NESTA is a UK based global innovation foundation which backs new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time from the pressures of ageing population to stretched public services and a fast changing jobs market.

Based on research and the trends of funding applications NESTA makes annual predictions about the future. This year’s 2019 predictions cover technologies and trends that would once be dismissed as science fiction but are now set to tip over into mainstream acceptance. And the key questions running through this year’s predictions are who stands to benefit or lose out from these innovations and whether it is possible to redirect their paths before they become the norm?

1. RoboLawyers will make legal services cheap and cheerful
In 2019 legal AI (Artificial Intelligence) will become mainstream. Instead of a visit to a local solicitor, you could soon sue your employer, sort out a purchasing dispute as with eBay or get a divorce from the comfort of your smartphone.

In the 20th Century electricity transformed manufacturing and the tractor changed the farming industry. In the 21st Century, Amazon disrupted retail and Uber challenged the taxi industry and the internet accelerated and transformed the lives of traditional office-based workers.
In 2019 the next big round of automation will be the legal sector with apps and web-based services replacing a visit to a local solicitor’s firm for many straightforward legal problems.

2. A Random Approach to innovation
Funding innovation is hard because breakthrough ideas often seem counter-intuitive at first. Take vaccination for example – the idea of deliberately infecting people to protect them seems crazy until you see that it works and understand why.

Decisions on funding tend to be based on existing knowledge and so researchers with wild ideas can spend years just trying to find funding to continue with their research instead of spending time on actually doing the research.

It is predicted that more organisations will begin to experiment with a new approach – randomly-allocated research funding.

Today, small businesses and individuals often steer clear of legal processes. They’re too
shoddy work left unpunished, and injustices left to fester. People could in 2019 reclaim
their unpaid invoices, get a refund from a dodgy builder or take a workplace bully to an
employment tribunal at a fraction of the current cost.
expensive, too time-consuming or too bureaucratic. As a result, money is left unclaimed,

3. An MOT for your gut
With scientific evidence stacked up, 2019 will be the year we start to know the bacteria in our intestines.

Scientists estimate that the human body is made up of over 30 trillion cells but the bacterial cells in our gut outnumber our own by a factor of 10. These bacteria are referred to as the gut microbiome. This has been linked to a range of diseases and conditions from diabetes to autism and anxiety to obesity. Small changes in the microbes present in the gut (altered by antibiotics, diets and even geographical relocation) may affect weight, likelihood of disease, well being and even behaviour such as depression and stress disorders.

This new focus on gut health will help us shift from generic healthy eating guidelines to personalised nutrition based on the analysis of our own gut.

4. The Mobility Revolution Gathers Speed
Today there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK with a combined estimated household spending power of over £200 billion a year. People aged 65 and over are the fastest growing age group.

This will become an increasingly attractive market opportunity as we appreciate that people are usually disabled by barriers in society rather than their impairments or differences and these barriers can be physical like a missing ramp or a wheelchair with limited mobility or flexibility or rise from people’s attitudes assuming disabled people can’t do certain things. It’s interesting to read that our daily life is made easier by technology that was originally developed for or first used by disabled people such as the mobile phone and eye gaze technology.

In 2019 with assistive technology, we may see the capturing and analysis of data on how for example someone is using their wheelchair so that people will better manage their daily activity and risk of injury and where the wheelchair itself might also flag when someone is at risk of pressure sores or identify when a user is fatigued. The opportunities can be endless as the older generation and the disabled demand greater access to the public world.

5. Who Do you think you are talking to?
In 2019 we’ll demand the right to know whether we are speaking to a human or a robot.

The penetration of AI into almost every aspect of our lives has been rapid and transformative but also, all too often covert, unregulated and irresponsible.

On the web, AI decides the adverts we see, the clothes we buy and the tweets we read but it is also playing a great role in the offline world in recruitment, criminal justice, medical diagnostics, credit ratings etc. Unfortunately there is also a list of growing negative consequences of AI such as misinformation (fake news), sexism, racism and inequality.
In 2019 it is predicted that people will start fighting back. We will demand to know when we are talking to machines and when we are talking to humans. We will demand to be told when decisions that affect our lives are being made or informed by algorithms. And we will demand information on how those algorithms have reached their decisions.

Visit this page again next week for NESTA’s remaining 5 Predictions for 2019 ……….