DENVER — The University of Colorado is emerging as a hub for a suite of new technologies with the power to alter the way humans interact with our world, from the subatomic scale to the galactic.
A trio of CU experts in game-changing fields took center stage Monday during the “Future of Disruptive Technologies” panel at the university’s 2023 Colorado Business Economic Outlook summit held in Denver.
Quantum technology, which takes advantage of the unique behavior of matter at its smallest scale, is poised to deliver “transformational impacts” from drug design to underground and underwater navigation to the prediction of illness or natural disasters, CU’s Cubit Quantum Initiative executive director Philip Makotyn said.
“These are huge, huge topics,” he said, and CU is the nation’s “undisputed leader in quantum sensing,” one of the main categories of quantum science.
Based on research, led by CU and federal laboratories along the Front Range, companies are now beginning to focus on how “we get [technology] out of the lab and into application,” Makotyn said.
Spinoff firms from CU and other local research institutions have resulted in Colorado processing “highest density of quantum companies in the United States,” he said.
While quantum scientists point tiny lasers at subatomic particles, Colorado’s aerospace industry has its sights set on the stars.
“We are living through an unprecedented time in human spaceflight,” CU aerospace engineering professor Allison Anderson said.
Commercial operations and government agencies such as NASA will play a more collaborative role in getting people and goods into space for the purposes of tourism, mining and scientific research.
The space economy is worth about $470 billion worldwide, but that figure is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2040, Anderson said.
Colorado, which has 500 aerospace companies and the nation’s second largest space economy, is poised to continue to cash in.
The key to continued success in the field will be training and educating “interdisciplinary thinkers” for hybrid roles that blend disciplines such as engineering and medicine, Anderson said.
To achieve humanity’s quantum or interstellar goals, robots will be necessary. Thankfully for Colorado, the state is a leader in robotics.
Whether in logistics, manufacturing, health care, home services or retail settings, the evolution of robotics involves a move away from a philosophy of robots replacing people, and toward a mindset in which robots are designed for “helping and augmenting” human activities, CU robotics engineering professor Alessandro Roncone said.
As the industry evolves from the development of individual robotic devices toward systems of robots and humans working together, safety, learning and cooperation are areas of important research where CU is poised to excel, he said.