Pittsburgh Technical Council

Collisions of the Future: Don’t Miss New Industries Being Created Before Our Eyes

Collisions of the Future: Don’t Miss New Industries Being Created Before Our Eyes

Article Published: July 18, 2017

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In the constant sea change of technology advancements, we often fail to see the tension as a mark of time, a pivot or a new direction—except in hindsight.

These business jolts launch us into a new era only to find ourselves wondering how we missed the pinnacle of change. Businesses fail, missing opportunities that could have been leveraged. These are the stories of business transformation that I relish.

Amazon buys Whole Foods. Really? Yes, really. How did you miss that impending collision? It all comes down to roboticized processes, including warehouse and logistics. In  fact, Pittsburgh has been working on this for decades through the work of NREC, Lucas Systems, Carnegie Mellon University, Vocollect, FedEx and others.

Why is this a surprise? The democratization of information, interconnectivity of any piece of hardware, global positioning systems and mobility has yielded industries, not just companies, which were unheard of 10 years ago. Why are we continually looking inside our own companies for innovation? What are the new verticals in the next decade? How do we leverage our region’s capabilities and build new industries, not just products? Think about life sciences research, artificial intelligence and materials science. How will that collision change the way we live? The next chapter begins by opening the channels of connectivity across these specialized sectors. Our task for Pittsburgh is to ensure that the cultivation of these new solutions is built and grown right here.

These are some of the questions we ask ourselves at the Pittsburgh Technology Council as we build programs and services to support the region’s most influential sectors. When we started our Creative Industries Network a decade ago, many were skeptical (Andrew Carnegie built what is now Carnegie Mellon based upon these exact principles), and many doubted why this work mattered. Fast forward: We have forged an annual CREATE! Festival that receives national and, recently, international recognition. Collisions of learning performance, textiles, music, food and digital communication are percolating the next iteration for lifestyles.

While we see the sweeping transformation of Wal-Mart acquiring Jet.com and the steady collapse of retail chains, there is a resurgence of intentional local establishments where neighborhoods and connectivity in real time are highly valued. Density breeds innovation, but density also breeds communication, problem solving and efficiencies.

In many ways, as we enter the interconnected digital age, in parallel we are entering a time when human connections are the differentiator in how we spend our time. But the more striking importance is that per the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of the jobs that children who are now in kindergarten will perform, do not exist today. That means our education trajectory will not prepare this current generation for work.

Additionally, pivoting from job to job or opportunity to opportunity is the current expectation in the workforce today. Robotic solutions will assume more and more jobs that were repetitive and physically taxing. We cannot be afraid or try to deter this evolution. It’s thrilling that we will require more adaptation to advance skill development. But, we must understand (and expect) that the convergence and acquisition of companies will be accelerating and will surprise us. These new business formations will eradicate jobs, and replace them jobs with different opportunities.

At the PTC, we provide an array of offerings intended to create new synergies. Through attending events, reading TEQ, listening to TechVibe Radio and its neighborhood tours, we plot to expose business leaders and their teams to connect across businesses. Our work is intentional that way. Our mission is to ensure that tech and innovation thrives across our region. Our team has the unique aerial view of patterns across companies and it works to facilitate connections that yield to business vitality. Count on us because I believe the collisions of the future are happening right on our own soil. Amazon acquiring Whole Foods is just the beginning and big, new industries are upon us.

References that guided my thinking: Jane Jacobs, Vivek Wadwha. 

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