From remote working solutions to health-tech innovations, here are some areas that could be ripe for investment.
Throughout our Start-up Advice series on Silicon Republic, we ask investors, mentors and advisers to give us some insights for entrepreneurs.
One question we regularly put to these experts is, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?
Here are just some of the answers we’ve gotten recently from investors.
Unsurprisingly, the area of health was one that was brought up by many investors over the past year.
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and Beatrice Aliprandi of Talis Capital noted that countries all over the world are now moving towards digital-first health strategies. “The appetite for innovation that can enable this shift has grown exponentially,” she added.
Overall, Stephen Page, founder and CEO of SFC Capital, told us that health-tech and life sciences are now “attracting considerable investor attention”.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on health-tech and life sciences, and there are diverse opportunities to innovate there,” added Michael Niddam of Kamet Ventures.
Some examples Niddam and Page gave were software to reduce admin or improve communication and collaboration for frontline staff, developments in telehealth and platforms to enable people to access clinicians remotely, and using AI for diagnosis or IoT for monitoring chronic conditions.
Nicola McClafferty, investor at Draper Esprit, said telemedicine in particular is a great example. “We have seen adoption levels in the last few months which otherwise may have taken years to achieve.”
Another significant impact of the pandemic has been changes to the way we work. Start-ups that enable remote working have seen a boost over the past year, including Dublin-based Boundless, which recently raised €2.5m, and Cork’s Workvivo, which secured €14.7m last year.
“The lockdowns around the world have really emphasised the importance and the accessibility of remote and distributed working,” McClafferty told us last summer.
“New communications and engagement tools have really come to the fore and I think there are huge opportunities here.”
Page of SFC Capital added that the changes to how we live and work over the past year are “going to have a big influence on the direction of innovation and investment” going forward.
An area of tech we constantly hear about is artificial intelligence (AI). But where are there good opportunities to use this technology now and in the future?
McClafferty said she is “very bullish” on the growth to come in businesses that can leverage machine learning. Moray Wright, CEO and co-founder of Parkwalk Advisors, highlighted the use of AI in drug discovery, and Alan Merriman of Elkstone said voice applications “have the potential to explode”.
In a world that is facing a climate crisis, sustainability is a big thing to consider.
Gillian Buckley, investment manager at Ireland’s Western Development Commission, said we “need to use science and technology to reduce our impact on the planet”, highlighting potential areas of innovation such as energy production, transport, food and waste.
“There will be more demand for technology that can help reduce climate impact,” SFC Capital’s Page added. “Whether by creating new materials, producing food substitutes, improving energy efficiency, or better managing pollution.”
“While it may not sound like the sexiest sector, the construction industry has huge potential for innovation,” said Aliprandi of Talis.
Indeed, we’ve written about plenty of start-ups bringing tech to the construction site in recent years, including Irish-founded GoContractor, which recently raised $5m for its onboarding and compliance platform to help building sites manage their workers.
“To date, the construction industry has had very little incentive for self-disruption – unlike other industries that have gradually embraced change and digitisation to increase their productivity,” Aliprandi added. “Poor time management, reliance on physical documentation, litigation costs and disperse locations are only some of the issues plaguing the industry.”
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