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  • Lou Killeffer

Where the Trillion Dollar Opportinities Lie

A Report on Vivek Wadhwa's Address at the Front End of Innovation Conference 2013

Two weeks ago, I had the good fortune to cover the 10th annual Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston for Innovation Excellence, and my favorite presentation by far (after of course my colleague Rowan Gibson’s remarkable key note address “Winning in the Innovation Economy”) was “Where the Trillion Dollar Opportunities Lie” artfully presented by Vivek Wadhwa.

While Vivek Wadhwa needs no introduction to the innovation community, much less the global community of technology and future thought-leaders, it’s interesting to note among his many accomplishments Vivek is: Vice President of Innovation and Research at Singularity University; Fellow, Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University; Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University; and distinguished visiting scholar, Halle Institute of Global Learning, Emory University.

Throughout his presentation, like a composer writing a symphony, movement by movement, Vivek made the stunningly compelling and coherent argument that, far from having come to the end of our tether, facing a bleak and foreboding future with no hope for solutions to our monstrous global problems, we’re actually on the cusp of the most innovative period in human history.

That’s right: the most innovative period in the long history of our beleaguered planet.

Vivek cites a host of advances in a wide range of fields that build well beyond the impacts of increased computing power and access through mobile technologies. Advancements that are progressing exponentially and enabling entrepreneurs globally to address and solve the human challenges that only selected governments and big labs could ever hope to address before.

He repeatedly challenged his audience to see what he sees, and accept the rapid advances right before our eyes in significant fields such as genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and high-digital 3D manufacturing that will lead us to a world not defined by scarcity and the antagonisms and aggression it breeds but rather a world with unlimited food, water, and energy. And Vivek notes, he’s not simply describing the world of our children and grand children, but a real world the vast majority of us will live to see in the next twenty years.

Of course, a man as bright as Mr. Wadhwa is no Pollyanna, and in this decade he predicts we’ll see new billion dollar businesses and trillion dollar industries emerge, while at the same time, through simple creative destruction, we’ll see current industry leaders—indeed entire industries—wiped out by technological advances. Like Kodak’s becoming a victim of the digital photography industry, which it had helped create, and RIM’s and Yahoo’s battles for survival; and how manufacturing was lost to China and is now returning to the U.S. These astonishing advances will create both enormous disruption and opportunity. And, per usual, the winners will be the visionaries with the courage and conviction to see ahead, take the changes in hand, and lead the charge forward.

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