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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up January 22, 2021

Lux Research
January 22, 2021

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

Haslun, JoshJoshua Haslun, Ph.D., Senior Analyst | @JHaslun  Ico twitter
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

Yuan-Sheng Yu_2014_150px

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

"Since its first fund in 2015, BEV has invested in 30 startups across a range of technology areas. Key startups backed by BEV include Boston Metal, CarbonCure, Pivot Bio, Form Energy, and Nature's Fynd. With the recent SPAC craze driving up valuations of startups in the cleantech space, there is renewed interest from venture capitalists a decade after the major failures of cleantech investments. However, while BEV has the patience of running its funds for "20 years, instead of expecting returns in just five years," the same may not be true for overly enthusiastic investors. A hard-learned lesson is on the brink of repeating itself, as the allure of the next cleantech unicorn may lead many investors down a path of possible disappointment."

L'Oréal brand Biotherm launches new refillable technology for anti-aging serum

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

"Refillable technologies have been limited to perfumes, personal hygiene, and dry cosmetics products in the personal care industry – primarily because products like serums and moisturizers have active ingredients that cannot be exposed to contaminants. Biotherm's anti-aging serum has a high concentration of proprietary probiotics, combined with the strong natural active ingredients hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which are highly sensitive ingredients. Its refillable "machine" maintains containment even during a refill with a proprietary design. Moreover, this product pushes the industry toward reusable packaging to eliminate single-use; Lux predicts more brands will have similar announcements, and this "trend" will simply become the norm."

The Chemical and Materials Company of 2040

AI pathology company Paige raises $100 million Series C round

McCollum, ColeCole McCollum, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"The company, which is one of the leaders in computational and AI-based pathology, plans to use the funding to scale its employee count in engineering and sales and marketing as well as to expand to other diseases both within its current focus of oncology and outside of oncology. While Paige's core IP revolves around its computational approaches and data licensing agreements with hospitals like Memorial Sloan Kettering, the company has also built out surrounding infrastructure, such as a data management solution and an FDA-cleared viewer for pathologists. These products together help Paige offer a complete digital pathology solution, which will help the company gain traction, given the low overall digital maturity of pathology."

New Italian initiative launched to decarbonize steel plant with green hydrogen

Runeel DaliahRuneel Daliah, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"Tenaris, Edison, and Snam will collaborate to investigate the adoption of hydrogen to decarbonize Tenaris' steel plant in Dalmine, Italy. The hydrogen will come from a 20 MW electrolyzer and will replace natural gas in the steelmaking process. Hydrogen is one of the leading option for decarbonizing the steelmaking sector, and an increasing number of European steelmakers are launching projects to incorporate hydrogen in their operations – the use of hydrogen, however, will likely result in a more expensive steel, and regulatory incentives are needed to support widespread adoption."

Aurora partners with Paccar to enable self-driving trucks

Kern, Josh

Josh Kern, Analyst | @josh_kern_ Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Autonomous driving startup Aurora has signed an agreement with Paccar to provide self-driving technology for Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. Aurora will compete with Waymo, which is also providing technology to the trucking market. While Aurora has been talking about its strategy of entering the autonomous trucking market, this is the first public partnership of the sort that it has announced. The company has often touted its technology as hardware- and vehicle-agnostic, meaning it can enable autonomy on many different types of vehicles, including long-haul trucks and ride-hailing vehicles. Companies should see the partnership as a good step for Aurora but watch to see how quickly it can actually integrate its technology with Paccar's trucks."

CO₂​​​​​​​-to-concrete startup Blue Planet secures Series C investment from Chevron

holly havelHolly Havel, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"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."

Energy Transition EBook

Hyundai expands fuel cell production in China

Chad Goldberg  Lux ResearchChad Goldberg, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"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 Ico twitter
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

Krishfield, LauraLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
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

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

"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."

Lux Research - Newsletter Research

Equinor to pilot offshore floating PV in the Norwegian Sea

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

"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

13261-thumb-squareDanielle Bradnan, Analyst @DBradnan Ico twitter
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

Gee, CeciliaCecilia Gee, Analyst
Lux Take: Ignore

"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." 

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