The World Economic Forum, established in 1971, serves as a meeting place where international business, political, and nonprofit leaders can come together to discuss ways to improve life for the people of the global community. To award achievement in the area of 21st-century technologies, the WEF honors select companies as Technology Pioneers.
Every year since 2000, the WEF has recognized approximately 30 emerging companies whose design structure, ideas, and innovative use of technology hold the potential to greatly influence the way people live and work in the future. The selection committee, whose members come from a variety of backgrounds that include entrepreneurship, technology, academia, and venture capital funding, looks for companies whose leaders have demonstrated the ability to develop creative solutions to today’s problems.
The criteria for selection as a WEF Technology Pioneer include forward-thinking leadership, commercial viability, a high degree of innovation, and the potential to make significant contributions to the well-being of the broader society. A biotech company needs to have reached stage two or beyond, and a design or IT company must at least have a working prototype available. Additionally, each company must bring in less than $100 million in revenue.
So far, hundreds of companies from five continents have earned the Technology Pioneer honor. And most of these firms have gone on to either to be acquired by larger corporations or thrive as major international companies on their own. Past recipients of the Technology Pioneer designation include digital publishing and e-book service Scribd, gene-editing company Editas, Spotify, Airbnb, and Twitter.
The 2016 Technology Pioneer companies include representatives from the most cutting-edge tech-powered sectors today. The following are only a few of the honorees:
This Luxembourg-based company, established in 2011, has received recent widespread publicity for its e-wallet and digital transaction solutions for financial operations. Its systems allow users to conduct mutually agreed-upon transactions online in a secured environment, without resorting to intermediaries. A blockchain, in general, is a structured data set that allows the creation of a digitally based accounting ledger. Through high-level cryptographic processes, each user can enter data into the ledger. The transactions recorded on the ledger can then be shared among a network of computers.
Formerly known as the technology base for the operations of the online currency bitcoin, Blockchain is now its own corporate entity. To date, it has raised some $30 million in funding from investors in Silicon Valley, London, and Wall Street. In addition, the company offers real-time analytics for tracking the growing digital marketplace.
2. Universal Bio Mining
Headquartered in Arizona in the United States, Universal Bio Mining is a five-year-old company that concentrates on improving the methodologies involved in the production of precious metals through applying the processes of contemporary molecular biology. The company works to open up the value inherent in mining assets, thereby preventing the use of virgin “greenfield” sites while lowering the emission of carbon dioxide. In addition, Universal Bio Mining also helps the mining and oil exploration sectors in their environmental restoration efforts.
Based in France, this biopharmaceutical company uses gene-edited “helper” T-cells to create innovative immunotherapeutics to fight cancer. The company takes T-cells donated by healthy individuals and edits those cells’ genomes so that they will seek out and eradicate cancerous cells. The ultimate goal is to manufacture an easily transportable drug that could help patients—even those without enough of their own T-cells—harness their own immune systems to fight various types of leukemia and solid cancer tumors.
This 2-year-old Swedish company provides an online platform for the crowdsourcing of street-view map photographs. It makes use of machine-vision technology to weave individual pictures together in three dimensions, thus creating real-time maps. Local and regional governments around the world have used the technology to improve their own public services systems.
Additionally, the free Mapillary app enables users to take pictures of their everyday routes and share them by uploading them to the company’s platform. The combined photos yield richly detailed, 3-D, ground-level views. Users can also use the app to go on virtual tours of numerous locations throughout the world.
From its London headquarters, this biomedical company employs an operating system called Antha and a sophisticated programming language designed specifically to interface with the biological sciences. The company’s goal is to take advantage of the potential of automated IT processes to scale up the yield of biological processes to improve human health, nutrition, manufacturing endeavors, and energy production. Established in 2011, Synthace has already collaborated with major international corporations such as Dow AgroSciences and Microsoft.