There is no doubt about it; the UK car industry is running headlong into a perfect storm, Emissions Scandal, Dirty Diesel & bonkers #Brexit.
Jaguar Land Rover which has seen continuous expansion for the last decade has laid off 1000 contractors at its Solihull plant & has been cutting back on production volumes. Nissan in Sunderland has announced redundancies although these aren’t compulsory (yet!).
Politicians have a huge responsibility for this by confusing the public about ‘dirty diesels’ after having encouraged their adoption to combat global warming. European sales of diesel cars are down a whopping 35% in one year. Of course the industry itself has shot itself in the foot by massaging, if not flagrantly violating, its own emission standards.
So what’s to be done:-
Innovation, Innovation & more innovation. The industry has historically been slow to react to environmental pressures & must now accelerate the switch to hybrid & electric vehicles.
A customs union with the EEC as a minimum is essential – it is now time for the industry to get off the fence & start lobbying hard. Las year inward investment was down 181 billion & outward investment up 150 billion. This is a direct result of #Brexit & action is needed now!
Sir James Dyson has revealed what many automotive industry insiders already knew by rumour – his company is developing an Electric car ! The fact that Dyson have no automotive precedence or manufacturing facility should not be seen as a show stopper – there is plenty of subcontract capacity available (at a price) although his timescale of 2 years to volume manufacture is probably over ambitious.
Many current Automotive specialists will laugh at the idea of Dyson moving into this arena with its complex & demanding legislative requirements but perhaps that is missing the point.
Dyson recently bought innovative Solid State battery development company Sakti3 for $90 million & half of Dysons $2.7 billion will be spent on battery development.
The batteries developed by Sakti3 are Solid State which offer much higher energy densities & battery life than current Lithium Ion batteries.
Perhaps the likely scenario is that Dyson will use his Electric car to showcase the real diamond in the rough – a vastly superior battery technology which will then be licensed to the main automotive players enabling the Wiltshire Innovator to truly ‘clean up’
In the U.K today salaries have barely risen in real terms in the last decade & despite decreasing unemployment many find themselves in the precarious position of holding short term contracts with minimal security.
It is hardly surprising that the introduction of Artificial Intelligence & automated technology fills many with dread.
The subject was recently discussed in Davos at the annual WEF meeting & the World Economics Forum predict a total loss of 7.1 million jobs, offset by a gain of 2 million new positions. (in 15 leading countries)
Like all new technologies there will be gainers & losers, most of the job losses will be in customer service industries & healthcare whereas the 2 million jobs will be mainly highly paid engineering & scientific roles to deliver these new technologies.
Of course none of this is inevitable. ‘The Future’ is not a destination which already exists & to which we travel inexorably. We all create the future & it is largely a result of the political & ideological choices we make on the journey.
80 years ago this week was the first continuous TV transmission by the infant BBC using Technology developed by the Scottish innovator John Logie Baird. Back then the nascent industry was thriving with many competing pioneers much like the denizens of the World Wide Web decades later.
Like most Technologies only the rich could afford to participate as TV sets cost many multiples of the average wage but as the receivers became mass produced more & more of us joined the TV owners club.
Today it is estimated that 80% of the world’s households own at least one TV so it doesn’t matter if you live in a Palace or the poorest slum you can still be dreaming of Californication.
As the technology developed from black & white to colour in the 1960’s & then digital in the 1990’s the image quality improved dramatically. Screens became larger as the image density increased. Samsung have just announced the first commercially available 110 inch screen !
In parallel the content has expanded exponentially as has the proportion using pay per view services so we have an almost infinite choice of programmes to watch from all over the Globe.
The most watched event in the history of TV was the 1969 Moon Landings with an estimated 503 million viewers word wide. Friends crowded round their more affluent neighbours sets to watch a grainy black & white image as Neil Armstrong took a ‘Giant leap for mankind’ his famous words distorted across the void.
Despite all this ‘progress’ its ironic how many of us still complain that there is ‘nothing on TV tonight’
Do you, like me, tune in to ‘Dragons Den’ every week to see wannabees compete for investment from ‘successful multi-millionaire entrepreneurs’ to make their dream a reality.
Do you cringe when you see the hopeful saps flounder because they don’t know the difference between Gross & Net profit or snigger when they hopelessly overvalue their nascent company.
All great fun but, I don’t know about you, I think there has been a real dearth of Innovation on the show recently, and it all seems very very dated.
Nowadays there are some much better sources for funding innovation which don’t depend on the whim of the multi-millionaire but instead are based on crowd funding – investment from ordinary individuals like you & I attracted by the innovation process & the chance to partake in the creative process.
Here are some examples of these alternative sources of finance for the budding entrepreneur:-
Check them out for yourself:-
There are many more & they all represent a growing trend – a great idea, probably promoted via social media, attracts a crowd of interested backers, the project develops momentum & its ultimate success rewards everyone involved to one degree or another.
Perhaps this is indicative of the way society is evolving – from Capitalism to Collaboration – where innovation is no longer dependent upon the whims of a small minority of wealthy individuals but is propelled by the shared interest & active participation of the many. firstname.lastname@example.org
The global nanotechnology-based medical devices market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 11-12% from 2014 to 2019. The rapid surge in aging population, increasing international research collaboration, and increased government support for nanotechnology are the major factors driving the growth of the nanotechnology-based medical devices market.
This is one of the areas in which nanotechnology is set to make an impact and who’s use will grow exponentially & prove to be truly disruptive. It may not be long before, instead of going into hospital for major surgery we simply down a glass of nanobots which travel through the bloodstream to arrive at their pre-programmed destination to perform corrective survey without any disruptive invasive procedure.
Another exciting example of Nanotechnology is self-healing materials. These will be able to repair themselves by utilising tiny robots which live on or in the material itself. The Automotive industry is actively engaged in research to develop self -healing paints which will remain scratch free indefinitely.
Nanotechnology is a truly disruptive advance which is set to transform our world forever.
‘Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. If we can rise to the challenge, we can gain profound insights into what makes us human, develop new treatments for brain disease and build revolutionary new computing technologies. Today, for the first time, modern ICT has brought these goals within sight.’
‘The HBP is working to develop a collaboration infrastructure, which would among other tools include network and cellular simulators, in-silico experimentation facilities, and the opportunity to execute the combination of simulator model and in-silico experiment on a supercomputer or computer cluster. During the project, the tools and the collaboration infrastructure developed by the HBP researchers will be made accessible for the entire neuroscience community. At the seminar, HBP researchers and external neuroscientists will explore the challenges, opportunities and implications of the HBP collaboration infrastructure, and formulate hypotheses, focusing on testing of cognitive tasks like spatial navigation and visual action recognition, that could be tested when the facilities has been developed.’
These developments once thought fantastical reflect the thoughts of pioneering futurist Ray Kurzweil who has talked about the idea of a ‘singularity’ – a point in time in the near future when the development of artificial intelligence reaches a point beyond which it is almost impossible to predict what will happen as humans combine with intelligent machines to produce a race of ‘super- humans’ capable of extended life with un-imaginable consequences. These ideas are both terrifying & exhilarating.
Once considered purely Science Fiction the Human Brain Project suggests that this truly disruptive technology may be closer than we think.
The Internet of Things edges closer at the Port of Hamburg. 40,000 vehicles move through the port daily & a smart network of sensors on roads & in parking places is helping to speed the flow. This is the Internet of Things (IOT) in a real world application. The system delivers real time information to a variety of computer systems enabling Logistics to be managed more effectively.
The real benefits will come with machine to machine communications completely independent of human input. This is the ultimate destination of the IOT & is truly ‘disruptive technology’.
Imagine in the near future the same technology will take direct control of your car during periods of heavy congestion, eliminating bunching & moving large volumes of vehicles inches apart at a constant speed.
The Internet of Things will change society forever & is another example of technology which causes a seismic shift.
In 1947 Engineers at Bell Labs invented the Transistor. This was followed up by a team at Fairchild Semiconductor who developed the Semiconductor Integrated Circuit (I.C) in 1958. Both examples of ‘Disruptive Technology’ which changed the world forever. The phones & computers we take for granted today would not have been possible without these developments.
The invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 is another example of Disruptive Technology which brings about a seismic shift in society.
So what is the next Disruptive Technology ? In the next posts we will examine some of the emerging technologies which may change the fabric of society forever:-
Graphene – is an allotrope of Carbon which forms a 2D hexagonal lattice one atom thick. It is incredibly strong (100 x that of steel, by weight) & also very light & flexible. It is also incredibly conductive to both electricity & heat. The potential is enormous as a material to be used in the manufacture of aerospace & automotive components.
A number of U.K companies are involved in the development of Graphene including Applied Graphene Materials as are a number of Universities. In March George Osborne officially opened the National Graphene Institute in Manchester with a government grant of over £38 million.
Once Graphene is produced in industrial quantities its use will transform society with lighter, stronger structures in Aerospace, buildings & Automotive. to name a few. It’s electrical properties will revolutionise electronics. More efficient battery technologies will make electrically powered vehicles commonplace on our roads & its use in solar cell technology will lead to cheaper greener energy.
Graphene will Disrupt Society in ways bounded by our imaginations.
The Technology event which grabbed my attention this week wasn’t the Apple Watch, with its feeble battery life of 17 hrs & dubious applications, it was the most successful solar powered flight ever by the Solar Impulse.
Powered purely by solar energy this amazing craft is part way to completing the first round the world voyage, flying both day & night, powered solely by solar energy.
The implications of this technology are enormous. Every year we spend billions of pounds & consume millions of barrels of oil shipping products across the globe at enormous cost financially and environmentally. If we could harness solar powered technology to transport a fraction of these goods we will be reducing consumption of fossil fuels & lowering their damaging effect on our fragile eco-system.
We must harness the power of innovation to combat Climate Change & the success of this amazing craft can point us in the right direction.