For many of us, 2021 can’t come soon enough. The events of the past year have stretched almost every area of the economy to breaking point. And whilst it’s certainly true that we’re not quite out of the woods yet, recent vaccine breakthroughs are now driving genuine optimism that the world’s ravaged economies will now be able to begin the rebuilding process in earnest.
Engineering and manufacturing will - of course - be at the heart of this recovery. And in this year's Tech Trends supplement, some of The Engineer's key commercial partners look at some of the technology areas – from sustainable mobility to AI and robotics – that will play a starring role in this rebuilding process.
This year’s supplement kicks off with the findings of our first ever business confidence survey, in which we asked readers of The Engineer how they’re feeling about the months ahead and what technology areas they expect to come to the fore. Unsurprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 looms large. Although the implications of a no-deal Brexit – which at the time of writing was hanging in the balance – are perhaps the biggest cause for concern as manufacturers consider the months ahead.
Unsurprisingly, digitalization and automation, two areas of technology whose importance has been amplified by the challenges presented by the pandemic come to the fore in our research, and throughout this supplement there are some compelling and tangible examples of how advances here will affect the engineering landscape in 2021: from Theorem’s article on industrial applications of mixed reality technologies, to Analog Device’s piece on the rise of the Cobot (page 18). Meanwhile, Julie Driscoll, chief product officer of aPriori Technologies takes a broader view on the adoption of digital technologies (p 12 – 13) arguing that an ability to use and act on data will be absolutely critical to survival in the months ahead.
Another major topic this year is sustainable mobility, and the way in which engineering advances in this area will be key to delivering on the UK’s net zero ambitions. Over the following pages we hear from organisations including Unipart, Dassault Systemes and DuPont how the low carbon transport revolution will shape the engineering landscape throughout 2021.
It will be fascinating to revisit all of these topics in another 12 months’ time to see how they’ve delivered on their promise of helping industry to navigate a path out of one of this most historically challenging periods. But in the meantime, please enjoy this year’s slice of crystal-ball gazing.