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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up August 6, 2021

Lux Research
August 6, 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. 

Coca-Cola's first NFT collectibles for metaverse may shed light on user engagement and product sales for consumer brands in the future

Jerrold Wang headshot

Jerrold Wang, MBA, Analyst
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive

"Coca-Cola will offer its first nonfungible token (NFT) collectibles in an online charity auction on July 30 and donate the proceeds to Special Olympics International. As some of the NFTs are digital assets that can be used on the Decentraland metaverse platform, Coca Cola's move clearly shows its initiative to watch and tap opportunities in the rising popularity of the metaverse, especially among the next generation of users. Given the trending behaviors of youth, CPG brands should add the metaverse to their radar as an emerging digital channel to drive user engagement and product (physical and digital) sales. In fact, brands like Gucci have already explored the metaverse to boost the user experience and successfully sold digital bags."

SoftBank invest $200 million in Wiliot to accelerate its development and market penetration

Lisheng Gao headshot

Lisheng Gao, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"Wiliot raised $200 million in VC investment from SoftBank Vision Fund, bringing its total raised VC investment to $270 million. While RFID tags are already widely used, Wiliot takes the technology one step further by incorporating RF energy harvesting technologies, computing units, and sensors into passive RFID tags (marketed as Bluetooth tags). This new round of financing will help the company accelerate its development and market penetration. Clients looking for novel passive RFID should engage with the company, especially if looking for large-scale, low-cost asset tracking, identification, and monitoring solutions. The additional $200 million will help the company scale production so as to meet rising market demand."

New California PUC rulemaking may lead to distribution unbundling to accommodate DERs

Michael Sullivan headshot

Michael Sullivan, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is embarking on an ambitious rule-making process to "modernize the electric grid for a high distributed energy resources (DERs) future." CPUC may well be a benchmark for others to follow in tackling the complex issues of who pays the bill for grid capital investments to accommodate DERs. The result may be a new distribution entity to help reduce strain on utilities. But how this enables or detracts from a DER marketplace is unclear. CPUC is aiming for an open, flexible, technology-neutral network to foster DERs. California utilities should prepare for unbundling distribution system operations, and other utilities should prepare for similar initiatives in their markets."

AutoGrid and Zūm partner to turn 10,000 school buses into 1 GW virtual power plant

Christopher Robinson headshot

Christopher Robinson, Director, Research
Lux Take: Very Important

"School buses have emerged as one of the most promising use cases to test vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging networks due to their high scheduling visibility, high amount of downtime, and relatively large battery capacities. Zūm and AutoGrid's recent announcement would create a 10,000-bus virtual power plant capable of providing over 1 GW of power, making it one of largest virtual power plants based on V2G charging in the world. While several passenger vehicles with bidirectional charging have been announced, those use cases focus more on backup power. As discussed in our previous assessment of V2G charging, buses are the most promising fit for revenue-generating V2G, and clients should expect more announcements of V2G-capable commercial fleets."

M&G invests in two carbon capture and storage companies: Storegga Geotechnologies and Summit Carbon Solutions

Mukunda Kaushik, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Each investment spans capture, transportation, and storage of CO2. Storegga, in collaboration with Shell, is a developer of the Acorn Project that aims to store CO2 captured from industrial operations in Scotland under the sea using 420 km of existing pipelines. The project, expected to be operational in the mid-2020s, aims to sequester 5 to 10 million tonnes CO2/yr by 2030. Meanwhile, Summit Carbon Solutions plans to install carbon capture units in a network of 30 biorefineries in the U.S. for subsurface sequestration. Projects encompassing the entire value chain are instrumental to building the supporting infrastructure required to drive the adoption of industrial carbon capture and could potentially incentivize post-combustion retrofits."

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PacBio acquires Omniome in deal worth $800 million, expanding its DNA sequencing capabilities

Anshul Gupte, Research Associate, Lux Research

Anshul Gupte, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"PacBio specializes in long-read DNA sequencing, which provides insights on genomic variants including immunology, rare diseases, and microbiology. The company seeks to complement its service by integrating Omniome's short-read sequencing (SRS) platform, which can be utilized for cancer screening, precision medicine, and prenatal testing. The combination of services would enable the company to target a larger breadth of genomic applications, a prospect that now-competitor Illumina was prepared to spend $1.2 billion on before the deal fell through. The merger situates PacBio well to target clinical use cases, especially as more players shift into population genomics. Clients should follow how the company plans to leverage SRS in its platform."

Sanofi acquires mRNA therapeutics company Translate Bio for a whopping $3.2 billion

Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Lux Research

Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Sanofi has faced setbacks in trying to develop vaccines against COVID-19, with clinical trials demonstrating a failure in triggering an immune response. This buyout of Translate Bio suggests a shift in strategy to push forward a full pipeline of mRNA therapies. This move will cause other pharma players to respond. Pfizer's partnership with BioNTech has been successful on the vaccine front, and it may look to build further into other areas to maintain a lead. J&J and AstraZeneca are also likely to respond to further cement their market share. Clients should look out for partnership opportunities leveraging digital tools to track endpoints and outcomes as these players look to build comprehensive and integrated patient-centric solutions.

Illumina hit with further European Commission antitrust investigations over $8 billion bid for Grail

Anshul Gupte, Research Associate, Lux Research

Anshul Gupte, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Grail, originally a spinoff of Illumina, develops early-detection cancer diagnostics using blood samples, which the genomics company seeks to add back into its biotech arsenal. However, both the European Commission and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission argue that the takeover could harm competing diagnostic services. Previously, Illumina was blocked from acquiring PacBio, an event that later made the company a competitor. This is part of a broader trend of companies in the genomics space targeting clinical applications and focusing on optimizing the patient care journey. Clients should note the regulatory backing for competition in the space and see how it could be leveraged for their own strategic goals."

FDA clears first portable positron emission tomography (PET) scanner

Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Lux Research

Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Positron emission tomography (PET) is a functional imaging technique used to visualize and measure changes in physiological activities like blood flow, regional chemical composition, and absorption. PET scans can detect early signs of cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders. However, the device is bulky and costly, often requiring specialized facilities and trained personnel to run. This FDA clearance for Prescient Imaging's portable PET scanner unlocks access to a larger group of patients who may live near healthcare facilities without PET scanners. Clients should monitor this and similar developments that look to bring point-of-care capabilities to traditionally bulky medical equipment for partnership and investment opportunities."

Energyworx raises €5.1 million in investment round led by Eneco Ventures

Patricia Seoane da Silva

Patricia Seoane da Silva, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Other investors include SET Ventures, Engie New Ventures, and EDP Ventures, which had already participated in previous investment rounds from Energyworx. Through this investment, Energyworx plans to scale its energy data management and analytics platform and accelerate internal expansion. Overall, this investment points at the growing interest in data processing solutions among energy retailers and grid operators, which face increasingly large volumes of data resulting from the high penetration of distributed energy resources, electric vehicles, etc. This challenge favors the business case of solutions like Energyworx's – hence, clients should expect similar developments moving forward."

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Alltech Crop Science and Helm Agro partner to offer a portfolio of traditional and biological crop solutions

Jamie Grippi headshot

Jamie Grippi, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"The partnership will see Helm Agro market, sell, and distribute Alltech Crop Science's line of crop nutrition and protection products in the U.S. while Alltech focuses on manufacturing and R&D efforts for novel products. The synergistic approach aims to capitalize on Helm's established network for distribution, which offsets Alltech's few pathways to market and allows Alltech to focus on new opportunities. Clients should note that ag chem companies will find it costly and difficult to enter the bio-manufacturing business unless they have existing or developing capabilities. Partnerships between large players and more purpose-built companies can help launch formulations in the short term that fit in the emerging industry of alternatives."

Companies are pushing smart brewers to enhance the user experience, but success depends on the balance of additional value and price premium

Jerrold Wang headshot

Jerrold Wang, MBA, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Keurig's new smart brewer uses a lid-mounted camera to recognize the brand and roast of coffee pods and automatically customize the brew setting to coffee experts' recommendations. It also allows users to personalize the settings and schedule a brew via an app. Keurig faces competition from other smart brewer developers like Spinn, a startup that just raised $20 million for expansion. Clients, connected devices have advantages in user understanding and engagement, but they fail (like LifeFuel) because the incremental personalization cannot justify the high price premium. Keurig's new product may see better adoption than Spinn, as it offers both personalization and user convenience, and its price is very close to its previous brewers."

Matterport and Facebook team up to get most out of spatial data

Vladimir Roznyatovskiy headshot

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

"Two companies started the collaboration to advance autonomous and robotic interactions within the complexity of the physical spaces. The intent is to use the Habitat-Matterport 3D Research Dataset (HM3D), a collection of high-resolution digital twins based on real-world residential, and commercial spaces, for academic and noncommercial purposes – though the models derived from the partnership would no doubt be quite commercially valuable to the two for-profit organizations. Facebook's drive to map the world has significant friction in data acquisition, largely due to concerns about data privacy, so capitalizing on third-party information like this is a way to extend its reach."

Nissan announces EV36Zero Electric vehicle hub in U.K.

Shishir Jairam headshot

Shishir Jairam, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"The announcement highlights Nissan's goal toward carbon neutrality. The EV36Zero hub will be centered around the existing plant; by partnering with Envision AESC, the company is looking at creating a hub capable of manufacturing electric vehicles and batteries and also involves the battery recycling process. It may not come as a surprise as Envision AESC has been manufacturing EV battery cells, modules, and packs since 2012 in the U.K., and Nissan claims that the hub will help in ramping up the production rate. Although the center has yet to start functioning, clients interested in this development should note that Nissan can gain an advantage in the EV production chain across Europe through this manufacturing ecosystem."

Electric Hydrogen closes $24 million Series A for green hydrogen

Mukunda Kaushik, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"The funding round – financed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, and Capricorn's Technology Impact fund – aims to support product development of the company's technology to produce hydrogen from renewable electricity as it expands its U.S. operations. The company launched in 2020 and appears to be operating in stealth mode; it targets green hydrogen for industrial decarbonization, particularly the production of chemicals, steel, and fertilizers, but does not disclose any information on its technology, electrolyzer type, or other core differentiators. With increased investments going into green hydrogen and the industrial sector being a key adopter of power-to-hydrogen pathways, clients should monitor for further details."

John Deere invests in Summit Carbon Solutions to help scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project

Jamie Grippi headshot

Jamie Grippi, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Summit's $4.5 billion pipeline project will target the ethanol industry, transporting CO2 from 31 biorefineries in the Midwest for underground sequestration in North Dakota. The CCS facility – the world's largest at 9 million MT storage capacity – will come online in 2024. As an ag equipment producer, John Deere's investment may aim to increase its involvement in the sustainability of the broader U.S. agricultural market or open avenues to participation in carbon marketplaces. Lux's claim of ethanol being a low-hanging fruit is proving true due to favorable carbon credits and high-purity CO2 via fermentation. Clients can expect to see other nongrowers pursue strategic investments as emissions-related regulations tighten across the industry."

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