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 third week of January below.
Researchers significantly improve sequencing accuracy of Oxford Nanopore's technology
Joshua Haslun, Ph.D., Senior Analyst | @JHaslun
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive
"University of British Columbia researchers reported reducing sequencing errors using the portable MinION technology as well as PacBio's circular consensus sequencing from 10% to 0.005% through the application of a bar coding system. The application of unique molecular identifiers (UMIs) to sequencing is not novel, but their application to portable, low-cost sequencers is novel. The technology brings high-accuracy sequencing to a much wider range of users and, when paired with other adaptive sequencing formats, such as Readfish, also provides access to precision sequencing. With this thousandfold degree of improved accuracy, those interested should expect a transformative impact on use cases for nanopore sequencing moving forward."
Breakthrough Energy Ventures raises second $1 billion fund, targeting 40 to 50 startups with emphasis on hard-to-decarbonize sectors
CO₂-to-concrete startup Blue Planet secures Series C investment from Chevron
"The undisclosed Series C funding will support Blue Planet as it scales its CO2-to-concrete technology in the U.S. The company differentiates from competitors by offering CO2 capture capabilities along with mineralization technology, which can help offset production costs to provide cost-competitive low-carbon aggregates. It's also interesting to note Chevron's prior investments in Carbon Clean and Carbon Engineering and recent collaboration with Pan-United, an indication that the U.S. oil major is betting on a diverse portfolio of novel CCU technologies for decarbonization. Those with carbon-intensive operations should consider similar decarbonization strategies, particularly for industries like cement that lack low-carbon alternatives."
Hyundai expands fuel cell production in China
"The South Korean automaker has signed a deal with the government of Guangdong Province in Southeast China to build the company's first overseas fuel cell production plant. Construction on the Guangzhou facility is slated to begin in February, with an expected completion date in the middle of 2022. Hyundai is estimating initial production volumes of 6,500 fuel cell systems per year, a notably small number for expected 2022 demand, suggesting that the company is playing it safe by not scaling up too quickly. Additionally, the decision to set up operations in China seems indicative of a larger strategy to establish a foothold where demand will likely be highest in the coming years. "
Australian researchers convert waste polyolefin films to concrete filler
Michael Holman, Ph.D., VP, Research | @MichaelHolmanLR
Lux Take: Average Importance
"Typically, polyethylene and other films, such as plastic bags and pouches, are among the toughest plastics to recycle. Australian recycler Replas has worked with RMIT researchers to mechanically convert these films to a material, Polyrok, that serves as a concrete additive, replacing part of the aggregate typically used and offering claimed performance benefits in lighter weight and better durability. The material is targeted for paths and curbs, suggesting that it may not be suitable for structural load-bearing uses, but this could still potentially serve as a fairly high-volume use for this hard-to-recycle waste as nations like Australia ban waste exports."
AgriWebb's $30 million Series B deems sustainable livestock management a key opportunity for 2021
Laura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield
Lux Take: Average Importance
"Building on a $10.2 million Series A, the round was led by Telus Ventures and will be used by AgriWebb to increase the global market share of its livestock management software, primarily in the U.K. and the Americas. The round also included $5 million from Clean Energy Finance Corporation that will be invested in tools to track methane emissions from livestock and carbon sequestration levels in soil. While this announcement is notable for the ample size of funding raised by a livestock management startup, the key takeaway is that the promotion of sustainable livestock production is a valuable growth strategy for developers in this space. Measuring the environmental impacts of livestock production is a viable opportunity."
The car interior is getting to look more and more like a cinema
"Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated a dashboard for its future luxury prototype, the Vision EQS. The curved touch-screen display is door to door and 141 cm long and features high-resolution infotainment along with visualizing a wide range of parameters and information produced by the automaker's AI tools. As it is not a self-driving vehicle, many features will be off during driving; however, the trend of offering more engaging and assistive information is clear. With improving driver assistance and ultimately self-driving performance, the role of displays will almost take center stage as a brand differentiator. As a result, the manufacturing and display supply chain will see significant growth outside of traditional TV and mobile segments."
Equinor to pilot offshore floating PV in the Norwegian Sea
"This announcement follows Equinor's agreement with Moss Maritime last year to develop a marine-based floating PV solution for near-coastal applications. Moving forward, the partners aim to deploy the floating PV system in mid-2021. This pilot will be installed off the Norwegian coast and tested for at least one year. Aside from that, only a few technical aspects of the system are known – e.g., that it is modular and that it will be installed at 3 meters above the water. As we previously noted, the business case for offshore floating PV in locations as harsh as Northern Europe is unclear. While Equinor is well-positioned to lead early developments, those interested should be aware of the technical challenges ahead and the need for continued R&D."
Fitbit partners with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to bring services to veterans and caregivers, brings little value compared to Apple
Danielle Bradnan, Analyst | @DBradnan
Lux Take: Low Importance
"Fitbit's rollout of free membership services for a year to veterans and caregivers is predicated on ownership of a Fitbit tracker. The VA has been a target demographic of health tech companies for two reasons: 1) the government agency has to stretch resources for medical care; 2) record keeping (and thus ensuring continuity of care) is difficult with a mobile population, and there are initiatives in place to improve it. These reasons make the VA an ideal testing ground for products that aim to reduce costs and improve care – something that Fitbit competitor Apple has take advantage of in recent years. Unfortunately, Fitbit's offering of health insights does not offer improved record keeping, or reduce costs, and will fail compared to Apple."
They're just droning on – no real breakthrough in this drone design
"Most drones are already made from carbon fiber; this product's main differentiation is in its design optimization. However, it is not evident that the work is unique to Arris and Skydio or if it comes with any cost benefit. As composite manufacturing becomes more flexible and accessible, those interested can expect complex assemblies to continue to be simplified by multiple players for a variety of products."