30 Emerging Technologies You Need to Know About

We’ve been writing about investing in emerging technologies now for about 3 years here at Nanalyze. Prior to that, we were discussing one well-hyped emerging technology called “nanotechnology” in our Nanalyze forums around the time that George Dubyah Bush was making a big deal about nano in 2004. Up until recently, we always liked to refer to the sort of technologies we discuss as “disruptive technologies” which is another way of saying “emerging technologies”. The most commonly used phrase though is that of “emerging technologies” and the University of Sussex even published a 47-page research paper titled “What is An Emerging Technology?”. We much prefer some of the more concise definitions out there such as the ones seen below:

  • Characterized by radical novelty, relatively fast growth, coherence, prominent impact, and uncertainty and ambiguity” – Wikipedia
  • Are projected to have significant systemic and long-lasting economic, social and political impacts” – Tim Harper
  • A new technology that will substantially alter the business and social environment with a time horizon extending to 5 to 10 years” – The Law Dictionary

We would also add that disruptive technologies often seem to take a page out of a sci-fi novel. They are almost always very interesting to learn about, and many of them sound so cool that you can’t help but want to invest in them because they sound like the next big thing. Every year, the list of disruptive technologies will grow to represent new breakthroughs and shrink to represent technologies that a) didn’t prove to be economically viable and were laid by the wayside or b) were so economically viable that they became mainstream technologies. All the while, the remaining emerging technologies travel slowly along what is commonly known as the “Gartner Hype Cycle” which can be seen below:


So what does a list of emerging technologies for 2016 look like? You’ll get all kinds of answers for that question, depending on who you ask, so we put together a list of emerging technologies for 2016 based on lists produced by 4 sources we would consider to be subject matter experts. Here is that list which contains 26 emerging technologies:

World Economic Forum Scientific American MIT Tech Review McKinsey Total Score
Internet of Things X   X X  3
NextGen Batteries X     X  2
Blockchain X        1
Advanced Materials X     X  2
Autonomous Vehicles X   X X 3
Organs On Chips X  1
Renewable Energy X   X X 3
Artificial Intelligence X X   X 3
Optogenetics X        1
Systems Metabolic Engineering X        1
Fuel Cell Vehicles   X X    2
Robotics   X   X  2
Recyclable Thermoset Plastics   X     1
Genetic Engineering   X  X    2
3D Printing   X   X  2
Distributed Manufacturing   X      1
Drones   X     1
Neuromorphic Technology   X      1
Digital Genome   X X X 3
Gene Editing     X   1
Conversational Interfaces     X    1
Reusable Rockets     X    1
Slack     X   1
Mobile Internet       X 1
Cloud       X  1
Oil and Gas Recovery       X  1


20 of the 26 emerging technologies above we have written about so you can just click the above links in the table to see articles on each of these emerging technologies. 4 of the emerging technologies we had never researched and these were as follows:

  • Optogenetics – A biological technique that uses light to control cells in living tissues
  • Recyclable Thermoset Plastics – This essentially means that we will be able to recycle all plastics and will be ubiquitous by 2025
  • Distributed Manufacturing – Replace as much of the supply chain as possible with digital data
  • Slack – A software-as-a-service team collaboration tool which also happens to be a unicorn.

The last three emerging technologies above (mobile internet, cloud, and oil/gas recovery) were a bit of a surprise. Almost everyone has access to mobile internet these days with the proliferation of smart phones. Pretty much everything these days has been stuffed into the cloud and we’re getting close to mainstream adoption. Oil and gas recovery technology seems to be so far along that the U.S. overtook Saudi Arabia in oil production a few years ago. Sure, there are better extraction technologies to invest in, faster mobile internet to be developed, and more advanced cloud computing technologies being worked on. But from an investor’s perspective, it would seem that these ships have sailed already.

We also have to consider some technologies that are not in the above list but are well worth considering. In addition to the 26 emerging technologies listed above, we would propose adding 4 more to the list as follows:

What you need to know about emerging technologies is that they are at the root of many of the greatest investment stories out there today. When people talk about “finding the next Microsoft” what they are really saying is that emerging technologies will make the next trillion dollar markets that don’t exist today. When we first read about nanotechnology, we became so excited that the first question which popped into our minds was “how can we invest in this emerging technology”? Over the years of trying to answer that question, we always came away with three takeaways:

  1. Generally there are very few ways for retail investors to invest in emerging technologies because they are often in the form of early stage startups and acquired before an IPO
  2. In the majority of cases, there will be an over-the-counter (OTC) stock trying to ride the coattails of whatever exciting emerging technology happens to be getting airtime on the news.
  3. You need to understand these technologies before investing them, and they are not so difficult to understand. You just need to spend some time describing them in layman’s terms.

That’s what we’re doing here on Nanalyze. We’re helping you understand these 30 emerging technologies because odds are that one or more of these will be the seed for the next Microsoft. And you don’t want to be the person who misses out on that big of an investment opportunity. If you think there’s a disruptive technology that we missed, drop us a line in the comments section below and we’ll add it to our list!

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  • Howard Hornfeld

    The next Microsoft will be some company that gets fusion energy to become commercial. Fusion energy is no longer “future energy” or “We’ll have fusion energy in 20 years and always will!” During the past several decades the various complex technologies to “do” fusion have developed to the point where we believe we can do it, NOW, but it is not straight-forward, and will still require 8-10 years and close to US$3 to prove it. But the payback will be enormous; consider cheap, clean, safe, simple, non-political energy can provide electricity for desalination projects, for hospitals/medical facilities in developing regions, street and home lighting in growing cities, etc. Electricity is THE key element for growth; in today’s world there is NO GROWTH WITHOUT ELECTRICITY.

    • Andrew

      Technological challenge is not a problem anymore. Problem is control over energy. Society will never be free and progressive while energy is being sold. Limited access creates power positions to control and rule.

  • Nanalyze

    Thank you for the comment Howard. 100 of Elon Musk’s Gigafactories are supposed to be enough to provide the world with sustainable energy so we already have a known method. As a species we need to make some hard decisions about what direction we want to take. It’s important that investors are putting money in the right places. Fusion energy would be great but nobody’s ponied up the funding apparently.

  • William Fauntleroy

    I am no expert on fusion, and I may have my data wrong, but I recently read an article (WSJ I think) that said the US is significantly behind other countries in nuclear weapons and power development, primarily for 2 reasons. One was the US went very negative on Nukes 30 years ago as a primary energy source so those experts changed careers, and the commander/s in chief said disarm or status quo but do not build new, while other countries of all sizes have been on a tear developing and building new capabilities. It also said the US nuke weapons we have today are nearly useless compared to the new stuff being developed because our old stuff is so out of date technologically.

    I thought the article said fusion technology was one of the prime areas other countries were exploiting but might be wrong. If correct, then perhaps fusion either Deserves more focus from the US or it will happen quickly if we get an executive order to retool in order to protect the US.

    • Nanalyze

      Thank you for your comment William.

      I recall just a few days ago seeing an article that said Russia surpasses the U.S. in the number of nukes. Nothing was said about the quality. Trump seems to be “pro nuke” which means he’ll certainly take an inventory of what the U.S. has and then update it if need be.

      Regarding who is focusing on fusion technology, check out this article:

      Notice that each of those companies has a very high profile investor. The U.S. has historically dominated because of innovation and it’s no reason to think otherwise in the case of fusion.

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