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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up June 18, 2021

Lux Research
June 18, 2021

Every day our researchers read through the top innovation headlines and provide their expert opinions on important developments and industry news. 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.

Apple's on-device processing will improve network, privacy, and latency-related issues with its voice assistant

Miraj

Miraj Mainali, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"
On its latest iOS 15 product reveal, Apple announced that it will enable on-device processing for its voice assistant Siri on select devices, meaning that users' requests to Siri will be processed locally instead of in the cloud. This will be useful in three ways: Users' requests will be processed even without an internet connection, the processing will be significantly faster, and it will alleviate customers' concerns that their conversations are being recorded or eavesdropped on (Apple was found guilty of this in 2019). Google also introduced a similar feature in 2019. With both major smartphone OS makers on board with edge computing, companies should expect people's perception of voice AI, in general, to be more secure and user-friendly."

Non-natural?! European Commission deals a big blow to PHA in its Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD)

Kristin Marshall, Analyst at Lux Research

Kristin Marshall, Analyst | @KMarsh4Bio Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"The final guidelines of Directive (EU) 2019/904 state that only polymers that qualify as natural and have not been chemically modified are exempt from the directive. Based on ECHA guidance, polymers produced via industrial fermentation are not considered natural. This policy lays waste to the more than €108 million in grants poured into PHA development. Companies should recognize that this decision was made in part because there is no widely agreed-upon method to certify that a plastic product properly biodegrades in the environment in a short time frame and without causing harm. Moving forward, the European Commission plans to develop a policy framework in 2022 on biodegradable plastics in the context of a new Circular Economy Action Plan."

Canadian government launches $795 million smart grid modernization and renewables program

Michael SullivanMichael Sullivan, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Canada's Ministry of Natural Resources will invest CA$960 million (US$795 million) in grid modernization and solar PV, onshore wind, and small hydro renewables, as well as geothermal and energy storage projects. The program, called Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways (SREPs), will fund utilities and system operators with projects that have a minimum size of 4 MW generation and 1 MW storage at CA$50 million (US$41.3 million) per project. As the requirements for funding also include improved asset utilization and efficiency, the grants provide opportunities for technology suppliers, as utilities will need to work with suppliers to help their projects achieve the target efficiency rates to access the government's funding."

Cognoa prepares the ground with initial FDA approval for multipronged market approach

Danielle Bradnan, Analyst at Lux ResearchDanielle Bradnan, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"This is an important development not only from the care perspective – as early identification of autism is critical to helping children yet is often stymied by lack of access – but from a market perspective. Cognoa is building an ecosystem for autism that considers the patient journey. By starting with a diagnostic tool targeted at pediatricians, it prepares the ground for its next product, a tool that helps autistic children self-manage. By decentralizing both the diagnostic and the treatment, Cognoa is considering multiple challenges in the patient journey and creating a powerful market position in doing so. Those looking to engage in healthcare should learn from this and develop a multipronged approach for addressing consumer needs."

New graphene electric field sensors show potential for healthcare as well as pharma and biotech research

Lisheng GaoLisheng Gao, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University developed graphene sensors to image the electric field generated by tissues. Graphene, the core sensing element, changes optical properties when it detects tissue-generated electrical fields. Using external optical sensors can capture such optical property changes, thus enabling imaging of the electric field variations. The new sensor technology is promising for healthcare applications and pharma and biotech research, such as precision vital signs monitoring and drug discovery and testing. In the meantime, clients should realize that it is still an early-stage technology and should monitor for tangible applications and engage when relevant."

Lux Research - Newsletter Research


Third resignation from FDA panel over approval of Biogen's Alzheimer's drug underscores challenges in clinical trial data interpretation

Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior AnalystNardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"This is the third high-profile resignation within a week of the controversial approval of Biogen's Alzheimer's disease (AD) medication by the U.S. FDA, which has been described as a "dangerous and confusing precedent." While the exact pathophysiology will continue to be an issue of debate among dementia experts, traditional clinical trial data interpretation is an area ripe for disruption. There are opportunities to leverage digital tools, from remote monitoring to digital therapeutics, which we discuss in more detail here. Those interested should watch this space; this is an ongoing development that we will continue to track and update you on."

Ample expands battery swapping pilots to Japan through Eneos partnership

Christopher Robinson

Christopher Robinson, Research Director
Lux Take: Very Important


"
Eneos and Ample will pilot a battery swapping network before the end of March 2022, marking the first expansion of Ample's solution outside the U.S. Companies should take note of two important parts of the announcement. First, Eneos is a key partner for Toyota's Woven City project, and Ample's solution is nearly identical to the solution proposed at Japan Smart Energy Week in 2018. Toyota could be one of the first automakers to adopt Ample's swapping solution. Second, the project will explore the idea of overbuilding battery capacity at its swapping stations in order to optimize energy consumption, a topic we noted could improve economics in our recent analysis of battery swapping."

Doosan Heavy to build 270 MW hydrogen turbine in Korea

Jinze Dai

Jinze Dai, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"Doosan Heavy is leading a coalition to convert the Ulsan Combined Cycle Power Plant's natural gas turbine into a hydrogen gas turbine by 2027. Ulsan Metropolitan City will provide the infrastructure support, SK Gas will supply the hydrogen needed, and Korea East-West Power will demonstrate the hydrogen gas turbine developed by Doosan. With major major players like Mitsubishi Power, Siemens, and Doosan investing heavily in hydrogen gas turbines, there will likely be a technology breakthrough to overcome the issues of NOx emissions and flame flashback in this decade. Those interested should consider the retrofit of existing gas turbines to accommodate the use of green or blue hydrogen as a firm step toward decarbonization."

Motif FoodWorks raises whopping $226 million Series B tO commercialize ingredients for plant-based market

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


"This funding is the biggest-ever Series B round in food tech and brings Motif's total funding raised to date to $345 million. Motif will use this funding to focus more on its R&D and scale up its fermentation-derived ingredient, a muscle protein, aimed to improve the flavor of plant-based products. Since 2020, the company has also been keen on expanding its technology focus, including licensing prolamin technology and oleogel technology from the University of Guelph and Coasun, respectively. While this cash injection will give it a huge boost, the company still needs to get its first ingredient to the market. As the plant-based space further evolves, technologies to achieve sensorial parity will continue to gain momentum."

Making Sense of Sustainability


Fashion for Good continues its love affair with PHA, launching the Renewable Carbon Textiles Project

Kristin Marshall, Analyst at Lux Research

Kristin Marshall, Analyst | @KMarsh4Bio Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"The Amsterdam-based accelerator is bringing together a consortium to accelerate the development of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) fibers for textiles. The goal is to replace synthetic fibers with bio-based alternatives and help prevent the accumulation of microplastics in the environment. The project includes PHA developers Full Cycle Bioplastics and Newlight Technologies and will focus on melt spinning, in which there are still technical challenges to overcome. Companies should note that, if it is successful, only a handful of companies are currently producing PHA, meaning supply would still be limited for these materials. While Fashion for Good has worked with Mango Materials in the past, the startup does not appear to be part of this project."

Samsung Engineering enters construction 3D printing space with no significant technology differentiation

https://members.luxresearchinc.com/analysts/11113

Tugce Uslu, PDEng, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"In the past three years, several construction 3D printing projects have been realized, and large companies keep entering the space either by acquiring startups or by developing their own hardware. Similarly, Samsung Engineering developed its own hardware for concrete 3D printing. The company's technology does not seem different than the majority of the gantry-based concrete 3D printers on the market. In this space, the main differentiator is identifying and successfully introducing business cases where 3D-printed parts are compliant with relevant building codes. Thus, companies should evaluate this company and other similar companies on their ability to realize projects in real-life scenarios."

ViAqua raises $4.3 million to bring RNAi solutions to shrimp production

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Laura Krishfield, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"ViAqua Therapeutics, a developer of RNAi solutions for pathogen biocontrol in aquaculture, has raised $4.3 million from S2G Ventures, Agriline, and the VC arm of Thai Union Group along with previous investors to scale production and expand its product pipeline. ViAqua claims the encasing of its first product – a chitosan-RNA nanoparticle within a polymer and protein-based carrier – enables improved uptake by shrimp as a feed supplement. RNAi solutions for aquaculture are seeing interest from investors (e.g., Pebble Labs' $12 million seed round); however, companies should note that product performance remains dependent on the amount of ss- or dsRNA reaching the target organism at any given time, which is difficult within aquatic environments."

U.S. Department of Energy invests $12 million in direct air capture projects

holly havel

Holly Havel, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance


"After announcing the $12 million funding opportunity in January 2021, the U.S. DOE has selected six research and development projects to support its ongoing efforts to advance direct air capture (DAC) technology. The projects are being led by universities and research labs in the U.S. and will evaluate early-stage concepts to increase the amount of CO2 captured, utilize novel low-cost materials, and improve energy efficiency in DAC processes. While the U.S. DOE has predominantly focused on capturing CO2 from industrial point sources to date, recent funding announcements are indicative of the government's increasing support for DAC, a trend that innovators can expect to continue in the coming years.

TotalEnergies kicks off green methanol project with Sunfire

Runeel Daliah

Runeel Daliah, Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Low Importance

"The partnership was first announced in 2019. Phase I of the project will see the deployment of a 1 MW SOEC electrolyzer from Sunfire for green hydrogen by 2021, and Phase II will see the deployment of the methanol synthesis unit by 2022. While TotalEnergies did not disclose the technology supplier for the methanol synthesis unit, we suspect it will be using its own CO2-hydrogenation catalyst. The use of an SOEC for hydrogen only is not optimal, as an SOEC can also produce syngas – a better approach would be for TotalEnergies to produce syngas from the SOEC and use conventional methanol synthesis technology for direct syngas conversion."

Worcester Polytechnic Institute develops CO₂-consuming self-healing concrete

Schiavo, AnthonyAnthony Schiavo, Research Director| @MobbDeepTech Ico twitter
Lux Take: Ignore


"As we pointed out in our recent landscape of sustainable concrete, self-healing typically misses the mark in terms of utility. Despite the headlines, the CO2 aspect of this tech is negligible; instead, it will only be useful for those who can leverage self-healing. The specific conditions required – such as access to CO­2 – rule out many key applications for self-healing concrete. Companies should ignore this announcement."

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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