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 first week of June.
The energy transition needs the oil industry's investment power; shareholders recognize this and vote to change Exxon from within
"Irena estimated that the 2020 annual capex on renewable energy to be $300 billion. The agency warned that this must increase to $800 billion by 2050 to avert climate change. In that light, the impressive investments by Microsoft (a $1 billion fund) and Jeff Bezos (a $10 billion fund) are but rather large drops in an ocean. The oil industry's renewables investments are an order of magnitude higher today, and it can increase global investments rapidly. Shell and Exxon's combined capex budget was $37 billion in 2020, one of the industry's worst years. Just 10% of that was spent on renewable energy. Investors now seek to leverage the industry's cash flow and skills to combat climate change. Engine No. 1 took a major step in that direction."
Sony demonstrates clear vision in its AI image sensor business with smart city applications
"Sony announced it would offer its AI image sensors for smart city applications as a service, with the primary objective of providing insights into the city's parking situations to cruising drivers. We previously expressed our concerns over its business model. However, Sony appears to have identified its chance to succeed – being part of the value chain of urban traffic management. Sony's solution demonstrates three immediate value propositions: 1) improving sustainability in operating massive image sensor networks by reducing dependence on cloud computing power, 2) helping local governments gain access to cloud computing infrastructures, and 3) potentially reducing carbon emissions by reducing cars' cruising time looking for parking spots."
China's rising agriculture product sales via livestreaming e-commerce may disrupt the agricultural supply chain
"A recent report by Douyin (Chinese TikTok by ByteDance) summarizes how it helps growers and sector thought leaders promote agriculture products via livestreaming e-commerce to drive direct product sales to consumers. Livestreaming e-commerce has helped local farmers generate revenue during the pandemic and realize exponential growth. The strategy may disrupt China's agriculture supply chain, as e-commerce leaders like Douyin, JD, Taobao, and Pinduoduo have both livestreaming platforms and logistic networks so they can bypass traditional distributors and retailers. Those in agriculture should monitor livestreaming e-commerce in China, as it is influencing clients' business in China and may go beyond China to impact the global market."
Dutch court rules that contributing to climate change is contrary to unwritten standards of care and orders Shell to slash GHG emissions
"Leaving your cellar hatch open unattended makes you culpable in most countries' courts if someone falls, not due to an explicit law against open cellar hatches but for failing to apply a "good standard of care." The Dutch court ruled that contributing to climate change is as obviously dangerous as leaving your cellar hatch open. Companies that contribute to climate change, such as Shell, can thus be ordered to develop a credible and sufficient strategy to prevent catastrophic climate change. This ruling was enabled by the Paris agreement, which clearly defines a universal standard of good care. Companies can and will be held accountable to comply with COP 21 just like countries. Expect company-defined contributions to complement the NDCs."
CVS continues healthcare conquest by launching clinical trial services
"Initially gaining success as a retail pharmacy, CVS has slowly worked its way into representation among the four key stakeholders of healthcare, first with physicians (with MinuteClinics), payers (the Aetna acquisition has given it an in-house insurer), and patients (with the aforementioned retail pharmacy) and now branching further into solutions by adding clinical trial services. CVS will be able to leverage a wealth of data to help support clinical trial prep, candidate pools, and adherence to trial protocols – making it a force to reckoned with in healthcare as a powerful potential ally for clients, both those in healthcare and those looking for distribution partners for their own nonspecific preventative care (aka wellness) solutions."
Invaio directs $89 million Series C towards combating citrus and orchard diseases
"Since 2018 Invaio has raised $142 million towards developing alternative active ingredients for a range of industries. The Series C follows three important synergistic events for Invaio, which position it to impact citrus and orchard crops. In 2020 it acquired plant-based peptide IP from UC Riverside to combat citrus greening, in May it partnered with Fundecitrus to evaluate the peptide, and continues work with Agroscope evaluating injection strategies in orchards. With $89 million Invaio will comprehensively evaluate the solution while building its pipeline. Companies with citrus interests should engage, and others should monitor the injection tech to understand challenges around dosing, storage, and application for plant microinjections."
Biobeat's newly launched cuffless blood pressure monitors could be a breakthrough for continuous blood pressure monitoring solutions
"Biobeat launches disposable chest-worn continuous blood pressure monitor patches to allow patients to sample their blood pressure data for up to six days. Continuous blood pressure monitoring offers caregivers a better vision of patients' physiological health over a long period. The incumbent solutions usually involve inflatable cuffs, causing discomfort for the users. While it is unclear how well the solution works compared to incumbent technologies, it has a lot of promise. Those interested should monitor and engage with the technology for two purposes: 1) identifying opportunities in supplying the sensors and 2) seeking business opportunities to expand their current biosensor device product portfolio."
Pinduoduo, China's largest agriculture e-commerce platform, takes interest in plant-based protein
"Pinduoduo formed a research partnership with A*STAR to study the health impact of replacing traditional animal protein with plant-based protein across a range of Singaporean ethnic group diets. The first-of-its-kind study in Asia allows Pinduoduo to build trust among its 824 million active consumers and 12 million farmers and take a directing role in strategizing how it invests in and delivers the growing range of plant-based products. Pinduoduo's e-commerce business earned $42 billion in agriculture-related gross merchandise volume in 2020. Agrifood companies should see Pinduoduo as a strong channel between growers and China's consumers and evaluate methods to engage toward platform expansion out of Asia or market entry into it."
Germany to invest €8 billion to support the development of its hydrogen economy
Runeel Daliah, Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important
"The German federal ministries of economics and transport will allocate the funds to 62 commercial-scale projects – these projects span hydrogen generation (more than 2 GW), hydrogen infrastructure (more than 1,700 km of pipelines), hydrogen in industry (steel and chemicals, including ammonia), and hydrogen in mobility (fuel cells and synthetic fuels). The full list of projects can be accessed here. The investment is sorely needed to kick-start the German hydrogen economy, as hydrogen projects today are still too expensive to succeed without government support; in a similar move, Japan recently allocated more than $3.4 billion in its own hydrogen economy."
Scientists develop a method to detect COVID-19 and its variants simultaneously
"There are various methods to screen individuals for COVID-19 today. However, these tests only tell you if you're "positive" or "negative" for COVID-19. They do not give you details about which variants you may have if you test positive. That requires a further sequencing step to confirm, which may take a few hours or even days. With the current spread of new and more infectious variants, the ability to simultaneously detect COVID-19 infection and its variants is a much-needed capability. The technique also uses nanopore sequencing, which can provide sequences on a rolling basis, unlike conventional methods, which only provide data at the end of the process. Those interested in rapid COVID-19 diagnostics should monitor this development."
Unilever doubles down on meat analog expansion with mycoprotein partnership
"Through this partnership with ENOUGH (formerly known as 3F Bio), Unilever looks to develop new meat analog products using mycoprotein as a key ingredient. ENOUGH has strengthened its position in the EU as a key B2B ingredient provider through its “ABUNDA” protein. This partnership further signals Unilever’s aggressive strategy to bet big on the plant-based meat market, after acquiring The Vegetarian Butcher in 2018. As the meat analog space continues to grow, Unilever is aptly adding diverse protein sources to address the market demand for structured meat analog products. Expect to see similar moves from other food CPGs."
Aquarius Engines unveils 100% hydrogen engine for mobility and remote power applications
Jinze Dai, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance
"The single-piston linear engine features a lightweight design (10 kg) with 20 components and one moving part. Equipped with electromagnetic coils and static magnets, it can serve as a range extender for electric vehicles or be used for telecommunication centers and remote electrification. As an alternative approach to hydrogen-based mobility and power, hydrogen engines are expected to have lower upfront costs than fuel cells, but the efficiencies would be much lower (ca. 25% to 35% vs. 50% to 60% for fuel cells) with NOx emissions, hindering their extensive adoption. Clients should recognize hydrogen engines as a technically feasible pathway to decarbonize but realize that they may only be competitive in niche applications like sports cars."
The rise of resale continues as Etsy buys Depop for $1.6 billion
Tiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance
"Resale is proving to be an upward trend, as consumers are looking at secondhand or pre-loved clothes as a means of being sustainable. Here, Etsy is entering the resale space and capturing a Gen-Z consumer base by acquiring Depop, a consumer-to-consumer apparel marketplace. This news further adds to the string of news in the resale space in addition to thredUP and Poshmark's IPO. The time to get into resale is now via partnership or investment. Lux previously commented that resale is becoming normalized, and those in apparel can take part in resale business models via partnerships with apparel refurbishment companies like Trove (previously Yerdle)."
Arugga raises $4 million to reinvent pollination for indoor farming
Laura Krishfield, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance
"Led by Cresson Management, the round was joined by Biobest Group, Terra Venture Partners, Equicelar, Smart Agro. Arugga develops a robotics platform that monitors and pollinates plants grown within indoor farms. The robots use machine vision to detect plants ready for pollination and then autonomously disperses pulses of air on the plants as an alternative approach to using bees and manual pollination. From pilots, Arugga claims its platform improved yields by 1%-5% compared to bees and up to 15% versus manual pollination. Those interested, look into Arugga's relationship between cost and yield; pollination is a limiting factor for indoor-grown crops and beehives cost ~$250 and are replaced every 10-12 weeks, but the comparative ROI is uncertain."