If you love science and engineering, the best business to get into may be the one you start yourself. Here are some ideas from the cutting edge. The common theme of all these examples is that they are technologies with myriad practical uses (read: profitable uses), even though right now they are being treated in very simplistic ways.
1. 3-D Printing
3-D printing is rapidly getting cheaper, bigger, and weirder: where people were once printing in plastic resin, now they are using powdered metals, sugar, even chocolate. But it is still a fledgling industry, full of kids in the garage. Right now, 3D printing (and its older cousin, 3D milling) is mainly used for rapid prototyping, or else for producing little tchotchkes that say, “look, I built a 3-D printer!” But who knows where we’re headed? Someone needs to set up the system that lets you email a spare car key, or an action figure for the niece. And while fans of 3-D printing just want to print everything, it is pretty clear that the smart lies in combining 3-D printing with other (cheaper) fabrication techniques. A knife handle should fit your hand perfectly, but the blade should be made out of forged iron, not some pressed powder.
2. 3D Scanning & Storage
All those 3D printouts are coming from digital files, most of them made by laser scanners. Mechanical and hand-held laser scanners are getting popular, but there’s still a huge need for repositories of those scans, so people can mash them up and change them around. If you have a bunch of servers, a taste for geometry, and a curator’s instinct, you could have a big business.
3. Bio Repositories
And if you have a curatorial mindset, but you don’t want to just work with a bunch of digital files, think about creating a biorepository. These collect and inventory biological specimens for later research: everything from heirloom apple seeds to blood samples to snake skeletons. It’s just like Linnaeus was doing back in the 1700s, but with modern storage techniques. As genetic research gets more and more sophisticated, bio repositories are becoming the next great libraries.
4. Miniature Drones
As Jeff Bezos said recently, mini-drone aircraft are ready for us, but we aren’t ready for them. Well, at least not for delivering groceries. But this is a technology with a thousand possible uses, and we’re only scratching the surface. Drone singing telegrams? Drone roses delivered on Valentine’s Day? Drone search-and-rescue? Drone-assisted duck hunting? You lead the way.
As anyone who needs them will tell you, most prosthetic limbs are junk. They’re awkward, often painful, and they have the aesthetics of a chopped-up mannequin from the 1970s. Worst of all, most of them have no more real functionality than a pirate’s wooden peg leg, even though we live in an age where toasters have USB ports. And yet we already are pushing the envelope on cybernetic technologies that could produce a next-level generation of prosthetics. It’s a matter of putting all the pieces together, and thinking of the possibilities rather than the limitations.
Science and technology are constantly pushing into a new frontier, which makes them the natural playground of the entrepreneur. What’s your great idea?