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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up July 24, 2020

Lux Research
July 24, 2020

Everyday our analysts read through the latest innovation headlines and provide their analysis on important industry updates, developments, and trends. Our experts 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 top emerging technology and innovation news, including our researchers' coverage of technologies and strategies as they relate to the global pandemic below.

Johnnie Walker spirits will be packaged in 100% plastic-free, paper-based bottles starting 2021

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

"Diageo (parent company of Johnnie Walker brand) has formed a JV called Pulpex with Pilot Lite to develop the paper bottle technology and will manufacture the paper bottles in-house. The company has always used third-party suppliers for its glass bottles, so it is unclear why the company decided to produce the paper bottles internally; it is very unusual for a brand owner company to vertically integrate itself to produce packaging along with its core products. Clients should note that it is better to partner with startups or converters to obtain sustainable packaging solutions rather than trying to do it all themselves."

BASF partners with Tropic Biosciences to apply GEiGS to row crops

Olsen, SaraSara Olson, Ph.D., Director, Research | @SaraOlsonLux Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"Tropic Biosciences (Lux Take: Positive) has focused on trait development in tropical crops thus far, using its Genome Editing induced Gene Silencing (GEiGS) platform. This partnership represents a departure from that focus, as BASF will apply the GEiGS approach to row crops to speed up development of agronomically relevant, nontransgenic traits in major crops of focus for BASF. The pair will focus on disease and pest control traits, a new direction for Tropic. This partnership is the first public vote of confidence for the company's technology platform, and clients should expect to see results within two to three years. For those with seed businesses: You are almost out of time to find a partner for trait development through gene editing."

Trina Solar unveils 600 W module

Seoane da Silva, PatriciaPatricia Seoane da Silva, Research Associate 
Lux Take: Very Important

"Five months after lunching two 500 W bifacial modules, Trina Solar has unveiled a bifacial module rated at 600 W. This module features a 6 × 10 cell configuration and is expected to enter the market in Q1 2021. While the module's rated efficiency (21.2%) is similar to other monocrystalline silicon panels on the market, what makes Trina's module significantly more powerful is the use of half-cut solar cells – which deliver more power due to lower resistive losses. Clients should regard this product as an example of where module-level innovation is heading toward; rather than adopting novel coatings (e.g., quantum dots) or encapsulants, developers are progressively moving toward larger wafers, half cells, and bifacial configurations."

Evonik's materials-informatics-based formulation assistant Coatino launches

Holman, Mike

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

"Drawing on Evonik's experience in coating tech and data from ongoing high-throughput experimentation, the machine learning-driven algorithm recommends combinations of additives like pigments, defoamers, and dispersants to achieve desired properties in a coating formulation. The assistant is free to access, so Evonik is likely planning to use it to build customer relationships, provide easier access to its own products, and build up its own data lake further with customer inputs. While how well this particular effort succeeds in driving commerical results remains to be seen, clients should expect such digital sales platforms to play a more critical role in the industry in the future and move quickly to build their own capabilities."

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Could tech companies use low-carbon concrete to lower their carbon footprint?

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

"Compass Datacenters is going to build its new data centers with CarbonCure Technology's low-carbon concrete that has recaptured industrial CO2 injected into the concrete mix. Other large tech companies, such as Microsoft and Apple, want to be carbon-neutral by 2030, and low-carbon concrete is a viable and sustainable option to use for any new infrastructure to meet their goals. Ultimately, regulation will drive majority adoption for these carbon-to-concrete technologies; clients across all industries should consider low-carbon concrete as a worthwhile option for infrastructure sustainability and act sooner rather than later given the growing emphasis on sustainability among the general public."

Waymo exclusively partners with FCA on light commercial vehicles for goods transport

Kern, Josh

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

"While the two have been partners for years (Waymo uses Chrysler Pacifica vans in its ride-hailing pilots), this is the first exclusive partnership between the two for a certain vehicle class. The companies will first collaborate on creating an L4 autonomous version of FCA's Ram ProMaster vans. As priorities in the AV industry shift away from ride-hailing and toward goods delivery, clients should expect more exclusive partnerships like these. Waymo still works with multiple OEMs on autonomous passenger vehicles, an application that will likely face larger regulatory hurdles, more consumer skepticism, and setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic. For these reasons, AV companies and OEMs will likely keep partnership options open for a while."

Another major player enters into agriculture carbon market

Haslun, JoshJoshua Haslun, Ph.D., Senior Analyst | @JHaslun  Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"The agriculture carbon market continues to heat up with the announcement that Bayer will begin a dedicated initiative of its own in Brazil and North America. The announcement follows a similar initiative by Land O'Lakes and Microsoft. The carbon market will be the first dedicated entrance of agriculture majors into outcome-based business models and will serve as the catalyst for the necessary integration of digital tools under such initiatives. Clients across the board should recognize the opportunity but take careful notice that economic returns may not be as large as predicted for clients, so clear communication of outcomes and reducing the complexity of carbon markets for buyers and credit providers will be critical to success."

Germany pushes for carbon neutrality in its steel sector by 2050

Runeel DaliahRuneel Daliah, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"In a recently unveiled "National Steel Strategy" roadmap, Germany pledged to decarbonize its steel sector by 2050, which it estimates would cost $34 billion, but failed to commit to financial incentives for the industry to reach that goal. The pledge comes on the heels of the unveiling of its National Hydrogen Strategy, which is a key component to decarbonizing its industrial sector, including steel. Clients should monitor Germany's actions in decarbonizing its steel industry – implementation of supporting mechanisms like a minimum quota for low-carbon steel or a "green steel" label will likely spread throughout the EU and force steelmakers to adopt and deploy novel technologies for low-carbon steel." 

Reliance Industries targets net-zero emissions by 2035; aims to develop full-stack synthetic fuels technology

Yuan-Sheng Yu_2014_150px

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

"In what could be one of the greatest corporate evolutions in recent history, Reliance is now directing the same energy responsible for its Jio success toward its oil and gas business. In 2018, it completed a $16 billion expansion at the world's largest refinery to expand its crude-to-chemicals production, with a target of 70%. In the recent announcement, Chairman Mukesh Ambani notes that the company is now focusing on developing synthetic fuels. This is not the first foray for Reliance into CO2 conversion, previously being one of the major supporters of algae-based fuels. But as momentum around algae has diminished, attention has shifted toward electrochemical CO2 conversion, with several pilot and commercial projects set to come online."

Researchers at University of Texas create cobal-free cathode material

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"The nickel, manganese, and aluminum (NMA) cathode shows rate capability and specific capacity comparable to NMC or NCA. While high-nickel cathodes are desirable for an increase in energy density, other elements are necessary to stabilize the crystal structure and provide cycling stability. The research group claimed to sidestep the need for cobalt by ensuring even distribution of metal cations through coprecipitating the material rather than substituting via calcination. Funded by an SBIR grant, the researchers started TexPower to begin scaling the lab processes for scale production. Clients should note that NMA benefits from an established supply chain, but converting production to a cost-effective method will require substantial time.

Sunfire and Climeworks sever ties with Nordic Blue Crude and will build competing synthetic fuel project

Runeel DaliahRuneel Daliah, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Last month, Sunfire and Climeworks launched Norsk e-Fuel, a consortium for building a commercial synthetic fuel plant in Herøya, Norway. The project sounded suspiciously similar to that of Nordic Blue Crude, a company launched in 2017 to also build a synthetic fuel plant in Herøya, Norway, and in collaboration with Sunfire and Climeworks – it turns out that Sunfire and Climeworks have parted ways with Nordic Blue Crude and will build their own plant next to that of their former partner. The latter stated that it will now use alkaline water electrolysis for hydrogen feedstock, which is more commercially attractive, but losing Sunfire and Climeworks is a significant setback for the company, as it will need to attract new technology partners."

Japan launches Ship Carbon Recycling Working Group for synthetic fuels development

Yuan-Sheng Yu_2014_150pxYuan-Sheng Yu, Senior Analyst | @808sAndInnovate Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Shipping energy demand is expected to grow by as much as 18% CAGR through 2050 despite IMO targeting a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions at the same time. One potential option is synthetic fuels, the production of drop-in replacements via electrolysis. While the working group has not announced plans in terms of production, like those of a Danish consortium, the nine members will study the feasibility of establishing a reliable supply chain – CO2 capture, transport, and synthetic methane synthesis. Targeting methane is ideal, as it is a simpler molecule to make than hydrocarbon fuels and the industry's adoption of LNG vessels continues to increase, with strong potential for LBM and LSM as drop-in replacements in existing LNG infrastructure."

QSimulate uses its quantum computing platform to generate materials data for JSR

XIAO ZHONGXiao Zhong, Ph.D., Analyst | @conanxzxz Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"In this partnership, JSR is using QSimulate's platform to compute high-accuracy density functional theory (DFT) data of certain molecules. The generated dataset can then be analyzed by artificial intelligence (AI) techniques for high-fidelity molecular property prediction without the need for experimentation (materials informatics). DFT calculations are hard and expensive to compute traditionally, and they are one of the low-hanging fruits for quantum computing. Clients should expect more partnerships like this one. Let us know if you need to pick your own QC partner."

Aveva and Schneider Electric build digital twin alliance for the oil and gas industry only to arrive late at the scene

Harshit SharmaHarshit Sharma, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"The duo will combine offerings in engineering, asset life cycle software, and digital twin models to create twins of upstream oil and gas assets. The twins will help clients improve asset performance, reduce emissions, and maximize return on capital. Aveva and Schneider's alliance is targeted at the right industry – oil and gas has been a front-runner in the adoption of digital twins. However, the alliance is not timely, with a host of providers like McDermott, Aker Solutions, Siemens, DNV, and Kongsberg and startups like Akselos and HyBird Technologies entering the industry in recent years and offering competing solutions. The duo's alliance will require significant technology differentiation to gain any traction against the incumbents."

KFC plans to test 3D-printed, cell-based chicken nuggets in Russia by the end of 2020

Thomas HayesThomas Hayes, Analyst
Lux Take: Low Importance

"KFC will be working in conjunction with 3D Bioprinting Solutions, the same company that helped Aleph Farms produce cell-based meat on the International Space Station. Much like that development, this seems to be more of a publicity stunt than anything else. The only valuable aspect of this initiative is a litmus test for consumer acceptance or rejection, provided that a significant population size is able to sample the chicken nuggets. The cell-based meat space is indeed fast-growing, but major technical challenges remain, and 3D printing will not solve any of them. Clients should instead focus their efforts on the challenges that matter, namely serum-free media, scaffolding materials, and custom bioreactors."

China to receive its first carbon-neutral LNG cargoes via Shell

holly havel

Holly Havel, Research Associate 
Lux Take: Low Importance

"China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has agreed to buy two carbon-neutral LNG cargoes from Shell, which will be offset via carbon credits won in projects in the northwest Xinjiang and Qinghai region. However, with no industry standard for "green" LNG, it is hard to assess how effective carbon credits and other nature-based initiatives are at offsetting the total life cycle emissions of natural gas from the well to the offloading terminal. This is a step in the right direction, particularly for fast-growing economies like China, but will not be an effective long-term strategy. Clients should consider opportunities for carbon sequestration, which has proven an effective use case for reducing emissions at the Gorgon LNG facility."




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