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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up August 13, 2021

Lux Research
August 13, 2021

Every day our researchers read through the top innovation headlines and provide their expert opinions on important developments and industry news. Our analysts then evaluate news based on potential importance ranking the developments from Truly Disruptive to Ignore.

On Fridays we highlight our Lux Take on the top news for the week. Check out our thoughts on the latest emerging technology and innovation news for the past week below. 

DeepMind's AlphaFold will fundamentally change protein-based medicine

Xiao Zhong, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Lux Research

Xiao Zhong, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive


"Many diseases are related to proteins, and understanding their structures often leads to breakthroughs in medicine. In fact, many Nobel Prizes are given to researchers for solving protein structures. Yet there is still not a fast way to determine protein structure – many researchers spend thousands of hours growing single crystals, using X-ray diffraction, cryo-EM, and other tools just to solve one protein structure. DeepMind's AlphaFold won the CASP competition by a large margin in 2020, and its algorithm can predict protein structures based on amnio acid sequences with atomic-scale accuracy. The team has decided to open-source the code. This will lead to a fundamental change in protein-related drug development."

80 Acres raises $160 million Series B, priming itself for international expansion

Laura Krishfield, Research Associate, Lux Research

Tim Appachanda, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive


"The round was led by General Atlantic and joined by Siemens Financial Services, Blue Earth, General Atlantic's Beyond Net Zero team, Barclays, and Taurus. 80 Acres Farms, which scaled from two vertical farms to eight farms in two years, will apply the funding toward business expansion and product development. Given the company's recent momentum and new support from General Atlantic and Siemens, 80 Acres is primed for global penetration. Moreover, its ties with European food manufacturers via its joint venture with Ocado and Priva signals that the European market may be part of those expansion plans. Companies, as 80 Acres moves to regions outside the U.S., expect its development efforts to be steered by regional food demands."

Chinese government's enabling policies support biopesticides, emerging opportunities for the industry

Tim Appachanda, Ph.D. headshot

Tim Appachanda, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"The Chinese government released a series of enabling policies to support research and innovation to promote biopesticides. Some of the measures include providing subsidies for the purchase of plant protection machinery for the application of biopesticies for managing major crop pests. The focus has been on horticulture crops like tea, fruits, and vegetables. Measures are also being taken to ease the registration policies under the green channel pesticide registration process. Consumer awareness coupled with environmental consciousness is driving governments to adopt greener products at scale. Companies in the sustainable agriculture space need to watch out for the emerging trends in the growing biopesticide marketplace."

Lux Research - Newsletter Research

Knowde strengthens market leadership by raising $72 million Series B

Jerrold Wang, Analyst, Lux Research

Jerrold Wang, MBA, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Knowde is taking off fast, having recently formed multiple strong partnerships and raised $86 million in investment funding the past 15 months. The rise of Knowde is partially due to the increasing adoption of digital sales platforms (DSPs) by the chemical and ingredient industry to drive new sales opportunities and business models and partially due to Knowde's broad product coverage, large storefront base, and background of a third-party DSP (rather than a spinoff from a chemical company). This new funding will allow Knowde to develop user features and expand in the global market, further consolidating its leadership in the DSP field. Companies in the chemical and ingredient industry should work with players like Knowde to expand their reach."

LG Chem soaks up Some attention by bringing world's first biomass-balanced SAPs to market

Kristin Marshall, Analyst, Lux Research

Kristin Marshall, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"This announcement comes after LG Chem launched its first eco-friendly brand, LETZero, offering a portfolio of recycled products, biodegradable products, and bio-balanced products. The term "bio-balanced" refers to the attribution of renewable raw materials (sourced from Neste) used in the early stages of production. The appeal is that LG Chem can make the same products while reducing its carbon footprint. However, given that "bio-balanced" is not the same as "bio-based," the company is smart to take additional steps to certify and communicate its product's carbon footprint. An additional part of LG Chem's strategy is to digitize the carbon mitigation effect per product to enhance its customers' trust in its bio-balanced products."

Illinois Institute of Technology reports progress in lithium air battery

Shishir Jairam, Research Associate, Lux Research

Shishir Jairam, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance


"The announcement comes after the Illinois Institute of Technology tested the batteries using a novel catalyst – trimolybdenum phosphide (Mo3P) nanoparticles. The team claims to have used this novel catalyst to reduce the byproducts formed during the reactions, which hamper the performance. The researchers have reported a cycle life of 1,200 cycles at 1C with the use of pure oxygen. Lithium-air technology has faced a tumultuous path toward development, with poor cycle life and low power output. Although the research highlights an improvement over existing academic studies, companies should note that the efficiency remains well below that of today's Li-ion batteries and doesn't overcome the fundamental issue of needing oxygen to operate."

NGIF announces CA$1.65 Million in funding for seven projects in renewable natural gas, CCUS, and hydrogen

Yuan-Sheng Yu, Managing Consultant, Lux Research

Yuan-Sheng Yu, Managing Consultant
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Less than four months after the formation of the Natural Gas Innovation Fund (NGIF), the fund announced its first seven projects. Hydrogen received the most attention, with funding for Hydrogen Optimized, Planetary Hydrogen, Proton Technologies, and Aurora Hydrogen. While we expected Proton Technologies to be one of the startups to receive funding, surprisingly, NGIF opted to avoid backing digital solution startups that have historically dominated the natural gas startup space due to their lower-cost solutions and shorter development timelines. With $35 million earmarked, players not as embedded in Canada's startup ecosystem should monitor NGIF's upcoming projects, as it will likely highlight several other startups this year."

Lux Research - Materials - Newsletter

Essentium acquires Collider which was looking for an exit since 2019

Tugce Uslu, PDEng, Analyst, Lux Research

Tugce Uslu, PDEng, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"The 3D printing space is seeing a lot of activity around mergers and acquisitions this year, and most companies are looking to expand their product portfolio rather than focusing on strengthening their core technology. Essentium's acquisition of Collider is similar, as this is the company's entrance into the digital light processing (DLP) 3D printing segment. Collider did not have a commercial 3D printer and had been looking for an exit since 2019, so companies should not expect any immediate results out of this merger."

Niantic acquires 3D scanning technology developer Scaniverse

Vladimir Roznyatovskiy, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Lux Research

Vladimir Roznyatovskiy, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Spatial maps are on Big Tech's minds as a way to capture the future location-based virtual ads market. Niantic previously acquired, while SnapFacebookAmazonEpic Games, and others have also divided up the 3D mapping startup ecosystem. Smartphone-based Scaniverse technology provides a scanning solution similar to the Object Capture software recently announced by Apple. While the technology is not unique or proprietary, the recent acquisition spree among the companies eyeing virtual spaces is likely a sign of competitive bids toward a killer app and to be the first on the market."

Heart Aerospace lands $35 million Series A round and announces potential orders for 200 aircraft

Christopher Robinson, Research Director, Lux Research

Christopher Robinson, Research Director
Lux Take: Average Importance


"United Airlines, the fourth-largest airline in the world, directly invested in the round through its venture arm along with the smaller regional partner of United Mesa Airlines. While the $35 million Series A round is in line with similar funding rounds from other companies like ZeroAvia, the orders for 200 planes caught the most headlines. However, like many early-stage orders, these are not firm orders and are conditional upon the company meeting certification and performance milestones. Heart is differentiated from other electric aviation companies in that its main focus is not on maximizing range (it can only fly roughly 250 miles on a single charge) but instead on reducing costs to make it attractive for short flights."


Did you miss last week's news round-up? Check out the blog here. Make sure you never miss a headline by subscribing to our newsletter.

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