The deeptech revolution is radically transforming our society and our economy. Belgium can and must play a role as a world leader, particularly in the health sector.
No one is ignoring it, the digital revolution has had a significant impact on our way of life and on the global economy. On esteem the contribution of the digital sector to global economic activity at 11.5 trillion dollars per year, and the market capitalization of Nasdaq alone ($ 47 trillion) is greater than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States and the European Union (EU).
This revolution was made possible by the unprecedented scientific and technological advancements in the nanoelectronics industry – a smartphone today has a computing power 1,000,000 times greater than that of the NASA computer which allowed man to land on the moon in 1969.
New underlying trend
Although spectacular, this information technology revolution represents only 15% of the global economy. The way in which most of the goods around us are produced and transported has remained the same since the mid-twentieth century..
Since 2010-15 however, a new underlying trend is emerging. Advances in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and bio and quantum technologies are giving us capabilities that were previously unimaginable and are emerging. radically transform most sectors of the classical economy.
The medical and pharmaceutical sciences are a good example.. Despite much progress, they are still mainly placed in continuity of techniques discoveries before the first half of the twentieth century: antibiotics, medical imaging, vaccines and synthetic molecules.
The success of mRNA vaccines illustrates the radical transformation underway.
The success of mRNA vaccines illustrates the radical transformation underway. Instead of cultivating conventional viral agents, it is now a question of producing mRNA whose specific genetic code allows the desired effect to be obtained. The success is impressive. According to the New York Times, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine set to become best-selling drug of all time and Moderna’s market value increased from $ 7 billion to $ 123 billion.
This breakthrough was achieved by combining cutting-edge skills in nanotechnologies used for sequencing and mRNA synthesis with cutting-edge knowledge in the field of life sciences.
With us, the GAFAMs of 2050
This is precisely where the power and complexity of the deeptech revolution reside. It is working at the intersection of cutting edge tech skills (nanotechnologies, electronic artificial intelligence or materials science), and in the specific field (transport, energy, agriculture, pharmacy, …). The actors who manage to combine these skills successfully will be the winners of the deeptech revolution!
It is no more and no less to make our territory the Silicon Valley of healthcare, home to the next global giants in the sector, which in 2050 will be the equivalent of GAFAM.
The associated presence on the Belgian territory of world-class pharma ecosystem and life sciences, and a unique competence center in deeptech around imec uniquely positions us for lead the dance in the deeptech transformation of the healthcare sector! This is an unprecedented opportunity and it’s time to shed our cards. It is no more and no less to make our territory the Silicon Valley of healthcare, home to the next global giants in the sector, which in 2050 will be the equivalent of GAFAM.
Colossal private and public investments
Talent and skill will not be enough to win this battle. This transformation requires substantial investments, both private and public to support new players who will dominate the sector.
At a time when public authorities are investing heavily to revive the economy, it is absolutely critical to reserve part of these resources to support startups, companies, laboratories and research centers in a specific and targeted manner that allows us to make these advances. It is indeed illusory to believe that the deeptech battle can be won without substantial public investment. The United States invests $ 2.2 billion annually in technology companies through the SBIR and STTR programs. In addition, there are numerous tax advantages and the famous research budgets of NASA and DARPA. Even the richest in the world are well subsidized: In 2015, already, the Los Angeles Times headlined that Elon Musk had received 4.9 billion dollars in government aid.
The reluctance of our financial sector penalizes our leading companies.
The financial sector must also take a step forward to be able to exploit this opportunity: he is too unfamiliar with advanced technologies, which prevents him from assessing opportunities and risks in a relevant way, with the result reluctance in this area which penalizes our leading companies. Deeptech can generate immense returns and long-term growth, but investors will need to have access to the right skills to invest with due diligence.
Through Olivier Rousseaux, director of Venturing activities at Imec.