Emerging technology — Micron Ventures’ view of 2022 and beyond, part 2

Andrew Byrnes, Gayathri (G) Radhakrishnan | March 2022

At Micron Ventures, we invest Micron’s hard-earned money into early-stage technology startups. Many of our peers in Micron have a legitimate one-word question for us: Why?

For 2022, we are sharing the perspectives of two Micron Ventures directors on what technology trends they’re seeing from the startup world and what may be coming next that could influence the technology world in 2022 and beyond. In Part 1 of this blog, you read G Radhakrishnan’s perspective, Part 2 features Andy Byrnes’ outlook.

Andy, the tree-hugging wild card
Personalized experiences and sustainability are the two biggest trends I believe will continue to explode in 2022. Both heavily affect businesses in good and bad ways.

Personalizing work and technology interfaces
Imagine what the last two years would have been like without video conferencing!

The pandemic accelerated the world’s journey to remote work by several decades, and there is no going back. Companies big and small are embracing technology interfaces — screens, phones and VR headsets — as surrogates for in-person work. Micron Ventures is investing in and nurturing the innovators who are bringing new capabilities to market. Consider just a few recent examples:

  • Companies like Holo|One are enabling collaboration over augmented and mixed reality, eliminating the need for team members to cross oceans for face-to-face interactions.
  • Pryon, an enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) startup, is working to make data instantly and securely searchable, dramatically increasing information flow among global team members so they can make more complex decisions together, faster than ever before.

Key ingredients of these digital collaboration solutions are data and the growing availability and diversity of sources of data. With digital workplace interfaces and environments, it’s increasingly easy to collect and use data to make our own performance and the performance of our teams and operations better.

The keys here are how we define better and how technology and human behaviors interact. Technology provides opportunities and challenges for companies with diverse sets of teams (old and young; U.S.-, Asia- or European-based; and others) to adapt to new ways of doing business synergistically.

Several emerging trends promise to allow companies (including Micron!) to radically rethink where, how and when teams work together:

  • Prototype remote work concepts that would have taken years or decades to achieve mass adoption have rapidly evolved into enterprise-ready products, making it easier to scale beyond small teams. For example, Gather and Hopin are leading the way in virtual conferences and events, connecting companies from around the world to share new ideas and keep innovation humming.
  • The compute power in edge devices is exploding, bringing greater superpowers to the individual. With the evolution of AI chipsets at the edge, we will witness an explosion of new applications leveraging data to do our jobs better.

The transition from physical to broadly used digital and virtual workspaces demands orders of magnitude higher data intensity. Micron is a fundamental pillar in this evolution, offering incredible growth in performance and capacity of essential memory and storage at improved density and power consumption points. From leadership in foundational technologies and global manufacturing, we can envision how new technologies and use models could benefit from collaboration. We’re lucky on the Micron Ventures team to be involved with the transition; we’re lucky to engage with the startups that are pushing the envelope the hardest!

Decarbonizing everything, especially manufacturing
The phrase “Think globally, act locally” has taken on new meaning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. From adhering to shelter-in-place mandates to wearing masks to getting vaccines, most of us have had to change our everyday habits, in sometimes painful ways, to fight through one of the biggest battles we’ll face in our lifetimes.

Of course, a global response to a pandemic is an incredible priority. But we should not forget the challenge for sustainability and against climate change to secure the future of our planet. Micron has adopted specific long-term environmental sustainability goals in four areas: emissions, energy, water and waste. As reported in our Sustainability Report, our goal is a 75% reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) per unit of production from CY18 levels in CY30, 100% renewable energy in the U.S. in CY25, 75% water conservation through reuse, recycling and restoration in CY30. We are working toward 95% reuse, recycling and recovery, and zero hazardous waste to the landfill in CY30.

Micron Ventures has taken an active role in enhancing Micron’s position to address the sustainability challenge. For the past 18 months, Micron Ventures has worked with Micron manufacturing and facilities teams to identify startups that can help Micron accelerate our sustainability transition. And here are just a couple of opportunities we’ve taken:

  • We’ve collaborated with Aquamembranes to productize its unique membrane spacer technology for our industry to realize step function energy efficiency gains in our on-site water treatment.
  • We’ve created the first pan-industry pitch event where Micron and partners across the semiconductor industry are approaching the startup universe together to identify, support and scale the technologies necessary to meet our goals

Micron embraced sustainability objectives early and holistically. We are clearly motivated and engaged to transition to sustainable manufacturing operations. And we are certainly not alone, customers, politicians and the Earth itself agree. But all will acknowledge, this transition is going to be brutally hard.

The alarm bells on climate change have been ringing for decades and are now at fever pitch. Fixing the many causes and contributors to global warming is not easy. It needs cleaner technologies, different sources of power and more. But there’s now global momentum from companies such as Micron to make the transition. And we will do it!

Several emerging technology trends are in place to help Micron and our manufacturing peers meet and hopefully exceed sustainability goals:

  • Startups like Turntide and Electric Hydrogen are completely reimagining traditional mechanical architectures, creating massive industrial efficiency gains in motors and raw material production.
  • Companies like Verdigris use data from buildings and factories to identify energy savings opportunities.
  • Even much-maligned fusion technology has gotten a big boost with Commonwealth Fusion Systems raising billions of dollars to bring safe, scalable fusion reactors to market this decade.

The idea of industrial sustainability — decarbonized manufacturing — is now everywhere, and manufacturing companies like Micron are in the crosshairs of those (such as our customers, politicians and the Earth) demanding near-term change. Some may not agree with it and the path won’t be linear or easy. But we cannot deny it’s disruptive; we cannot deny the need to work together to make it happen.

What an awesome, AWESOME time to be working in technology.

Director, Venture Capital - Artificial Intelligence

Andrew Byrnes

Andy is with Micron’s AI fund investing in some of the world’s top startups. He’s a recovering startup founder, writer, and solar/battery materials geek, and when he’s not thinking about technology innovation and startups, he’s probably running or doing something weird with his young’uns. And he’s big on words like “young’uns.”

Senior Director, Corporate Development

Gayathri Radhakrishnan

G is with Micron Ventures, investing from our AI fund. She invests in startups that use AI and ML to solve critical problems in manufacturing, health care, automotive and beyond. She brings 20 years of multidisciplinary experience across product management, product marketing, corporate strategy, M&A and venture investments.