Imec was founded 35 years ago: a good reason for its president and CEO Luc Van den hove to look back at some past achievements. Yet, he also takes the opportunity to look to the future – trying to predict how people and technology might complement one another in 2035.
A story that began 35 years ago …
This year, imec celebrates its 35th anniversary. This makes it the ideal moment to look back on the impact we have had in the past years. Partly thanks to imec’s groundbreaking work, we have moved from the age of microelectronics to the era of nanoelectronics: while chip technology in the mid-1980s was measured in terms of 1.25 micrometers, today imec works with 5 nanometer nodes (and smaller). In other words: the smallest elements of chips (transistors) have shrunk by no less than 250 times in the last 35 years!
Over the years we have also made a lot of progress in other research domains. Think of the efficiency gains that we continue to realize in solar cell technology, and our research results in sensor technology, flexible electronics, solid state batteries, etc. More recently, thanks to the merger with iMinds, we have been able to further strengthen imec's portfolio with unique expertise in (cyber)security and data science. In sum: in the last 35 years we have been on a journey that many in Belgium and abroad have watched with admiration.
Looking toward the future
As a renowned research center, we owe it to our partners, wider society and ourselves to look toward the future. We are happy to do so in this issue of imec magazine, with contributions from some of our scientists on how technology might impact society in 2035.
And let me point out that this is far from an easy question to answer… After all, it is not possible to predict the future – as the future doesn’t exist.
What is exciting about the future is that it has not been set in stone: it changes every hour, every minute, and even every second thanks to the decisions that we all continuously make. Still, we dare to take you on a journey to one possible future...
Toward manufactured human beings in a manufactured society?
Some of you might have read the book ‘Homo Deus’ by Israeli professor Yuval Noah Harari. In it, Harari describes how – in the 21st century – mankind (homo sapiens) has truly kicked off the war against hunger, disease and war; and how – going forward – mankind will also try to win the fight against death, thereby acquiring a god-like status – homo deus.
This may well not happen (and in my opinion, the chances of humanity winning its ultimate battle against death by 2035 are zero), but in any case, life in 2035 will be completely different to what it is today. We are already seeing an enormous evolution in the way we manage our health, for example through the emergence of wearables. And other tools that make us live more consciously and more healthily, or that help us make more conscious choices about our diet, our exercise levels and our lifestyles, are increasingly becoming part of our daily lives as well.
Hence, I am convinced that the technologies that imec is working on today will prove crucial in tackling the biggest challenges of the 21st century – such as creating a healthy, sustainable world for everyone.
For instance, in November, we announced the development of ultra-small and flexible micro-electronics which, in the long term, can be used to create smart contact lenses; contact lenses for the detection of eye disorders and drug-delivery.