Artificial intelligence and all the technologies brought by the metaverse will set the digital tone in 2023, a year in which major breakthroughs are expected in carbon capture and batteries. That’s the view of the Eurecat Science Department team which also foresees progress in exploring new protein sources and precision nutrition along with recovering critical metals and minerals as part of the circular economy.

“The ever-changing world around us is a reminder that we need to keep on investing in research as the main source of the tools and solutions which will enable us to meet new challenges,” says Daniel Casellas, Eurecat’s scientific director. “Eurecat is firmly committed to the areas where the greatest growth is expected in the coming years and invests in collaborative research to share the results with Catalan society and its industrial community.”

María Eugenia Fuenmayor, scientific director in the Digital Area at the Eurecat technology centre, argues that artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to trend in 2023 as they become increasingly widely used in standard industry processes and will additionally have to address new challenges, including self-learning which affords algorithms the ability to adapt to changes in the real world. Furthermore, new ‘no-code AI’ platforms will be generated which will allow non-experts to embed artificial intelligence technology in solutions and thus enable them to be rolled out on a large scale.

In her view, the growing popularity of the metaverse concept “has given and will carry on giving a huge push to all the technologies involved with progress in the development of Web 3.0 and expanded use of blockchain as a key technology which will deliver decentralised and secure experiences.”

Carbon capture, batteries and circular economy

“Research into long-life batteries for storing electrical energy in our grids has achieved exciting qualitative leaps this year,” points out Ricard Jiménez, scientific director of the Industrial Area. They include “batteries powered by iron-based technologies, one of the most abundant materials on our planet and much more so than lithium.”

Just over a year ago, he adds, “the world’s largest CO2 capture facilities were set up in Reykjavik and almost 5,000 tonnes of this greenhouse gas have already been removed from our atmosphere.” He reckons that these initiatives “will need to increase in 2023 coupled with research to improve their efficiency and applications once capture has been completed.”

Likewise, Joan de Pablo, scientific director of the Sustainability Area, says that supply dependency for some key inputs for the EU economy and their crucial importance in the energy transition and emerging technologies means that “one of the trends is recovering critical metals and minerals in the circular economy from secondary sources in urban mining.”

Biotech trends in nutrition in 2023

Consumers “are shifting towards a versatile form of consumption in which plant-based foods are increasingly essential to the dietary profile,” notes Francesc Puiggròs, scientific director of Eurecat’s Biotechnology Area. He points out that flexitarians “are choosing a more plant-based protein intake and thus asking for more products.” Here he thinks that technologies and scientific breakthroughs in biotechnology and food technology “will help make foods with innovative protein content, including research into insect or cellular biomass protein, more common.”

In biotechnology, 2023 is seen as a year in which “technologies such as precision fermentation, precision agriculture and genetic hybridisation techniques will play a key role,” adds Francesc Puiggròs. He expects that “to enhance their sensory acceptability and maintain their properties during processing, food technologies such as extrusion with all their potential will help to generate knowledge and more versatile and acceptable products which over time will overcome resistance to products made from alternative protein sources.”