The coronavirus pandemic has impacted more facets of life than we can imagine. Many have struggled through financial and health-related issues throughout the length of the pandemic. Numerous industries around the world have also been dealt a financial blow over the last year and a half, so far.
One industry, in particular, has taken up an important position within our current situation regarding health. This industry is biotechnology. It’s no surprise that the biotech industry has seen some major attention throughout the entirety of the pandemic, as the biotech industry has been a pivotal part of the overall health market for some decades.
With numerous drugs like antivirals and vaccines being tested and manufactured over time, the biotech and pharmaceutical industries have been steadily advancing. Thousands of companies work year in, year out, to develop cutting-edge drugs/medicines for the treatment of sick individuals. New treatments for kidney stones, for example, are under development currently by leading researchers in the industry. Kidney stones are often regarded as one of the most painful experiences that a person can go through, but with the aid of leading developments through biotechnology, this pain may become a thing of the past. This is an example of why biotechnology was an essential industry, even before the pandemic hit. Researchers and biotech firms are constantly working to better the living conditions and treatment capabilities of those who need it the most.
So then, what sort of growth has the biotechnology industry seen during the pandemic, and what technology is being developed in the aftermath of the initial COVID-19 outbreak? Here is where the biotech industry has been and where it’s going, beyond the recent pandemic:
Impacts on the Biotechnology Industry During COVID-19
The biotechnology industry has been around for many decades and the impacts that it has had on the health of humanity cannot be understated. The development and manufacturing of medicines like antibiotics, vaccines, etc. are all essential for the treatment of diseases around the world.
The biotech industry started in early 2020 as it had for the last decade; it began with slow and steady growth. But, the market was hit incredibly hard during late February and early March with the crash of 2020. The crash had many causes, but the main culprit was found to be a lack of economic stability with lockdowns in place across America due to the coronavirus pandemic. With this, the American people were looking for solutions and treatments to help aid in the relief of those affected by the pandemic.
This brings us to the bolstering of the biotech industry due to the actions taken by the United States government. Operation Warp Speed was an initiative taken by the United States government to facilitate the manufacturing and development of COVID-29 vaccines. Around $10 billion was given to companies through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Securities) act in March of 2020.
With this, the outbreak of COVID-19 made the biotech industry kick into full gear to help aid in treating and preventing the disease. New life was breathed into the industry and from here it has seen sizable economic growth since the market fall of March 2020. The development, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines across America made three companies very well known by the public. Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer became heroes of the day because of their continuous efforts to release a COVID-19 vaccine that was safe to use in such a short amount of time.
At the end of the day, the biotech industry in its current form has seen major growth since the beginning of the pandemic. The market size has increased by billions of dollars and continues to grow with every passing day. Even though it may feel like it in some areas of the United States, the fight against COVID-19 is not finished yet. There remains a tremendous amount of work to be done to vaccinate a majority of the population to prevent another massive spread of the virus. So, the biotech industry will continue to see growth for the foreseeable future.
The Future of Biotech Post-COVID
With the current state of the pandemic being a driving force for the biotechnology industry, many wonder what the future of the industry holds. Many predict that biotechnology will continue to flourish with more research and development being initiated as well as the market size increasing.
The extremely long return on investment horizons, deep funding requirements, and extreme uncertainty all combine to make the research and development aspects of biotechnology different from almost any other industry.
Economically, the biotechnology industry has been predicted by most to do what it has done for decades and that is to grow. The market size for the biotechnology industry is estimated to reach around $2.44 trillion by 2028, which is a 15.83% increase from today’s standing. The fact of the matter is that the biotechnology industry is here to stay and is not slowing down any time soon.
As the pandemic ends, many small businesses are showing increasing optimism about the future and the growth of the US economy. Many businesses are confident that they will be able to hire more personnel going forward. 28% of businesses intend to create new jobs within the next three months, a record high.
Despite these signs of optimism, as well as the overall economic growth of the economy, there are still several challenges small businesses face. International COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place, severely hampering tourist numbers. This has dealt a blow to small businesses in popular tourist destinations who rely heavily on summer tourists. Problems with international supply chains have caused problems such as longer shipping times and higher costs, eating into the already thin margins that small businesses face. Despite plans to hire more employees, many small businesses are facing problems recruiting personnel due to a shortage of qualified applicants or being unable to meet the higher salary demands of workers.
In spite of these potential problems, the economy is definitely on the up and consumer spending is beginning to rise again. Increased public backlash against large retailers like Amazon and a growing need to support local communities could also go some way to divert customers towards their hometown shops and restaurants. Let’s take a look at some of the ways small businesses can attract more customers.
- Increasing footfall. After being cooped up at home for the better part of a year, many people are thrilled just to leave their homes and walk around. Businesses should take advantage of this crowd to maximize the curb appeal of their shops, helping them to attract more people in. There are several ways this can be done. For example, personalization often goes a long way in making your business feel more inviting. Simple items like customized logo mats, handwritten menu boards or catalogues, and an appealing display window can help draw customers into your store.
- Partnerships. Now more than ever, we are truly all in this together. Consider partnering with other small businesses in the community to come to an arrangement which will benefit both parties. This could be something simple like displaying fliers or advertisements for each others’ stores in your own shop. You could also offer discounts for your partner’s shop to your own customers, and vice versa. Complementary businesses could also come together to organise an event or a workshop that will both give your community something to do and potentially boost profits for everyone involved.
- Online. Even in a small community, the internet is key. While you don’t have to turn your business into Amazon, try to make sure that you at least have an appealing website which makes it easy for customers to find out more about you, your store, and the products you sell. Having a presence on a social media network like Facebook will also enable potential customers to ask you any questions they might have, and the personal connection you establish with them will make them more likely to visit your store.
- Keep in touch. Now is the best time to get back in touch with your old regular customers you haven’t seen for a while. Try to personalize your outreach to them, as this will make the customer feel more valued. Including a small incentive to visit your store, like a limited time discount, might also help to entice them back to your store. You can also use “Bring a Friend” promotions to expand your consumer base. Every new person you bring through your doors could potentially be your next great lead, so don’t be shy about leveraging your existing customer base to attract new people.
- Word of mouth. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool any business, small or large, could hope to have. Satisfied customers will spread the word about your business far and wide, and their family and friends will listen. In addition to having a great product, you should also make sure that the customer experience in your store is top class. Additional perks like loyalty programs and referral discounts could also go a long way to turning your existing customers into walking billboards.
- Personal touch. The personal touch is the most important asset that a small business has. Often, the relationship that a customer has with the owner is what keeps them coming back to the store. In the age of faceless monoliths like Walmart and Amazon, many people are seeking that personal connection. Build strong relationships with your customers. Often, that’s all it takes to make them lifelong patrons.
While times have been difficult for small businesses, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. People have witnessed the destruction of their local businesses first hand and are now more likely to want to support businesses that remain standing. Take advantage of this sentiment to bring in more customers and get your business growing again.
Artificial Intelligence is one of the most widely-discussed and debated technologies of the 21st century. Within that rapidly-evolving field, the most exciting developments are happening under the umbrella of “Computer Vision”.
When a human being sees something, the raw light entering their eyes only constitutes the first layer of meaning. The human brain can quickly turn that data into individual objects and scenes, allowing them to label and concretely identify what they’re seeing. Through this process, a human can determine where they are, what object they’re interacting with, what person they’re talking to, and so on. This highly-complex process of interpretation happens instinctually, without much conscious thought by any of us.
Computer vision is a branch of scientific research that seeks to give computers this same ability to interpret and derive meaning from videos or images.
Research into computer vision began in earnest in the 1960s, as part of a larger effort to develop machines that thought and reasoned like human beings. Researchers were incredibly optimistic during this time period, making grand claims that artificial intelligence would be the equal of any human being within a decade or so. Unfortunately, they underestimated the difficulty of achieving such a task, and despite several breakthroughs, interest and funding largely dried up by the mid-70s due to a lack of tangible results.
It was not all grim, though. In the 70s, optical character recognition (OCR) technology was introduced, which can distinguish printed or handwritten text characters inside digital images, such as scanned documents. It soon found its way in a variety of applications: recognizing vehicle plates, processing paperwork, and automatically translating text, among others. In 1979, an artificial neural network (initially intended for handwriting recognition) was first proposed by Japanese researcher Kunihiko Fukushima. Such a system would become the inspiration for later neural networks used to train today’s computer visions.
Apart from a brief revival during the 90s, interest in artificial intelligence (and computer vision along with it) entered a fallow period, until the victory of the chess-playing computer Deep Blue against Grandmaster Gary Kasparov reignited hopes of a reasoning machine.
Progress in computer vision carried on from there. In more recent years, ImageNet, a massive virtual database containing millions of images in a wide variety of subjects, was released for use by researchers to help train visual-based neural networks.
Today, computer vision development is one of the most rapidly-evolving fields of computing today. For those curious about the current state of computer vision (and artificial intelligence in general), the Youtube channel Two Minute Papers is an excellent way to keep up with the latest developments in this exciting field of research. Viewing the almost miraculous demonstrations on the channel, it becomes hard to remember that this is not magic, but very real technology. Among the things that can be done now include: Generating convincing images from text descriptions, converting an image into a variety of different art styles, filling in the missing portions of an incomplete image, and creating 3D models of objects from a photo. It is only because computers can now recognise and categorise the different objects they see, that such feats are possible.
While these examples are certainly entertaining, the real game-changer would be when we come to rely on them in our day-to-day lives. Case in point: self-driving cars. Early versions of these vehicles are already being developed by almost every tech developer and car company you can think of. These use sensors that constantly scan the roads, keeping themselves in their lanes without human input, and automatically steering or braking to avoid imminent collisions.
One of the most common causes of accidental death in our modern society are car accidents. Humans are easily distracted, and prone to taking unnecessary risks, such as driving when inebriated or sleepy. A computer driver can react to situations faster, and they never get tired or distracted. Automated driving could save thousands of lives, by rendering one of the major causes of unnecessary death in our age far less likely to happen.
Many cynics and naysayers are already bemoaning this coming AI-produced image revolution. They complain that such technology will make photographic and video evidence inadmissible in court, and that impersonation and identity-theft will be far easier than ever. While some of their fears are valid (the rise of deepfakes certainly shows that such technology won’t only be used for good), they forget the fact that law enforcement can just as easily use it to protect and serve. While deepfakes are now a common sight online, deepfake-detecting technology has also been recently developed.
Just like any other technology, artificial intelligence and computer vision are not inherently good or bad. It is up to us, the public, to encourage positive and productive uses of the technology, while calling out and punishing destructive uses of it. Managed properly, it could be a game changer on-par with the emergence of the internet.
It doesn’t matter how long students stay at college, at some point they’ll move on to the job market. However, finishing college doesn’t mean that former students should be done with classes and learning in general. There are plenty of great benefits one can derive from continuing education after graduation, both on a personal and a professional level.
The professional benefits
Whether you choose to get another major or pursue a trade by enrolling in an HVAC School in Citrus Heights, continuing education can do wonders for your career. This is especially true if you manage to continue learning and accumulating skills while still working since it means you’ll be able to accumulate knowledge and work experience at the same time.
The main benefit of continuing education after entering the workplace comes down to boosting your chances of finding employment. If you accumulate skills that relate to your main career path, that can help your resume stand out from that of other applicants, and it can help you qualify for promotions and more specialized job positions.
The issue is that many students focus on getting a degree and starting a career, which leads them to focus on just being the best worker they can be. They aren’t expected to keep expanding their knowledge outside the occasional corporate training session or professional seminar, and so they don’t plan to continue attending classes throughout their careers.
However, with proper planning, it is both possible and advantageous for college graduates to continue learning long after they’ve entered the job market. It just comes down to figuring out what skills can be useful to help them achieve their career goals, and finding institutions that offer that type of training with a flexible enough schedule to accommodate the needs of someone who has a full-time job.
Some topics that can be useful for someone working full-time include learning more about business planning, entrepreneurship, administration, public speaking, academic writing, accounting, and more. These are all skills that can help college grads stand out and thrive in the job market, working as a great complement to almost any major.
On a more personal level, continued learning can offer all sorts of perks. Especially considering that after a student has graduated and secured a career, they are now free to pursue topics that may have little potential as a primary source of income. This is a good time to take classes on various artistic pursuits like music, writing, and painting. Or to take classes on topics that can provide benefits to you and your family. Such as cooking, nutrition, first aid, and more.
Finally, the mental health benefit of continued learning can’t be overstated. Not only can educational institutions foster a positive environment that can be a breath of fresh air to anyone working from 9 to 5, but continually learning new skills and studying complex topics can be very personally satisfying. On top of that, continually learning new skills and practicing old ones can have a positive impact on the brain, which can stave off some of the effects that age has on memory and cognitive ability.