Strategic markets that are slow to pay off
Emerging digital technologies drive a paradigm shift in control over data and critical infrastructure, rather than creating new markets. Which is why the digital sovereignty issues they create are being so closely scrutinised by governments.
Digital innovation continues to thrive
The current wave of innovation lies not in a dominant technology, in the way that the web, the cloud and mobile have been over the past fifteen years, but rather in a multitude of technological innovations (artificial intelligence, IoT…) and often in their combination. This effervescence creates a complex situation for businesses which, unable to invest in every area, are having to make difficult choices. This explains why some technologies, even though they are strategic, are generating only meagre revenue and/or developing slowly. We are also seeing a host of innovations being rolled out around existing, pervasive technologies and solutions, so which do not generate revenue directly. Lastly are those technologies that some companies are using in-house, as a way to maintain their edge, but not making them available for sale – such as Amazon and robotics.
Artificial intelligence is the most hotly anticipated technology
20 most influential technologies in 2025
Internet leaders keeping the US
American companies are ubiquitous in the development of emerging technologies. They are relying on a string of acquisitions to stay on top, leveraging their market caps and massive spending on R&D. America’s top five OTT companies are now all in the global top 15, all sectors combined, with Amazon enjoying a solid lead over Alphabet. They are especially strong on artificial intelligence and on cloud and edge computing, but also have a solid foothold in virtual reality (Oculus) and LEO satellites LEO, and in virtually every emerging segment.
The US has the field almost to itself when it comes to R&D on digital technologies, well outpacing the Chinese (with the sole exception of Huawei). Europe, meanwhile, has only three players in the race: Nokia, Ericsson, SAP – i.e. as many as South Korea (headed by Samsung), Japan (Hitachi, NTT) and China.
US enjoys solid dominance of technology R&D thanks to OTT players
Tech ccompany spending on R&D in 2017
Governments paying close attention
Public sector players also have a keen interest in emerging technologies that have the power to shift the balance of power in multifarious ways. First, technologies drive a paradigm shift, which could mean a loss of control and so of sovereignty. Blockchain, for instance, throws a wrench in transaction tracking, and the underlying cryptocurrencies escape government control. The development of AI, and especially machine learning and deep learning, are generating algorithms capable of engendering inextricable shifts. This in turn is raising a number of ethical, safety, etc. concerns, especially as AI makes its way into objects and future (6G) networks. Second, there are still opportunities for early investors to stake a claim over these new technologies. Although, given the scale of American spending, this is only likely to occur in more niche areas.