It may sound like, but deep tech is not the stuff of movies and science-fiction novels. Not anymore.
Since long we have been talking about high-end technologies or scientific techniques that would help revolutionise the world when used together or in conjunction with each other. These technologies are far more complex and bring radical changes to how we develop new things.
Experts and analysts have been trying to decipher when and where these technologies will make their impact and how long lasting their after-effects could be. As we approach the next decade, AI, IoT, Machine learning, Biotechnology, quantum computing and advanced robotics are shaping up to their full potential. They may take a long time and a lot of money to develop fully, but they can solve some very tough problems.
Swati Chaturvedi who coined the term ‘deep tech’ is the founder of a platform dedicated to angel investing called Propel(x). “We define deep technology as companies founded on a scientific discovery or meaningful engineering innovation. Most technology companies these days are built on business model innovation or offline to online business model transition using existing technology.” Deep tech is built from scratch, on something that does not really exist right now.
Here’s a look at few of the many companies developing applications using deep technology startups that can drastically change the way things function today.
- Biogenera works in the biotechnology driven pharmaceutical sector and is developing new DNA-based medicines for the treatment of specific illnesses such as tumours. It has developed the MyGenera platform to identify pathological and mutated genes and prevent diseases before the happen.
- Braincontrol has developed a technology that allows people to turn thought to action by using effective control systems. This technology helps people with physical disabilities to interact and connect with the world outside. Horus Technology works in the same field and has utilised deep tech to create a device that helps the blind ‘see’ the world around them with the help of robotics and AI.
- Empatica has developed a bracelet to help people with epilepsy by monitoring seizures. The bracelet detects the neural activity and body temperature of the wearer and processes this information to enable the user to steer clear of dangerous seizures.
- Graphene-XT has developed a graphene suspension that produces high-grade graphene at lower costs with reduced environmental impact helping strengthen several industrial and construction based sectors.
- Greenrail has come up with a sustainable railway crossbar that is greener and smarter than its competitors. The cross has a lifespan exceeding 50 years, which is 20 more than its competitors and also incurs lesser vibration noise. It uses recycled materials and also generates energy from moving trains.
- Bio-on developed the world’s first biodegradable plastic and in 2017 presented a solution for bio-oil pollution restoration to eliminate hydrocarbons pollution.
- D-Orbit aims to deal with space junk by decommissioning and guiding the re-entry of satellites that have finished serving their time in space. It has developed a smart motor that is attached to satellite at the time of launch and removes it from the orbit in case of a major failure or end-of-life.
- Ribes Tech has an ultra-thin and flexible photovoltaic panel that turns sunlight into energy with ease and greater efficiency. A thin and flexible solar panel means it can be pasted on anything from roads and cars, to building walls and what not.
- Cleverciti uses AI to help drivers find free parking in cities, reducing air pollution in the process.
- Trinckle 3D opens up the world of 3D printing to commoners by reducing barriers with the help of a cloud-based platform. This device will help making automation easier by speeding up the process of component manufacture and will also help cale up businesses by making it easier to duplicate parts and produce them on a large scale.
- Lexplore uses artificial intelligence to identify dyslexia in children. This Swedish company previously called Optolexia has combined automatic eye tracking camera techniques, Azure cloud-based services, reporting tools and data analysis and algorithm checkers to help in the early diagnosis of dyslexia. The statistical predictive model that they use to analyse large amounts of data provided by the camera has been powered by AI and helps tests all readers for signs of dyslexia.
- ApiOmat gifts companies the chance to mix their IT systems with mobile devices to efficiently create apps. Volkswagen launched their Digital Leadership app thanks to this company that aims to help connect businesses by going live with applications and IT related services faster and more efficiently than ever before. Their low cost and low code requiring tools helps designers create prototypes with ease which they can then beta-test and finalise significantly reducing development time.
- Roivant uses AI to help reduce the time and costs related to the drug development and manufacturing process. Founded in 2014 by Vivek Ramaswamy, the company raised $200 million dollars at a funding drive last year to expand their venture and spread to more parts of the US.The company is presently focusing its efforts on an Alzheimer’s drug that could help solve a lot of problems for several thousands of people around the world.
The Indian Picture
Imaginate Founder and CEO, Hemanth Satyanarayana, has the following to say about the impact of Deep tech, “Today, people generally refer to AI or machine learning as deep tech. Expanding the definition a little more, we have started integrating computer vision, image processing, AR/VR with the term. Deep tech is fundamentally a connection of different types of technologies to come up with a solution that has significant improvement over other products available in the market”.
Ethx is one of the first Ethereum exchanges in India and was founded by Tarusha Mittal who believes that the platform provides a user-friendly, fast and secure solution to all cryptocurrency transaction related queries. It functions as a complete blockchain suite and provides users with the chance to contribute to a central network for tokens. Mittal predicts that Ethx will have over 5 million users by the end of 2019. Though a supreme court verdict on use of cryptocurrencies in India is still awaited.
Pratilipi is the country’s largest online platform and bridges the gap between writers in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, and Kannada. It is a self-publishing platform for writers and works as a buying platform for the readers. It boasts of over 53,000 writers and 3.3 million plus readers. Shally Modi, the co-founder of Pratilipi, had the following to say about the company, “Pratilipi is a reading and writing platform for the next billion internet users who hail from the small towns and villages of India. It’s a storytelling platform for Indian languages,”.
Ossus Biorenewables is a Bengaluru-based startup that is developing clean, carbon-free, energy and recovery solutions. They use bH2 Plus to generate biohydrogen from industrial effluents and polluted water bodies. Founded by Suruchi Rao and Shanta Rao in 2017, the company is now partnering with oil and gas companies like ONGC and hopes to set up base in the US by 2020.
Language learning startup, Multibhashi teaches English and other regional Indian languages to millions of users around the world. According to Anuradha Agarwal, the founder, “We are committed to teaching job-related English communication skills to the next billion users coming online. We fully realise that a task of this scale can only be accomplished through technology”. The app lets users connect with a tutor and get personalised services for the entire learning process.
In its nascent phase, deep tech was a little difficult to understand due to its complexity. Startups deploying it could have a hard time finding an investor with the right amount of technical knowledge. But these startups have been successful at piquing interest and raising significant amounts of capital for investments. In fact, the year 2017 witnessed over $3.5bn being invested in this field with over 600 successful deals.
A study by Wavestone stated that Europe has been seeing considerable growth in investment with respect to deep-tech technologies, the projected growth exceeding three times the average growth since 2015. France is the global leader in terms of venture capitalist investments, and the UK leads in access to finance, followed by France.
Venture capital funds have contributed the most in Europe, like Kima Ventures, High-Tech Grunderfunds, Bpifrance, LocalGlobe, Horizon Ventures and Passion Capital. America too stayed well-represented thanks to Intel, Apple, Qualcomm, Microsoft Google, Cisco and Amazon. The most active European contributors were Siemens, Bosch, BNP Paribas and Swisscom.
EIT Digital is a European organisation consisting of a team of professionals who are passionate about digital innovation and entrepreneurship. It supports over 156 major European companies, start-ups and research institutes and has offices all over the world, including but not restricted to Berlin, Eindhoven, Helsinki, London, and Madrid. The EIt Digital Challenge, organised by them is a unique competition aimed at European deep tech companies.