The Deep Tech revolution -- Part 1: White papers

Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Cybersecurity, Blockchain: these words have become common terms we hear everyday, dominating the news and business landscapes worldwide under what we have come to know as Deep Tech. According to recent research, in 2021 the deep tech market registered a total revenue of US$431.1 Million, and is expected to grow by 21 percent between 2022 and 2032 for a value of US$ 3,733.8.

Start-ups and companies within the Deep Tech space are all about innovation and advancing technologies, often diving into niche parts of already narrow fields. They run the business side differently, they bring revolutionary approaches to traditional dynamics in the work environment, and even create new roles and job titles not seen in other companies. Staying true to their nature where science and innovation plays an important role, these companies engage in specific activities that best compliment their primary immediate goal of research and development, whether this is about technology, sharing knowledge or growing their community.

What is often overlooked is that these activities and actions, which might be less easy to appreciate for a non-technical audience, can actually provide inspiration and resources for other organizations and businesses that could benefit from a similar approach. In this series, experts at Zama -- a cryptography company building open source homomorphic encryption solutions for blockchain and AI -- will share their insights on some of these activities and initiatives. Each installment aims to dive deeper into one aspect, providing an overview, tips to deliver successfully and benefits that they can bring to other organizations and businesses.

Throughout the series we will be looking at:

  • White papers
  • Meetups & conferences
  • Bounty Programs
  • Tutorials & demos
  • Hackathons

Language and audience: The keys to a successful white paper

A white paper is a document illustrating a complex issue, presenting a theory or summarizing a research on a specific topic. Written by experts, academics and researchers, its purpose is usually to help readers understand a subject with a combination of technical knowledge, examples and explanations to communicate to a wider audience.

There might be a common misconception that white papers are confined to the academic field, something only professors, researchers and scholars can understand and benefit from. However, for deep tech companies which rely heavily on R&D, white papers are a perfect vehicle to share advancements and progress in their technology and the products and solutions powered by it.

A white paper sits somewhere between an academic paper of many pages and a product technical fact-sheet of just a few technical highlights. It is often as long as an academic paper, with roughly the same structure (introduction, technical middle section, followed by references to the research literature) but is written at a technical level which the reader of a technical fact sheet can appreciate. Unlike a research paper it does not aim to introduce new technical material or justify the correctness, instead it aims to show how the technology of the company can be used in detail to solve a problem of the reader. Unlike a fact sheet it is not primarily a means to advertise any product, it is not a sales pitch, but a technical description. 

For an organization looking to divulge the benefits of its technology and the real life applications, a white paper should be aimed at an audience who is not used to in-depth research and would struggle to follow an academic explanation. After the research and studies have been conducted and once you have your data and information, the first step as you start writing is to think about who is going to read the document. Ask yourself what type of audience you want to reach and why; how equipped are they to understand the paper, what might be their basic knowledge of the topic and what questions are they more likely to have. They will be different questions from what experts would want to know, more about 'how will this help me in my day-to-day work and life' and 'why is this relevant to me'.

Then focus on what you ultimately aim to achieve with the document; are you interested in illustrating a concept or idea, or is your goal more commercially oriented?

The Deep Tech approach

Producing a white paper requires a long process between research and writing, taking up time and resources. Despite this, deep tech companies should not shy away from allocating assets to this. By definition, deep tech companies are creating transformative tech, usually on a long time scale in terms of route to market. Thus, a white paper helps start to shape the market, perhaps a few years out from the complete product delivery.

In addition, these companies are often building horizontal tech, without a specific industry or market in mind as they aim to cut across different use cases and applications. For these reasons a single vertical market may not understand how the tech is going to transform its industry; a dedicated white paper can help explain this and illustrate the advantages of a specific innovation.

One size fits all?

So far we have looked at how and why a deep tech company should integrate white papers into its activities, as a means to communicate about its technology and products. However, the same reasoning can be extended to other tech companies or businesses in general, especially when they are dedicated to bringing innovation and educating the market - other businesses, organizations, consumers - to the problems their technology can solve.

For these companies, a white paper can be a way to do more than simply promoting a product from a mere marketing perspective; it can also be about creating a community around the technology and product.

This is the philosophy driving Zama’s conception of white papers and shared research, aiming to build a community made of customers' integrator fans, industry and academia. For a recent white paper about a new fhEVM protocol for private smart contracts on blockchain, a multitude of techniques and channels were used to generate detailed documentation rather than a simple marketing brief.

A tech company, or any company with products going to market, can present a white paper as a cross between providing a public understanding of a science-based content, and document which focuses that towards a specific product, idea or roadmap for future development.

Image credit: videoflow/

Professor Nigel Smart is a cryptography researcher and entrepreneur, and Chief Academic Officer at Zama. From 2000 to 2017, he founded and ran the cryptology research group at the University of Bristol, before joining COSIC at KU Leuven in 2018. In parallel, he founded several successful companies, including Identum (acquired by Trend Micro) and Unbound Security (acquired by Coinbase). He is also the co-founder of the popular crypto conference, Real World Crypto.

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