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The Economist’s TQ | New materials for the factory of the future – insight from world-leading innovation speaker Paul Markillie

Paul MarkillieA greater understanding of the properties of materials at the smallest scale is transforming manufacturing. This is changing the way things are designed and produced, from light bulbs to batteries, cars and aircraft.

In the Economist’s latest Technology Quarterly (TQ) – a special section focusing on recent trends and developments in science and technology – Paul Markillie, the paper’s innovation editor and world-leading expert on the disruptive impact of new technologies, explores how advances in materials science are leading to a new age of designer materials for bespoke factories.

Key findings include:

  • The days of trial and error in selecting materials for manufacturing are ending. The emergence of a “materials genome” will soon enable engineers to choose materials tailor-made for particular applications.
  • Engineering nanoparticles will allow breakthroughs such as rechargeable batteries that store much more power for laptops, smartphones and electric cars.
  • New materials will require very different production techniques. Some cars are already being made from carbon-fibre composites without a weld or rivet in sight, and components for jet engines are produced by 3D printers.

Never before have manufacturers had such a choice of materials to work with. But to take full advantage of a range of novel properties they will have to learn to do things differently. That will mean reorganising factories, building new supply chains and ensuring that their workforce is up to speed.

Click here to check out the full report.

For more information on how to book Paul Markillie as a speaker for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Singularity University, shares his top tech picks for 2015

Peter Diamandis speakerPeter Diamandis, the co-founder and executive chairman of Singularity University and the X PRIZE Foundation, has singled out 11 of the most exciting new technologies moving from deceptive to disruptive this year. Here are his top tech picks for 2015:

  1. Virtual Reality: Expect a lot more action on the virtual and augmented reality front. Watch out for game changers like Magic Leap (in which Google just invested over $500 million.
  2. Mass-market robots: 2015 is going to see the introduction of consumer-friendly robots in a store near you.
  3. Autonomous vehicles: Beyond Google, many major car brands are working on autonomous solutions.
  4. Drones everywhere: They’re getting cheaper, easier to use, more automated, and are now finding more useful and lucrative applications.
  5. Wireless power: Companies like uBeam, Ossia and others are developing solutions to charge your phones, laptops, wearables, etc. wirelessly as you go about your business.
  6. Data & machine learning: There is gold in your data. This year will see data collection and mining that data becoming more turn-key.
  7. Large-scale genome sequencing and data mining: In 2015, we will see explosive, exponential growth in genomics and longevity research.
  8. Sensor explosion: The combination of sensors and wearables, increased connectivity, new manufacturing methods (like 3D printing), and improved data mining capabilities will create a smart, connected world.
  9. Voice-control and “language-independent” interaction: The Star Trek universal translator is just around the corner!
  10. 3D Printing: The number of applications is increasing, and printers, scanners, and CAD modelling software will become more accessible, cheaper, and easier to use.
  11. Bitcoin: Emerging smartphone markets in developing countries, better “interfaces”, and more commercial adopters who accept bitcoin as a form of payment will all play a role in a brighter bitcoin future.

Click here for the full article.

For more information on how to book Peter as a keynote speaker for your conference or client event, please get in touch with Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call on +44 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Paul Markillie discusses the future of innovation

Paul Markillie, a global expert on the disruptive impact of new technologies and Innovation Editor for The Economist Magazine, joins us for three quick questions on the future of innovation as a part of the Chartwell Podcast series.

Paul is particularly excited about the potential of nano-satellite technology (pictured above), which can do much of the same jobs that a big satellite can do but for a fraction of the cost. Listen in to find out more!

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For more information on how to book Paul for an event, please e-mail our Managing Partner, Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call +44 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Six things I learned – Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO of Pavegen

Laurence is the award winning founder & CEO of Pavegen Systems, an innovative clean-technology company based in London. An industrial design engineer by training, Laurence spent his early career working for one of Europe’s largest energy companies trying to develop street lights powered by wind and solar. The challenge of finding new energy sources to power urban life captivated Laurence. The answer came to him on a crowded train station pounded by thousands of feet. Laurence developed the idea into Pavegen tiles, a technology that harvests the kinetic impact of footfalls and transforms it into an on-demand electricity supply.

  1. “There isn’t really anyone to help you in the beginning”.

Securing funding for prototype innovation remains a great challenge for budding entrepreneurs.

Laurence found himself in a chicken & egg situation. Demand for Pavegen’s products – thanks to effective early marketing – came before Laurence had developed a finished product. Finding investors to back a new innovation in its pre-revenue stages, investment in 2007-9 was exceedingly difficult. Laurence found banks would not lend, Venture capital wanted to see revenue before investing, Universities demanded a 50% stake and government subsidy schemes were lacking.

  1. Government funding has a high impact when it fosters entrepreneurial networks.

In the UK, “Technology Innovation Centers” (TICs) or catapult centers have the potential to make a real difference. These physical centers aim to bring together scientists, engineers, business people and other creative minds into flexible work spaces. TICs offer entrepreneurs a place to meet other people on the same journey and share their experiences (and struggles) – this is invaluable.

Visionary Business Angels also make a significant contribution to early stage funding of innovative products where venture capital, business and banks would reject the risk profile. Schemes such as the UK Enterprise Investment Scheme (which currently delivers tax breaks as a proportion of the investment), have proved a stimulus to investment in innovation with a higher risk profile.

  1. The Future of energy is decentralized power networks

Whilst much of the focus of renewable energy has focused on it’s potential contribution to the grid, Laurence believes we will see more local decentralised networks producing energy when and where it is needed.

Whilst these networks won’t replace the National Grid, they will help drive localised energy savings by providing supplementary power supplies. Energy harvesting products, such as Pavegen, combat the problem of variable demand and peak load spikes by producing energy precisely when buildings / areas are experiencing the highest numbers of people moving through them.

In this way, decentralised networks will help stabilise peaks and troughs in energy demand and work to both reduce the cost to specific sites and reduce wastage across the system as a whole.

  1. The holy grail of the energy industry is better, more efficient storage

Better power storage capabilities is vital. In the midst of national debates about the future of UK energy supply, wind farm operators are being paid to turn their wind farms off at peak production times because the grid cannot deal with the load. With better storage technologies these hours could be used to maximize energy generation at the largest scales.

At a smaller scale, many technologies now require better, more efficient batteries. The goal is to develop batteries that operate at over 70% efficiency – this could have major implications for technology right across the spectrum of production, distribution and consumption.

  1. The Importance of fun: gamification and marketing

Early Pavegen prototypes incorporated a light which lit when stood upon. This visual representation of the underlying technology gave great momentum to early marketing efforts. Despite outputting a small amount of harvested energy, the lights also attracted even more footfall. By making the technology fun and providing a visual reaction to the users action, Pavegen generated a highly engaging product that people would go out of their way to use.

Pavegen’s products now have features which make their integration into buildings and workspaces seamless and discrete, but Laurence continues to be influenced by the power of fun.

  1. For prototyping and production runs 3D printing isn’t going to replace quality manufacturing any time soon.

Industrial Design Engineers have been using a precursor of modern 3D printing for over 30 years under the name of rapid prototyping. As such the luster of the technology and it’s promise to allow entrepreneurs to quickly give substance to their ideas doesn’t hold much value to Laurence. Citing the continued high cost of a 3D print, Laurence recommends that budding entrepreneurs focus on making good links with manufacturers and factory operators locally. A surprising number of high quality, highly skilled manufacturers still operate in the UK and were able to furnish Pavegen with low cost prototypes during phases of research and development.

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