World Economic Forum’s 2015 Tech Pioneers tackle energy, finance and health; US companies lead the charge


  • world economic forumThe World Economic Forum today recognized the world’s 49 most promising Technology Pioneers 2015, including the UK-based TransferWise, Holland-based Plant-e and US-based Editas Medicine
  • These companies focus on global challenges including climate change and health, and use record venture capital to take on incumbents
  • US-based companies continue to make up two-thirds of awardees, raising questions about the entrepreneurial environment in Europe and elsewhere
  • The full list of recognized Technology Pioneers can be viewed here

Geneva, 5 August 2015 – Entrepreneurs are using their “millennial mindset” and the record amount of venture capital available to address challenges in fields such as medtech, fintech, digital security and energy. This is the main conclusion of the World Economic Forum in reviewing its annual list of Technology Pioneers, which this year consists of 49 companies from 10 countries.

Among those awarded are UK-based TransferWise, which revolutionized money transfers; Holland-based Plant-e, which generates electricity from plants; and US-based Editas Medicine, which is exploring genomic editing applications. They are part of a broader group of entrepreneurs who operate in sectors with high entry costs and at the centre of some of the world’s challenges, including energy production, healthcare, finance and digital security.  The full list of recognized Technology Pioneers can be found below.

These entrepreneurs display what can be called a millennial mindset, says Fulvia Montresor, Head of Technology Pioneers at the World Economic Forum. “Today’s Technology Pioneers want to have their cake and eat it, too. Knowing that the world has pressing challenges, they are following both their entrepreneurial passions and fulfilling their civic roles at the same time.”

While this millennial mindset is developing globally, American-based entrepreneurs continue to dominate the list of Technology Pioneers: they account for more than two-thirds of the recipients, followed by the UK (4), Israel and the Netherlands (2), and individual recipients of Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and Taiwan, China. France and Spain were among the countries not counting a recipient.

This dominance can be linked to the available funding, large domestic market with uniform regulations and welcoming environment, says Montresor. “Money and a big market remain decisive, and the US has those to an extent that other regions can’t match.” It is a reason why some of the Tech Pioneers founded elsewhere, such as Avellino Labs with its Korean roots, have decided to build their companies in the US.

According to Ernst & Young data, featured in a recent Forum report on Alternative Investments, 2014 was the best year for venture capital since 2001, with investments of almost $87 billion. That constituted a rise of some 60% compared to 2013. US tech hubs in Silicon Valley, New York and Boston together accounted for more than 60% of the total, but other regions, particularly China and India, did see a dramatic rise.

To make up for the lack of venture-capital funding, Nicholas Davis, Head of Society and Innovation at the World Economic Forum, says entrepreneurs from Europe and elsewhere could consider embedding their operations in a larger, established companies. “Due to the lack of funding and a fragmentation of the markets, such collaboration is particularly interesting in Europe,” he said. This information can be found in a separate Forum report, released today, on Collaborative Innovation.

The Technology Pioneers were selected from among hundreds of applicants by a selection committee of 68 academics, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and corporate executives. Notable members of the committee include Arianna Huffington (founder, Huffington Post) and Henry Blodget (editor-in-chief, Business Insider). The committee based its decisions on criteria including innovation, potential impact, working prototype, viability and leadership. Past recipients include Google (2001), Wikimedia (2007), Mozilla (2007), Kickstarter (2011) and Dropbox (2011). For more information about the Technology Pioneers, please visit their website.

Appendix A: Full List of Technology Pioneers 2015

Life Sciences & Health (14 companies selected)

  • AliveCor (USA) – An ECG for your mobile device
  • Avalanche Biotechnologies (USA) – Gene therapy for eye diseases
  • Avellino Labs (USA) – DNA tests for vision loss risk
  • Butterfly Network (USA) – Ultra-low cost ultrasound on a chip 
  • Consumer Physics (Israel) – Scan objects to see what they’re made of
  • Editas Medicine (USA) – Delete disease-causing genes
  • ElMindA (Israel) – Tracking brain function for better care
  • EpiBone (USA) – Grow your own bone
  • (USA) – An app to track your mental health
  • HealthTap (USA) – Online doctor-patient consultations
  • Holomic (USA) – Lab diagnostics on a mobile phone
  • Inscopix (USA) – Understanding the brain in action
  • Kite Pharma (USA) – Helping the immune system fight cancer
  • Novocure (Israel) – Treating tumours with electric fields

Energy/Environment/Infrastructure (14 companies selected)

  • Blue River Technology (USA)Improving crop yield through robotics
  • BlueOak (USA)Sustainably recycling metals from electronic waste
  • Carbon Clean Solutions (UK)Enabling efficient carbon capture & reuse
  • Carbon3D (USA)Faster and better 3D printing to transform manufacturing
  • CoeLux (Italy)Experience the sky
  • Hampton Creek (USA)Plant based mayonnaise and cookies
  • Heliatek (Germany)Thin, light, flexible solar films
  • Miniwiz (Taiwan, China)High performance recycled plastics
  • Plant-e (Netherlands)Generating electricity from living plants
  • Protix Biosystems (Netherlands)Farming insects, a new industry
  • Sensity Systems (USA)Turning street lights into data sensors
  • Spire Global (USA)Weather, climate and maritime data from satellites
  • Stem (USA)Lower energy bills through intelligent storage
  • Tokamak Energy (UK)Making fusion power feasible at scale

Information Technology (21 companies selected)

  • 1 Mainstream (USA)Broadcast TV easily to global audiences
  • 1QB Information Technologies (Canada)Software applications for quantum computers
  • Alation (USA)Making sense of scattered databases
  • Axcient (USA)Smooth recovery from IT problems
  • Ayasdi (USA)Powerful new approach to data analytics
  • CrowdStrike (USA)Sophisticated defence against advanced cyber adversaries
  • Darktrace (UK)An immune system approach to cyber defence
  • Data Theorem (USA)Keeping mobile apps secure
  • Dataminr (USA)Mining Twitter for real time information
  • Domo (USA)Enabling data-driven business management
  • FutureAdvisor (USA)Automated investment manager
  • iZettle (Sweden)Card payments for small businesses
  • Matternet (USA)Drones delivering small parcels
  • Mimosa Networks (USA)Where fiber ends…gigabit Wi-Fi begins
  • Neon Labs (USA)Automatically choosing the best images
  • OpenGov (USA)Cloud-based government financial transparency and analysis
  • Ripple Labs (USA)Real-time, secure and affordable value transfer
  • Sedicii Innovations (Ireland)Verifies your identity without exposing it or your password
  • TransferWise (UK)Peer-to-peer currency exchange
  • Vicarious (USA)Artificial intelligence that sees like a human
  • Wickr (USA)Secure communications platform

Appendix B: Global Ranking of Selected Economies in Various World Economic Forum indicators

Global Ranking of Selected Economies in Various World Economic Forum indicators
Country Competitiveness Innovation Market size Venture Capital IT (Network Human
Availability Readiness) Capital
35 US 3 5 1 3 7 17
4 UK 9 12 6 19 8 19
2 Israel 27 3 48 9 21 29
2 Netherlands 8 8 23 22 4 8
1 Sweden 10 7 36 11 3 6
1 Taiwan 14 10 17 15 18 N/A
1 Canada 15 22 13 17 11 4
1 Ireland 25 20 57 46 25 12
1 Germany 5 6 5 28 13 22
1 Italy 49 35 12 127 55 35
0 France 23 19 8 35 26 14
0 Spain 35 37 14 100 34 41
0 China 28 32 2 13 62 64

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