During the fourth quarter of 2011, Lux Research analysts profiled 262 companies across 12 different emerging technology domains in the fourth quarter of 2011.Here are the 10 they thought were the most compelling. Some, such as Proterro, stand out for their disruptive potential. Others, such as Diamon-Fusion, made the grade with well-executed business strategies. The competition for a Top 10 spot will only get hotter as we expand our portfolio of coverage domains to include Energy Electronics and a broadened green buildings portfolio.
1. Diamon-Fusion International – Positive – Advanced Materials
With its transparent silicone film used to coat silica-based substrates, Diamon-Fusion is one of the few startups in the protective coatings space with a strong track record in both technology and business execution.
2. Proterro – Wait-and-see – Bio-based Materials and Components
Proterro is commercializing a strain of photosynthetic organism that produces sugars at levels ten times more productive than sugarcane and in a configuration that could deliver the holy grail of “five cent” sugars (i.e. five cents per pound). But it will need funding and downstream partners to scale its potentially breakthrough technology beyond a lab prototype.
3. Topell Energy – Positive – Alternative Fuels
Working with German utility RWE, Topell Energy scaled its first commercial torrefaction facility in 2011 to convert wood waste into bio-coal pellets. Topell is a leader in the torrefaction space and is positioned to capitalize on healthy incentives in the EU for coal/bio-coal co-firing.
4. Spirae: Wait-and-see – Smart Grid
With the growing grid penetration of renewable energy sources and the inherent difficulty in managing their fluctuating inputs, Spirae could be in a prime position to support utility infrastructure with its comprehensive control and management system – if it can prove its concept on a large scale and secure long-term utility contracts.
5. eIQ Energy – Positive – Solar Systems
One of the few DC/DC optimizer companies staying with stand-alone hardware, eiQ partners with engineering, procurement, and construction companies that can realize its technology’s value in the strong commercial market segment.
6. Pervasive Displays – Wait-and-see – Printed Electronics
Using a technology honed for the One Laptop Per Child Program, Pervasive Displays produces low-power electrophoretic display modules that target application developers for warehouse signage and electronic shelf labels. While Pervasive has power advantages from its control functions, it will need to drive its costs down to compete with more established competitors and access a broader market.
7. Kurion – Positive – Water
A high-risk but high-profit U.S. nuclear contamination control company that rapidly scaled to clean up the Japanese Fukushima radioactive cooling water problem. The work generated massive windfall profits when no one else on the planet was prepared to deal with the problem.
8. Hycrete – Wait-and-see – Green Buildings
Hycrete’s water barrier technology improves the durability of concrete infrastructure at prices significantly cheaper than the incumbent membrane-based approach. But it will need to establish partnerships with well-known infrastructure or chemical companies in order to gain market access in the conservative infrastructure segment.
9. Citic Guoan MGL – Wait-and-see – China Innovation, Electric Vehicles
In the sea of Chinese lithium-ion battery developers, state-owned MGL stands out for its traction in China’s electric and hybrid-electric bus market. Its strong government relationships could provide ready channels to market for would-be foreign technology partners. But competition with other domestic firms such as China Aviation Lithium Battery Corporation (CALB) will be fierce.
10. Ablynx – Wait-and-see – Formulation and Delivery
Ablynx engineers its “nanobodies” – therapeutic proteins derived from antibodies in camel blood – to specifically deliver small molecule drugs to a target site. Despite stiff competition in the saturated antibody field and a multitude of emerging targeting strategies (such as DNA aptamers), Ablynx has snagged more than its share of heavyweight partners (Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck Serono, Norvartis, Pfizer), and is generating tens of millions in revenue to assist in its own healthy development pipeline.