Wearable plant sensors, spatial omics, flexible neural electronics, sustainable computing, and AI-facilitated healthcare.


1. Verified Market Research

2. CNN

3. ACS Publications – Generative Models as an Emerging Paradigm in the Chemical Sciences


5. The New Straits Times – Sustainable Aviation Fuel – a new source of wealth from our very own biodiversity

6. Virginia Department of Health

7. News Medical – What is Bacteriophage Therapy?

8. World Health Organisation – World Mental Health Report 2022