What do space research, biotechnology, robotics, quantum computers, semiconductors and advanced materials development have in common? All these areas of research and development fall under the so-called deep technologies, shifting the focus from the digital to the physical world, from bits to atoms. Deep tech is that set of innovative and frontier technologies founded on scientific discoveries, engineering, mathematics, physics and medicine. Technological innovations capable of bringing truly meaningful progress for humanity. The deep tech approach is based precisely on the convergence between different disciplinary domains (advanced science and engineering, but also design) and between different technological clusters (computation and cognition, sensing and motion, matter and energy), broadening the focus from the digital world (just bits) to the physical world (AI and behavioral and neural sciences, IoT and robotics, nanotechnology and synthetic biology). The deep tech approach, moreover, is problem-driven and not technology-driven. This leads to looking not for the best use case to apply a new technology, but for the best technology, new or existing, to solve an old problem.

Deep technologies are not only digital and include life science, computing, food tech and agri-tech, aerospace, energy and clean-tech, industrial technologies, telecom, new materials, chemistry. One can also include artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning, quantum computing, biotech, energy, new materials, blockchain, robotics, space tech, nuclear fusion.

The first characteristic of deep tech concerns the great impact on society and the economic value of its applications. Health and well-being are among the main targets, along with environmental protection. They are innovations that require a long processing time before they reach maturity to be adopted by the market. Finally, these technologies require large amounts of capital for their development and deployment, usually relying on different players in the public and private world (universities, startups, investors, companies...).

A set of scientific discoveries and technological innovations capable of bringing truly significant progress in humanity. Highly ambitious goals on the effects of climate change and the health of the aging population

According to BCG's report, investment in this technological transformation is set to reach $200 billion by 2025. Suffice it to say that the New European Agenda for Innovation aims to unlock up to 45 billion euros, with the goal of growing European technology champions in the space economy, quantum, biotechnology, renewable energy, chips, green hydrogen, and photonics capable of mastering the digital and green transformation of strategic supply chains.

A recent example? The application of this very R&D methodology to produce the Covid-19 vaccine. Perhaps tomorrow we will use plastic produced by bacteria from CO2, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Or buildings will be constructed with blocks produced by microorganisms rather than conventional concrete. The implications can range from climate change to world hunger and the health of the elderly population.

According to many experts, the combination of deep tech represents a new wave of innovation, potentially causing an impact on business and society equal to or greater than that created by the Internet.

Italy is not standing idly by: we recently witnessed the inauguration of the Leonardo supercomputer in Bologna, the fourth most powerful and fastest calculator in the world. In addition, PNRR funds (about 320 million) were used to create the National Center for High Performance Computing, Big Data and Quantum Computing, which will aggregate 52 Italian centers of excellence and connect to the European network, forming a unique knowledge ecosystem. The made-in-Italy space economy is also growing, a system that holds together companies and research, public and private, with a global value of $386 million in 2021 alone, according to the Satellite Industry Association (+4 percent over 2020). This is the context in which our country fits, fifth in the world for patents filed, behind China and ahead of Russia; seventh for public investment as a percentage of GDP; and fourth for trade in space technologies.