Automation and Jobs

Automation and Jobs

The rise of artificial intelligence and automation is poised to reshape the economy and workforce. As big companies and startups continue to push the technology into more sectors---with self-driving vehicles, drone delivery, algorithmic stock trading, virtual assistants, and more---business and tech leaders are drafting the first set of ethics around A.I., even as they compete for the future of machine learning and its applications. Who will emerge as the Google of this field?

Big players: Amazon (warehouse robots pictured), Microsoft, Google, IBM Watson, Uber, Baidu, Tesla, GM, Toyota

Disruptors: Allen Institute for A.I., Airware, Clarifai, Clinc, NuTonomy, Rethink Robotics, Textio, Lucid, Argo AI

Photo credit: Amazon

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

Big companies and organizations are battling an ever-growing wave of cyber threats, from Russian and Chinese hackers to domestic criminals using ransomware. Investment in cybersecurity companies has leveled off somewhat in 2017, but there are new opportunities to win customers in finance, healthcare, and government---and for the bigger tech companies to roll up cybersecurity startups. Meanwhile, there are mounting calls to overhaul the security of the Internet.

Big players: IBM (Watson-powered operations center pictured), Symantec, Intel, Palo Alto Networks, FireEye, Raytheon

Disruptors: CrowdStrike, Carbon Black, Cylance, Cybereason, Duo Security, Recorded Future, Tenable

Photo credit: John Mottern/Feature Photo Service for IBM

Drug Pricing

Drug Pricing

As politicians (Bernie Sanders pictured), drug makers, insurers, and citizens clash over drug and healthcare costs, can the biopharma industry start moving to innovative pricing models to stave off government intervention? Will orphan drugs become the new big battleground for rising drug costs? And how will this affect big pharma and startup research and development?

Big players: AbbVie, Biogen, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Sarepta Therapeutics, Novo Nordisk

Disruptors: Marathon Pharmaceuticals, Chiasma, Cydan Development, GoodRx, Blink Health

Photo credit: Phil Roeder via Creative Commons 2.0 generic license

Gene Editing

Gene Editing

This year could mark the first human clinical trials for CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing therapies in the U.S., beginning with a blindness drug from Editas Medicine and a cancer treatment being advanced by the University of Pennsylvania. The patent fight between Editas founders at the Broad Institute and a rival team at UC Berkeley could also be resolved. Meanwhile, technologies that selectively alter genes in plants and animals hold potential for healthcare and agriculture. (Pictured: Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley)

Big players: Editas, Intellia Therapeutics, CRISPR Therapeutics, Cellectis, DuPont, Monsanto, UC Berkeley, Broad Institute

Disruptors: Caribou Biosciences, Precision Biosciences, Sangamo Therapeutics, Casebia Therapeutics

Photo credit: Jussi Puikkonen/KNAW via Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Cancer Therapeutics

Cancer Therapeutics

Several big potential milestones lie ahead in the field of cancer immunotherapy, as dozens of combination treatments work their way through clinical testing. This year could also see the first FDA approvals of CAR-T cell therapy. 2017 is shaping up to be a watershed year for a new generation of experimental cancer drugs.

Big players: Roche, Merck, Celgene, Novartis, Juno Therapeutics, Moderna Therapeutics, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Disruptors: Aduro Biotech, Forty Seven, Adicet Bio, Jounce Therapeutics, Dragonfly Therapeutics, Kite Pharma (pictured at IPO)

Photo credit: Nasdaq2014

Healthcare Policy and Regulation

Healthcare Policy and Regulation

Amid President Donald Trump's tweets and statements, no one really knows how his administration will approach drug pricing and regulation. Will the president significantly roll back regulations and force widespread changes at the FDA? Will he take a hard line with drug companies and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices? And how will this impact innovation in biopharma?

Big players: FDA, Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, Sarepta, Anthem, Humana, UnitedHealthcare

Disruptors: Zipari, Kaleo Pharma, PillPack, Oscar, Clover Health

Photo credit: Jason Goulding via Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Digital Health

Digital Health

The push to reform healthcare with technology continues even as Republicans have threatened a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Hospitals are adopting electronic medical records, and patients are taking more responsibility for their personal health. But is technology actually improving healthcare quality and lowering the cost? Key areas to watch: telemedicine and home health systems, employee wellness programs, alternative clinic and insurance models, and mobile health monitoring and sensing. (Pictured: Tanveer Syeda-Mahmood of IBM Research)

Big players: Epic Systems, Fitbit, Oscar, American Well, PatientsLikeMe, Apple, Google, IBM

Disruptors: Iora Health, Rock Health, Maxwell Health, Doctor On Demand, Nima Labs, Seventh Sense Biosystems

Photo credit: IBM Research

Venture Capital

Venture Capital

The venture capital industry is hoping the “normalization” or “correction” of the past year has hit a reset button on the industry and that no major downturn is in store. Will the tech IPO market open up after Snap, or will big, late-stage private rounds continue to dominate? The large VC firms continue to raise big funds, while smaller, newer firms are becoming more prominent at the seed and Series A stages. (Pictured: Menlo Ventures investment team)

Big players: Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Atlas Venture, General Catalyst, GV, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures

Disruptors: AngelList, First Round Capital, Founder Collective, Techstars, Y Combinator, Third Rock Ventures, Foundry Group, Correlation Ventures, Revolution

Photo credit: Menlo Ventures

Education

Education

Online platforms and alternative education models are seeping into all levels of learning, from K-12 to professional development. New government policies may create opportunities for edtech companies, as funding drops for traditional institutions like public universities and high schools. But a shakeout could be on the horizon for MOOCs (massive open online courses) and coding schools. (Pictured: class at Galvanize)

Big players: Coursera, Udacity, edX, Cengage, University of California, UPenn, Lumina Foundation

Disruptors: Galvanize, General Assembly, LearnLaunch, Codecademy, AltSchool, Panorama Education

Photo credit: Galvanize

Gender and Diversity

Gender and Diversity

New immigration and travel/visa policies, as well as incidents of sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination in the workplace, are forcing a deeper discussion of hiring practices, biases, and talent retention in companies. At stake is access to the best talent and ideas in the world, for innovation clusters like Silicon Valley, Boston, and others. But the discussion needs to bridge gender and cultural divides to be constructive. (Pictured: participants at Girls Who Code)

Big players: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Uber, Biogen, National Venture Capital Association

Disruptors: Girls Who Code, Open MIC, Fenwick & West, Techstars, Project Include, DigitalUndivided, Astia

Photo credit: Girls Who Code

Consumer Tech and Devices

Consumer Tech and Devices

Many companies are working on advances in next-generation interfaces, virtual and augmented reality, the intelligent Internet of Things, and smart homes---emerging areas that could radically transform society and business over the next few years. Meanwhile, look for contraction in overplayed sectors like food-delivery apps, subscription boxes, and photo/shopping/dating sites. (Pictured: Eero Wi-Fi device in the home)

Big players: Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Samsung, Magic Leap, iRobot

Disruptors: Canary, Neurable, Thalmic Labs, Navdy, Product Hunt, Eero

Photo credit: Eero

Enterprise Tech and Telecom

Enterprise Tech and Telecom

Technology for big businesses and workplaces continues to be a growth sector, driven by big data, collaboration tools, and data center server (pictured) and networking needs. Growth in storage and analytics systems has slowed somewhat, while secure communications, collaboration platforms, and cloud management tools have been rising fast. Also, keep an eye on the optical communications market.

Big players: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cisco, Verizon, Dell EMC

Disruptors: Acacia Communications, Asana, Slack, Infinidat, GitHub, HipChat, Fuze, Parallel Wireless, ClearObject

Photo credit: Depositphotos user scanrail

Fintech

Fintech

After a bumpy 2016, the financial tech sector may be coming back. The federal regulatory landscape seems ready for big changes that could make it easier to navigate for startups (e.g., doing away with state-by-state banking licenses). Areas to watch: online lending and payments; blockchain, bitcoin, and crypto-currencies; and algorithmic trading and investing. (Pictured: David Klein, CEO of CommonBond)

Big players: PayPal, Stripe, SoFi, Square, Lending Club, OnDeck, Barclays, Bank of America

Disruptors: Metromile, Tilt, 21, TransferWise, Circle, Sentient Technologies, Quantopian, Kensho, CommonBond

Photo credit: CommonBond

Agtech and Food

Agtech and Food

Agricultural tech startups are gaining interest from venture investors, who are betting on crop management, microbial treatments, and analytics. Companies are applying advances in human treatment (in areas such as CRISPR, epigenetics, the microbiome, proteomics, antibiotics, and diagnostics) to food and farming. Most startups see the global reach of agribusiness companies as their best path to market. Look for big ag to take a page from big pharma as companies pursue licensing deals and acquisitions to fill their depleted pipelines. (Pictured: BrightFarms tomato plants)

Big players: Bayer, Monsanto, Novozymes, Cellectis, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow Chemical (merging with DuPont)

Disruptors: Indigo, AgTech Accelerator, FarmLogs, BeeHex, Freight Farms, Grove, BrightFarms

Photo credit: BrightFarms

Energy and Environment

Energy and Environment

In 2017, the balance between renewable energy and fossil fuels largely boils down to business models and policies. Innovation is happening in materials science and energy-related software, but commercial investment in these areas is still relatively low. We will be watching for developments in energy storage, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and geoengineering. (Pictured: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (right), UW professor Devin MacKenzie, and thin-film solar materials in the foreground.)

Big players: General Electric, Tesla, SolarCity (part of Tesla), Intellectual Ventures, ExxonMobil

Disruptors: 24M, 1366 Technologies, Joule Unlimited, Oasys Water, UniEnergy Technologies

Photo credit: Benjamin Romano

It is a time of great transitions in the technology and business world. Key advances in areas like machine intelligence, agriculture, and healthcare seem poised to transform society—and everyday life.

But it can be hard to keep up with the latest news in fields as disparate as cybersecurity, food tech, and cancer therapeutics—let alone understand the context around these developments and how they might relate to each other. At the same time, government policy issues ranging from drug pricing to education to immigration have never been more urgently tied to business concerns.

To help our readers sort through an increasingly complex web of information—and, perhaps, get a bead on the future of innovation—Xconomy’s editors have identified our top 15 areas of coverage for this year. They are a mix of technology and life sciences sectors, front-page business issues, and broader themes that cut across industries:

Automation and Jobs
Cybersecurity
Drug Pricing
Gene Editing
Cancer Therapeutics
Healthcare Policy and Regulation
Digital Health
Venture Capital
Education
Gender and Diversity
Consumer Tech and Devices
Enterprise Tech and Telecom
Fintech
Agtech and Food
Energy and Environment

In each case, we strive to set an editorial agenda that will be highly valuable to our business audience. That goal applies to our news and feature stories as well as to our conferences and events. So, we have identified a few important storylines, major players, and “disruptors” to follow in each area. (There is some overlap between areas, and the list is not meant to be comprehensive.)

You can click through the slideshow above to learn more about each innovation area and its influencers. Taken together, the topics represent a snapshot of Xconomy’s coverage priorities in 2017. We look forward to updating and revising this roadmap in the months and years to come.

Photo credit links:
Bernie Sanders: Phil Roeder via Creative Commons license
Jennifer Doudna: Jussi Puikkonen/KNAW via Creative Commons license (cropped for publishing)
White House: Jason Goulding via Creative Commons license
Data center: Depositphotos user scanrail

Xconomy’s editors contributed to this report.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com.