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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up February 19, 2021

Lux Research
February 20, 2021

Every day our researchers comb through the top innovation headlines and provide their expert analysis on important product updates, announcements, events, trends, and industry developments. 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.

Tesla announces $1.5 billion bitcoin purchase and plans to accept it for payments

McCollum, ColeCole McCollum, Analyst
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive


"Following in the footsteps of companies like Square and MicroStrategy, which have purchased bitcoin to hold in their treasuries, Tesla's purchase is notable, as it is the first Fortune 500 company to do so. While bitcoin has, to date, largely failed to gain traction as a medium of exchange due to its volatility, transaction speeds, and fees, many are flocking to bitcoin as a store of value and as a hedge against currency inflation. For these reasons, clients should expect Tesla's announcement of accepting bitcoin as payment to see limited impact, but the purchase for its own treasury will only accelerate institutional adoption of bitcoin (a trend that was already accelerating, in part due to COVID-19) as an investment and store of value."

Ford plans $29 billion for electric and autonomous cars through 2025, mostly for electrification

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


"On a quarterly call when it announced losses of $2.9 billion, Ford committed $22 billion to electrification and an additional $7 billion to autonomous vehicles through 2025. This marks an increase over its previous investment of $11 billion to develop electrified vehicles between 2018 and 2022, as it looks to further scale up its electrification program. Those interested should look for Ford to use some of these funds to develop an all-electric platform, as its Mustang Mach-E rides on a modified ICE platform used in the Focus and Kuga models, and integrate VW's MEB platform into vehicles during this time frame."

Avantium licenses Eastman's FDCA patent portfolio

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


"Even during Avantium's controversial breakup with BASF, the company had maintained that its YXY technology was sound. However, rumors suggested that Avantium needed to improve its final purification of FDCA (needed for subsequent PEF production). Given its goal of bringing its flagship plant online by 2023, as well as increased competition from players like Stora Enso and Novamont, it makes sense that the company would want to find a way to quickly overcome its process limitations. Much of Eastman's patent portfolio covers routes to a purified FDCA product, making it the perfect fit for Avantium's needs. Companies should not view this as a total knock on Avantium's technology but a necessary decision to get it across the finish line."

Redefine Meat raises $29 million Series A round for 3D-printed plant-based meat

10085-thumb-squareThomas Hayes, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Happiness Capital and Hanaco Ventures co-led the round, which brings the company's total funding to $35 million. The Series A round will go toward the completion of a pilot production facility and a 2021 commercial launch in Europe, followed by Asia and North America. Lux has had a healthy dose of skepticism around 3D printing of food, but admittedly, Redefine Meat is showing signs of overcoming the challenges of the space through its strong partnership network – namely PHW Group, Givaudan, and Best Meister. This underscores the need to cultivate an ecosystem when looking to scale emerging agrifood technologies."

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Mount Sini study finds wearables can predict COVID-19 diagnosis up to a week before testing

2908-thumb-squareJerrold Wang, Analyst | @jerroldwang Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"­­The study uses the Apple Watch to record biometric signals like heart rate variability and a custom study app to collect users' reported symptoms like fever, aches, and cough. The impact on COVID-19 preliminary screening is unclear, given the lack of details on prediction accuracy. However, clients offering wearable devices and healthcare services should still monitor the study, as it serves the rising initiative of using digital biomarkers for COVID-19 screening, where Apple is behind wearables and e-textile companies like OuraFitbit, and Nanowear. Companies should consider trying out digital biomarker solutions for COVID-19 and other diseases, as the pandemic is an unusual opportunity for users to try and adopt such solutions."

Lidar startup AEye goes public via SPAC

Lewie Roberts Lux Research

Lewie Roberts, Senior Research Associate | @roberts_lewie Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"
AEye is engaging in the SPAC trend that permeates the mobility space (see our analysis of the trend here), following a number of other lidar providers like Velodyne, Luminar, Aeva, Ouster, and Innoviz. AEye targets the automotive space for enabling ADAS features and future autonomous vehicles. Investors in the company include GM Ventures, Subaru-SBI, and Intel Capital; one of its key partners is Continental. Autonomous vehicle developers established sensor strategies long ago, so expect AEye to play more toward ADAS applications through its partnerships."

Protix raises $18.6 million to ramp up insect protein production

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


"This round was led by existing investor Aqua-Spark and included participation from Rabo Corporate Investments, Brabant Development Company, and Invest-NL. As Lux previously predicted, Protix is planning for the international expansion of its black soldier fly production and will use the funding for product development (implying a new focus on consumer food products). Despite encouraging developments around EU regulations for insect protein in food, regional consumer perception is still a potential barrier to further growth of the ingredient. Protix will need to carefully consider formulation and aesthetics for an appealing consumer product. Companies, keep in mind that shifting cultural norms shape the market opportunity for insect protein."

Volkswagen begins battery recycling pilot project, boasts 92% recovery of cathode active materials

9107-thumb-squareAbhirabh Basu, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Volkswagen's pilot plant will have a capacity of up to 3,600 batteries/year. At an average of 400 kg/battery, it expects to recover about 1,500 tons of battery materials. This equates to roughly 92% recovery of cathode active materials like cobalt, nickel, manganese, lithium, and graphite from the shredded "black mass." It uses the patented LithoRec process, a combination of mechanical and hydrometallurgical processes, which it developed with the Technische Universität Braunschweig and 12 other companies. Organizations should note that recycling startup Duesenfeld uses the same process, which means Volkswagen doesn't enjoy exclusivity over the IP. Once optimized, Volkswagen expects a commercial facility to be operational by the end of the decade."

Nature's Fynd releases first products using its fungi-based protein

10085-thumb-squareThomas Hayes, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"The company introduced a limited release in the U.S. called the "Fy Breakfast Bundle," containing dairy-free cream cheese and meatless breakfast patties, for a price of $14.99 (excluding shipping). According to the company's homepage, the bundle is already sold out, this happening within approximately 12 hours after the press release. While this is more likely due to the small amount of product being available, as opposed to mass consumer demand, it is still worth noting. Going forward, the company plans to launch the product at scale later in 2021. Until then, those interested should monitor whether or not the company receives GRAS determination from the FDA after submitting a notice in January 2020."

Jaguar Land Rover sets targets for transition to all-electric by 2030

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


"The British luxury brands are now focused on a transition to all-electric brands, with Jaguar leading by 2025 and Land Rover following by 2030. While this is a very aggressive timeline, the automaker is on track to pay more than $100 million in emissions-related fines in Europe, as its fleet is one of the most polluting. While BEV powertrains remain more expensive today, higher-priced luxury vehicles can more easily accept the higher costs, compelling luxury brands with high emissions fines to be the first to go all-electric. Those interested should view this as yet more evidence that electrification will happen the fastest in higher-priced vehicles."

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Not a concrete plan: Tire and construction waste for 35% stronger "sustainable" concrete questionable

Gee, CeciliaCecilia Gee, Analyst
Lux Take: Low Importance

"Cement is one of the most widely used materials globally, but it contributes up to 8% of worldwide carbon emissions. Although incorporation of plastic is proven to increase the strength and decrease the weight of concrete, this type of technology can undermine plastic waste recycling and utilization in geographies with strong existing infrastructure. It may also have limited adoption due to strict building codes and regulations depending on the region and pose unknown long-term environmental risk. Those interested should be wary that adoption of this technology may be better aligned with groups seeking short-term public relations opportunities instead of tackling larger waste sorting and infrastructure issues or advancing emerging technologies."

Coca-Cola unveils trial for paper bottle prototype in Hungary

drishti masandDrishti Masand, Research Associate | @DrishtiMasand Ico twitter
Lux Take: Ignore


"Coca-Cola has been partnered with Paboco since 2016, and the joint venture has been working to launch a solution. The current prototype consists of a paper shell with a plastic lining and cap made from 100% recycled PET, which is similar to Carlsberg's bottle from 2019. However, the company's ultimate goal is to produce a bottle that can be recycled as paper. The current plastic liner will interfere with the end-of-life recyclability of the bottle in the current recycling infrastructure, as the multimaterials cannot be separated. Those interested should monitor the trial of this design, but it will be limited to 2,000 bottles, so the trial may not be reflective of the scale for larger commercialization."

ARPA-E's $100 million OPEN 2021 misses the mark on "transformative" clean energy technologies with generic funding opportunity

Yuan-Sheng Yu_2014_150px

Yuan-Sheng Yu, Director, Research | @808sAndInnovate Ico twitter
Lux Take: Ignore


"While the ARPA-E program has spearheaded R&D in transformative technologies like novel CO2 capture and e-fuels in the past, the recent OPEN 2021 is available for any energy-related technology, even those commercially viable today, despite the U.S. DOE labeling the opportunity as for "cutting-edge, disruptive technologies." Earlier this year, ARPA-E announced another funding opportunity for "high-risk and potentially disruptive technology projects," only ending up granting funding to those focused on batteries and grid modernization. It would be a missed opportunity if funding were awarded to near-commercial technologies, instead of focusing on driving early-stage R&D, which has been the strength of the agency since its inception."

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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