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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up December 11, 2020

Lux Research
December 11, 2020

Every day our researchers comb through the top innovation headlines and provide their expert analysis on important updates, trends, and developments across industries. Our analysts evaluate news based on potential importance ranking the developments from Truly Disruptive to Ignore.

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

Uber sells its autonomous vehicle group to Aurora, changing its valuation to $10 billion

Lewie Roberts Lux Research

Lewie Roberts, Senior Research Associate | @roberts_lewie Ico twitter
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive


"Uber is selling its autonomous vehicle (AV) unit and investing $400 million into AV company Aurora, giving Uber a 26% stake. Those who had invested in Uber ATG, such as Toyota, Denso, and SoftBank Vision Fund, will become minority shareholders. Unlike Uber, Aurora has placed a greater focus on autonomous trucking as the first application of autonomous vehicles, though it will pursue other applications of its AV tech, such as robotaxi services, in the future. A partnership with Uber will undoubtedly aid in the pursuit of this goal, but those interested should be more focused on the huge shift of resources (money, talent, software, data) that is going from Uber's ride-hailing-focused strategy to Aurora's trucking-focused one.
"

U.S. telco industry spending billions to provide barely adequate 5G service

13815-thumb-squareMichael Sullivan, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Bidders, led by mobile network operators, are expected to spend more that $50 billion to acquire C-band spectrum rights enabling midband 5G coverage across the U.S. The FCC opened the auction December 8, with $1.7 billion in bids. While there is a lot of spectrum to be had (280 MHz), the midband will provide only moderately better 5G coverage than 4G/LTE and not the big-bang high-density, low-latency high band that inspires most of the 5G hype. The bidding is to benefit operators who want to claim 5G nationwide. Those interested should be skeptical of the value of 5G as a game changer until a large amount of high band is deployed and accessible."

Hyundai reveals E-GMP platform as automakers continue to design dedicated BEV platforms

Robinson, ChristopherChristopher Robinson, Senior Analyst | @CRobinsonLux Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"While Hyundai was known to be working on a dedicated electric platform, the company revealed key details publicly for the first time. Overall, the design mirrored many others – standardized modules and a flexible platform mean it can underpin many vehicles and increase part sharing for reduced costs, with improvements in energy density and costs compared to previous models built on modified ICE platforms. However, Hyundai is differentiated in that it includes a bidirectional onboard charger to enable V2G out of the box, as well as other functions like letting one vehicle charge another. Unlike Tesla and BYD, the company is not making the battery a structural member of the vehicle."

Solid Power shares new battery data demonstrating progress toward commercialization

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"
The 22-layer, 20 Ah cells achieve 330 Wh/kg and are produced on a roll-to-roll battery production line. The company also revealed further details on the 2 Ah cells it delivered to validation partners in October; the products show cycling stability at near room temperature at C/10 discharge rates, with rates up to 3C possible at 70 °C. Solid Power is well-positioned to begin automotive qualification for its batteries in the next two years and anticipates further discharge rate and energy density improvements. While other SSB companies are announcing lab-scale results, Solid Power gains a valuable foothold in the market as one of the only all-SSB startups producing its technology on a pilot line while achieving high energy density cells."

Lux Research - Newsletter Research


Researchers at ETH Zurich combine wheels with legged robot for improved power efficiency

Kern, Josh

Josh Kern, Analyst | @josh_kern_ Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"The researchers installed wheels onto the four legs of an ANYmal robot (from startup ANYbotics), showcasing the benefits of the hybrid techniques for mobile robots. Legged robots, such as Boston Dynamics' Spot, have gained popularity over the past couple of years due to their ability to navigate rugged terrain. However, a downside of legged robots is the large power consumption required to finely control the multiple actuators in each joint of the robot. The modified robot in this research could dynamically switch between wheeled mobility and legged mobility, depending on the terrain. This type of design could increase the battery life of a legged robot, which is generally only about an hour with today's latest models."

One step closer to bio-based acrylic acid: Cargill to scale P&G's technology with IFPEN and Axens

12599-thumb-square-1Kristin Marshall, Senior Research Associate | @KMarsh4Bio Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"This is not Cargill's first foray into acrylic acid, but there are some key differences that better position the company this time around. For one, Cargill's previous partnership with Novozymes and BASF targeted acrylic acid from 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP), not lactic acid, because of its relative ease to dehydrate. However, due to poor economics, the approach from 3-HP and Cargill's efforts surrounding acrylic acid hit a dead end. Enter P&G's breakthrough innovation to more effectively convert lactic acid to acrylic acid. This a perfect opportunity for Cargill, which is already a large producer of lactic acid. This announcement also shows how brands like P&G can take a more active role in achieving their sustainability goals."

Enerkem combines waste gasification and electrolysis in Varennes to produce biofuels

Arij-van-Berkel-Lux-900px-squareArij van Berkel, Ph.D., Director, Research | @aivanberkel Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"Enerkem announced it will build a commercial biofuels plant in Varennes. The project called Varennes Carbon Recycling (VCR) is the result of a collaboration of Enerkem with Shell, Suncor Energy, and Hydro-Quebec. The latter will supply electricity for an 87 MW electrolyzer, making the project especially noteworthy. Combining gasification with electrolysis enables the production of drop-in fuels from oxygen-rich feedstock like waste wood. VCR will have an annual production capacity of 120 million liters, about 3 times the existing Enerkem methanol plant. The investment is approximately 685 million USD, with 18% in loans and equity by the Quebec government. The project shows the way to sustainable aviation and shipping fuels."

Astanor Ventures launches $325 million fund for agrifood startups

hariniHarini Venkataraman, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Astanor's latest fund, called the "Global Impact Fund," will focus on supporting innovative technologies that address UN sustainable development goals, targeting European and North American geographies. Since its launch in 2017, Astanor has funded many agrifood startups, such as Ÿnsect, Infarm, Notpla, and Apeel Sciences, working on topics like alternative proteins, vertical farming, and sustainable packaging. More recently, it led the Series B funding round for biostimulant startup Aphea.Bio. Sustainability and resource efficiency themes are becoming increasingly important across the agrifood value chain. Expect to see an increase in such venture capital funds to support both early- and late-stage enabling technologies."

Making Sense of Sustainability


QuantumScape finally shares some data but fails to justify the hype

Robinson, ChristopherChristopher Robinson, Senior Analyst | @CRobinsonLux Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"QuantumScape showed data from single-layer pouch cells that indicated fast charging (15 minutes to 80% SoC) and 800 cycles at a 1C charge/discharge rate, which represent some of the better lab-scale results Lux has seen for a lithium anode cell. However, after more than a decade and $300 million to develop the battery, the company has failed to show a cell ready for commercialization, as it did not discuss its inability to make multilayer pouch cells and has yet to provide any validation of manufacturing costs. Lux remains firmly unconvinced that QuantumScape will meet its 2025 timeline for commercialization, as it is still only sharing lab-scale results and needs to focus on manufacturing to justify its lofty valuation."

TechnipFMC partners with Bombora on the development of a floating wind-wave platform

Seoane da Silva, PatriciaPatricia Seoane da Silva, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance


"TechnipFMC will collaborate with Bombora on its InSPIRE project, which aims to develop a floating wind foundation with integrated wave energy converters. Initially, the objective of this project is to develop and validate a 12 MW unit (4 MW of wave power plus 8 MW of wind power). If successful, Bombora plans to develop an 18 MW (6 MW wave power plus 12 MW wind power) unit that can deliver power at an LCOE below €50 ($60.50)/MWh. As we have previously noted, the current momentum of floating wind and rising need for baseload power are poised to drive marine energy developments. Companies should regard this collaboration as a confirmation of this trend and follow up on similar projects to verify price and performance capabilities. "

Mitsubishi Chemical works with Greentown Labs to seek sustainable startups

457-thumb-square

Michael Holman, Ph.D., VP, Research | @MichaelHolmanLR Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation (MCHC) and Greentown Labs are soliciting partnerships from startups developing tech in alternative proteins, plastic recycling, and food waste prevention, dangling $25,000 in nondilutive grant funding as well as the ability to run a proof-of-concept project with MCHC group companies and support from Greentown Labs. MCHC is wise to engage in innovation clusters like Greentown, and this type of challenge can help engage early-stage companies, but clients considering this path should use other approaches as well, as some startups may be reluctant to engage for a relatively modest cash award – U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants average about 10× as much, for instance."

Gotham Greens raises $87 million, joining others scaling indoor farming

Krishfield, LauraLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"The funding, encompassing a $42 million investment from Manna Tree and The Silverman Group in addition to $45 million in debt capital, will be used by Gotham Greens to build more of its hydroponic greenhouses. Gotham Greens currently has eight greenhouses across the U.S. that combined grow 35 million heads of lettuce annually. The company claims to be the fastest-growing indoor farming company in the U.S. and claims profitability. Gotham Greens' total funding is significant at $130 million, and it is scaling more quickly, like other leading greenhouse competitors (e.g., BrightFarms: $213 million), compared to those with vertical operations. Companies, diverse opportunities from seed to sensors are likely to emerge as the industry scales."

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