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Transformative Technologies for Your Business

Michael Holman, Ph.D., Vice President, Intelligence
August 20, 2018

Lux Research’s 18 for 2018 – Using data & insights to spot disruptive technologies

An essential job for any corporate innovation function is to spot the technologies on the horizon today that are going to become the big growth opportunities – or big disruptive threats – of the future. There’s more to the innovation life than just foresight, but if you’re a Chief Innovation Officer and your organization didn’t prepare your company for, say, the rise of the Internet of Things or the appearance of 3D printing before the rest of the C-suite started reading about it in The Economist, you didn’t look very good (and maybe didn’t keep your job).

Traditionally, spotting these key emerging tech innovations has been a matter of tapping into the insights of smart people who hang out near the cutting edge – hear what the VCs are buzzing about, go see what’s popping up in makerspaces, walk the halls at top universities. In the past, that’s more or less been our approach at Lux as well – our analysts use lots of primary research to stay on top of trends and understand their likely impact, and each year we’ve put out a “Top Technologies to Watch in 20XX” report based on what we were seeing.

In recent years however, we’ve built out our data science capabilities (what we call the Lux Intelligence Engine), which allowed us to tap into data on patents, publications, government and VC funding, combined with our own proprietary data and analysis, to help guide those choices in a more systematic way. We certainly don’t see this data as a substitute for expert insight – numbers unfortunately do lie, all the time. If you’re just counting patents or tallying up VC dollars, it’s easy to be misled into investing in carbon nanotubes or partnering up with Theranos. But you certainly can’t ignore it either; data science is going to be a more and more important tool in the innovation process

So, what did we come up with? Armed with this data, our analysts sifted through over 2,000 candidates to pick 18 technologies to watch for 2018 and beyond. You can see the whole list in the image, and watch the complimentary webinar we completed on the project. (Lux members can click here to get the full report). But here’s basically how it worked.


One of the key tools we leveraged was the Lux Tech Signal, a composite measure of innovation interest from different data sources that has impressive results as a leading indicator of not only more research, but also actual commercial impact for tech innovations. (Lux members can get more details on the methodology here.) Here’s what the Lux Tech Signal shows for machine learning, #1 on the list. There’s a huge increase in innovation interest over the last 15 years or so, a clear inflection point in 2012 that foreshadows the growing commercial impact we see for machine learning today, and a very high current score that validates machine learning as still one of the hottest research areas today. 


So, what’s next? Well, work is already underway on the 19 for 2019 report! Technologies our analysts are monitoring closely that didn’t quite make the cut of the top 18 this year – such as blockchain, commercial drones, CO2 capture, computer vision, and generative design – could be poised to join the top ranks, while others might fade in importance.

Our analysts are actively monitoring and analyzing these technologies, as well as many others, in Lux’s Tech Pages (for Lux members). In the meantime, we’re continuing to explore with clients the various ways data science and artificial intelligence can aid the innovation process. Look for more later this year, and feel free to email us with any comments and questions. We would love to hear any feedback you have on our “18 for 2018” list and your efforts to monetize these tech innovations!