Today, in universities around the world, leading professors are looking for top notch PhD students and researchers to push the boundaries and explore areas that will enable tomorrow’s technology innovation. To have a preview of what the future could look like, we at Cisco asked 60 leading academic professors in Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Science (CS) in 25 top universities worldwide the following question: “What areas of research will you be focusing on going forward?”.

Here are 4 things, which we learned from their passionate and fascinating answers:

Moore Law

#1 – The Pending End of Moore’s Law 

The Interviewed Professors generally see Moore’s law coming to an end in the next 5-10 years (predictions of the end of the law are almost as old as the law itself…). It looks like smaller transistors can still be developed but at a high cost. Although not really about physical limits, but rather an economic issue, significant research is taking place to find alternative improvement mechanisms beyond reducing size. For example, replacing signal wires with optical signals, increasing energy efficiency, or using smarter data processing allocation between devices and the cloud.

#2: Research is Focusing on 4 Areas

The vast majority of research taking place at the top university institutions in Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Science (CS) falls into one of the following four areas:  

  1. Artificial intelligence: deep learning, mining of unstructured data, multi-agent communication, autonomous vehicles, robotics, human-computer interface, computer vision. 
  2. Process optimisation: software & systems engineering, processor improvements, power engineering, hardware improvement. 
  3. Cloud computing and networking: wireless communication, network engineering, software-defined networks, internet of things.
  4. Computer and information security: cryptography & encryption, network security, mobile security

#3 – Technology is Proliferating 

With the advent of the Internet of Things resulting in a growing number of connected devices impacting our life, technology is becoming increasingly embedded in society. Technologies such as big data and machine learning are in reality already playing a massive role (sometimes behind the scenes). Research will continue to drive improvements in Human-Computer Interfaces, creating new technologies that will increasingly co-exist with legacy, human controlled systems. As IT technology spills over into distant domains, it continuously expands the innovation boundaries of other industries such as healthcare and transportation.

#4 – Interdisciplinary Research is Key

Where is technology innovation heading?In many cases professors indicated that the key to unlocking the potential of technology applications is in combining research with other disciplines such as neuroscience, mechanical engineering, and social sciences. Professors also highlighted the difficulty in obtaining funding for such cross-disciplinary projects, because funding mechanisms usually expect proposed projects to fit into specific disciplines. 

In the following weeks, we will explore in more detail some of the themes that are emerging from this survey hopefully giving you out of the box ideas about the future they could potentially unlock.


Stephan Monterde

Director, Corporate Strategic Innovation

Chief Strategy Office