Windows of Opportunity: Technological Breakthrough Plenary Discussion (June 22, SPIEF 2012)


Windows of Opportunity: Technological Breakthrough Plenary Discussion

June 22, SPIEF 2012

The transition of mankind to every new stage in its development is accompanied with radical technological innovations impacting all spheres of life, ranging from economy to social relations. The participants of the Windows of Opportunity: Technological Dimension discussion reviewed the existing windows of opportunity for such breakthroughs and their impact on the future of the planet.

Dmitry Repin, Digital October General Director, who moderated the meeting, suggested that its participants share their opinions on which windows of opportunity exist at present; which companies and countries should use them, and in what spheres one should look for them.

In his introductory report Igor Agamirzian, RVC CEO, dealt with the topic of opportunities opened for mankind and for business by technological innovation. “Every new wave of technological change results in the reform of global business climate: small companies turn into next generation’s giants.”

The speaker cited information about the revenue and capitalization of some companies. An average revenue per employee of Yandex, for instance, is, as a matter of fact, equal to the Norway’s GDP per worker figures, or $190,000.

ПМЭФ 2012 According to Agamirzian, the main potential for innovation in the modern world lies in digital technologies’ penetration into various spheres of life and science and the creation of new industries: the speaker cited bioinformatics as an example of it. New markets and new windows of opportunities, Agamirzian believes, emerge at the junction of established spheres of routine activities, such as education, power generation and medicine, and the IT sector which had already formed a general platform for the organization of life. 

Julius Genachowski, the head of the US Federal Communications Commission, spoke about the diversity of the spheres where state-of-the-art technologies are developed. He focused on the importance of the Internet and wireless technologies facilitating distance education and distance diagnosis in healthcare. New product development also helps implement an individual approach to every student, both in the process of learning, and in the process of monitoring, provide for medical monitoring of patients thousands kilometers away from the doctor. Genachowski reminded that no invention is the crown of evolution, the innovation development process never stops.

Serguei Beloussov, Runa Capital Senior Founder Partner, suggested that we could expect a complete virtualization of all economic relations, partially, it is already real, if you take into account diverse virtual products. According to Beloussov, quantum technologies could be crucial for a technological breakthrough abolishing the need for physical presence and providing for interaction at the virtual level. There are already several success stories in quantum technologies which were hardly imaginable in the past: a quantum clock, quantum sensors, and other products. “Quantum computers can change the world to a greater extent than the digital revolution,” believes Beloussov. 

ПМЭФ 2012 Dr. Vijay Chandru, Strand Life Sciences Ltd. Chairman and CEO, emphasized the importance of technological change witnessed during the last two decades in medicine, such as the use of bioinformatics, the genome sequencing technology, for instance, which is already saving human life. Due to the improvement in technology, the cost of such innovation keeps going down, making it more available and applicable at the hospital level.

Bernhard Thies, DKE German Commission for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies of DIN and VDE, Chairman of the Board of Directors, spoke about the potential for a technological breakthrough in the sphere of power generation: the development of intellectual power grids without transmission lines and energy consumption management systems could bring about a manifold increase in the efficiency of the generation and use of power in the modern world. Thies pointed out that this would also require a parallel development of new cyber protection technologies.

Rafael Reif, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rector, spoke on what promotes the emergence of new technologies and windows of opportunity: according to him, the involvement of students, of young curious scientists in research forms the foundation for the emergence of new technological solutions for which developers themselves find practical and industrial applications.

Enlarging upon the topic of the contribution of young scientists to innovative development, Ankur Jain, Kairos Society Chairman and Founder, pointed out an important idea welcomed by all those present: the integration of intellectual efforts aimed at the growth of technology and dissemination of new platforms improves the chances of mankind to solve problems it faces.

The lack of perfection in this world, the abundance of unsolved issues form a challenge to look for new solutions. The spheres of life and science where challenges emerge provide the potential for further development: “All the opportunities are on the level of solving urgent issues of the human civilization,” be it education, healthcare, or government administration, Serguei Beloussov concluded.

In conclusion, somebody from the audience asked about the prospects for and consequences of the collision of the Earth with the asteroid in 2030. Being loyal to the optimistic view of human advance in technology, Igor Agamirzian replied: “This challenge is a new opportunity. If we face such a challenge, we would have a wonderful opportunity to launch a planet saving business.”

Topics mentioned by the participants of the discussion will be dealt with in greater detail at the Open Innovations Forum to be held in Moscow this autumn.

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