Imperial academics have outlined their visions for the year 2041, from smart grids to making nuclear fusion a reality.
With energy prices increasing and issues like global supply chain management, international and sector-specific workforce shortages and cyber security threats creating international crises over the past few years, Imperial College London experts have shared their visions for how the world might look in 20 years’ time.
They outline how emerging technologies will help to meet ever-increasing demand for computation – often seen as a solution to some of the issues above – and the energy it requires.
By exploring the developments in their specialist fields and the wider horizon of emerging technology, Imperial Tech Foresight has created the 2041 Scenarios, where we have achieved both quantum computing and nuclear fusion – and everything in between.
These narratives are shaped by Imperial’s experts and curated by the Imperial Tech Foresight team, Imperial’s in-house futures research function which uses the visionary expertise of world-leading academics to create scenarios and speculative stories about the future.
Smart grids, nuclear fusion and AI-assisted chemistry
Some of the academic insights as part of the project include:
Smart grids and energy management
Dr Jeff Hardy works on how smart grids and developing technology for energy production is set to revolutionise the capacity for individuals and major generators to deliver on-demand energy that is better for the planet.
Making nuclear fusion a reality
Dr Robert Kingham works on nuclear fusion’s potential to solve the increasing global hunger for zero carbon energy. In the future where we’ve achieved nuclear fusion, this takes us from energy poverty to energy abundance.
AI-assisted molecular chemistry
Professor Claire Adjiman researches molecule discovery using artificial intelligence to computationally and quickly filter through millions of molecular combinations – discoveries which may revolutionise the development and manufacturing of chemicals behind the next generation of pharmaceuticals and materials.
Nick Price, Foresight Strategy Manager at Tech Foresight, said: "Why limit ourselves to thinking we only have one future when many are possible? A world of enduring energy paucity is a narrow view. Imperial experts bring the science grounded possibility of brighter futures into focus." Imperial Tech Foresight is a service offering from Imperial Business Partners.
Immersive technology, localised energy markets and AI for product development
Two Imperial startups have also been highlighted as developing potential technologies for the future.
Extend Robotics, founded by former Imperial postdoctoral research associate Dr Chang Liu, is developing immersive technology to ensure that humans can maintain control over high-precision tasks carried out by robots at scale and distance. Dr Liu recently successfully pitched for £150,000 investment on BBC’s Dragons’ Den.
With decentralised energy networks a key factor in a number of the Scenarios, Imperial-founded startup Sitigrid is already well-placed to capitalise on opportunities across the world. By sharing locally-produced energy on smaller, smarter grids, individual users can become both producers and consumers of energy from their neighbours, increasing energy security and reducing reliance on the incumbent owners and managers of national and regional-level infrastructure. This potentially disrupts the architecture of the energy grids and the makeup of the energy markets.
Founded by Professor Francesco Montomoli and Dr Richard Ahlfeld, Monolith AI applies AI to improve design and production across a range of industries, such as automotive, industrial and heavy manufacturing. The team recently raised £8.5 million and became a research partner of the College.
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