‘Deep Tech’ continues to be touted as the ‘next big thing' in the tech world, and it’s set to become even bigger as more investors pile into Deep Tech startups, and more companies incorporate Deep Tech innovations like Machine Learning and Quantum Computing.
Of course, part of the attraction is that Deep Tech has the potential to solve some of the biggest problems facing the world today. After all, Deep Tech innovations are to thank for the speed at which Covid-19 vaccines were produced. They’re also to thank for reusable rockets (Space-X), electric vehicles and predicting protein structures.
But what exactly is ‘Deep Tech’?
The first thing to understand is that Deep Tech isn’t a sector, but rather a group of sectors based around tangible innovations in engineering or science. This includes Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Robotics, Blockchain, Advanced Materials, Photonics and Electronics, Biotech and Quantum Computing. What’s more, it’s often combinations of these disciplines working in concert.
Deep Tech companies are focused on solving the world’s biggest problems – problems that are so complex, they need more advanced tools. These ‘deeper’ technologies take many years – often decades – to develop. Not surprisingly, many of them are born inside of universities or research institutes, which is why you see so many Deep Tech companies spin out of leading places of learning.
Deep Tech companies also take a lot of investment. In many cases, that capital is put to work to further develop the underlying technology – something very different from traditional venture capital, where most of the capital is deployed to scale the business.
So – more capital, more time and much bigger problems.
The other notable thing about Deep Tech sectors is the prevalence of physical stuff – hardware, materials, chemistry. It’s not just about software. Most Deep Tech impacts the physical world much more than the digital world.
Deep Tech spans across several different sectors, the most common of which include Life Sciences, Agriculture, Mobility (including Aerospace and Automotive), Chemistry, Manufacturing and Energy.
Deep Tech innovations often have transferable applications across multiple sectors. For example, we most commonly think of Artificial Intelligence as taking the form of algorithms on social media or developing online experiences that are designed to replicate human interaction, such as chatbots or personalised recommendations from websites or apps.
But they can also be used in climate change modelling to predict likely future events, or in healthcare to improve patient monitoring, or in education to provide learning experiences tailored to individual students.
A leading Deep Tech company, DeepMind, used Artificial Intelligence to predict protein structures, a problem of such sophistication and complexity, the benefits of which will impact drug discovery and development.
Similarly, advances in advanced engineering, advanced materials and machine learning are helping to usher in the age of nuclear fusion.
Deep Tech is for those with a strong mission orientation and a love of problem solving. For such candidates, it is a great time to get involved with Deep Tech companies. Candidates with backgrounds in scientific enquiry and engineering, data science and research, as well as chemistry, are in high demand.
Critical for success, however, is the ability to apply these key skills to environments that are ever-changing and grappling with problems that have no easy answer. Problem solving skills are critical, as are the abilities of collaboration and a desire to create lasting positive change in the world.
But if you’re in a rush to see quick results, Deep Tech companies may not be for you.
They’re not like working in a B2C environment, where you can imagine, design, test and launch a new service in a matter of weeks. Deep Tech problems don’t work like that. The R&D process is a long one and building complex, IP-rich, ‘deeper’ technology solutions that take longer to bring to market. If commercialising quickly is therefore important to you, you might not want to consider a role in a Deep Tech company.
Deep Tech companies take time.
The UK and Europe are recognised globally as hubs for outstanding Deep Tech talent. We have world-class universities and start-up ecosystems. Since 2016, cumulative investment into deeptech companies in Europe has surpassed $36b.
If you’re interested in learning more about Deep Tech companies in the UK and Europe, search our open vacancies now!