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12 disruptive technologies

That can help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals 


Disruptive technologies have the potential to drive significant improvements in the quality of life for the world’s population. We’re proud to be advising the UN Global Compact on identifying and assessing the implications of these technologies to help organisations achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – and in turn, make the world a better place. Click below to learn more about the disruptive technologies we see as truly pathbreaking. 

Our partnership with the un and volans

Technologies to help achieve SDG's

  • Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS) are not new, but their integration into commercially viable systems has provided real transformation in the tasks they can perform including monitoring crops and environmental conditions, delivering medicines, communications or just products to remote communities and supporting emergency services in law enforcement, search and rescue. 

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  • The variety and range of applications for next-generation robotics have increased dramatically. New designs make it easier and safer for humans to interact and work with these robots in less structured and more complex environments, with the potential to bring dramatic changes to the world of work and our daily lives. 

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  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to transform our lives just as profoundly as mobile communications and the World Wide Web have done in recent years. In energy production, manufacturing, transportation and in our home lives, the benefits of sensing, communicating and and interpreting data are still increasing exponentially. 

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  • Using new and advanced technologies,  digital agriculture is enabling farmers and other stakeholders within the value chain to improve food production. Digital technologies have the potential to make agriculture more productive, more consistent and to use time and resources more efficiently. 

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  • Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) ability to transform vast amounts of complex, ambiguous information into real insights has the potential to help solve some of the world’s most enduring problems. Its applications are already widespread, the limits of its potential are not yet known.

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  • Gene editing has enabled the in-depth study of diseases, allowing clinicians and researchers to understand and address their root causes. The technology has exciting – though sometimes controversial – applications, from direct genetic modification, to the production of new drugs and widespread potential in the fields of agriculture and biofuels. 

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  • New realities– like virtual reality and augmented reality –change how we view and interact with our own world and how we create immersive experiences in new worlds. In the future, it will be possible to carry out many of today’s business and leisure activities inside virtual spaces, transforming the way we operate. 

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  • Research into the concept of using bugs instead of drugs and chemicals is starting to unlock new ways to treat chronic disease and mental health. And going forward, microbiota will increasingly be used to tackle and prevent many diseases including those in crops and human health and wellbeing.  

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  • Additive manufacturing can reduce waste, challenge global supply chains (through localised manufacturing) and offers flexibility in the manufacturing process. With the business case for using additive manufacturing in small scale and customised production already clear, we can expect to see rapid expansion of the technology’s applications in both industrial and consumer uses.

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  • The Autonomous road vehicles revolution will change the way we think and interact with the sector. It is opening up new business opportunities, changing ownership models, and posing big challenges to regulators and town and city planners. Successful deployment is dependent on more than the technology and regulation, insurance, and commercial models are just some of the areas that need to come together to accelerate the uptake and sustainability of this emerging mode of transport.
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  • Blockchain offers a trusted, tamper-proof way of recording transactions for any digital asset. It’s potential is vast. It could, for example, transform property and land rights, medical records, intellectual property, and ownership of goods. 

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  • As more aspects of our lives become monitored and connected, it is difficult to imagine an area where Big Data will not make an impact. We are only beginning to fully understand the applications of Big Data techniques and its ability to improve our wellbeing, communities and planet. 

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The UNGC Disruptive Technology Briefs

The Disruptive Technology Executive Briefs have been produced by PA in support of Project Breakthrough; a collaboration between the UN Global Compact, Volans and partners that spotlights the best thinking in sustainable innovation. It showcases innovators across mainstream companies and next generation entrepreneurs. It features analysis and resources designed to help leaders understand the new business models and technologies that will be crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Read about Project Breakthrough

Circular economy

A radical transformation on the take-make-dispose model

Find out more



Mark Lancelott

PA business design expert, Sustainability and Circular Economy co-lead

David Rakowski

PA technology innovation expert

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