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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up March 12, 2021

Lux Research
March 12, 2021

Each day our researchers comb through the top innovation news and provide their expert analysis 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 second week of March below.

Shell acquires Next Kraftwerke

Hernandez, JessicaJessica Hernandez, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Shell is acquiring 100% of Next Kraftwerke for an undisclosed sum. Upon approval by regulatory authorities, the energy trader and virtual power plant (VPP) service provider will become part of Shell's Renewables & Energy Solutions division. Back in 2019, Shell acquired Limejump, a U.K. virtual power plant aggregator, gaining firsthand experience in one of the most interesting energy markets in Europe. Through Next Kraftwerke, Shell is not only gaining more expertise in additional European markets like Germany but also expanding aggregating and optimization capabilities for a wider diversity of distributed energy resources."

BASF poised to clean up the biosurfactant space, announcing two key partnerships

Kristin Marshall, Analyst at Lux Research

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


"BASF is ramping up R&D efforts on biosurfactants like sophorolipids and other glycolipids in home care and personal care products. The company formed a strategic alliance with Japan-based Allied Carbon Solutions (ACS) to develop a range of formulations based on sophorolipids and an exclusive technology cooperation with Holiferm to advance the startup's novel biosurfactant production technology. Interest in biosurfactants has been on the rise in recent years as consumers demand bio-based and milder surfactants in formulations and regulatory pressures drive the need for alternatives. High costs have limited biosurfactant adoption in the past, but novel low-cost production methods are creating new hope for these materials."

Gatorade's hydration sensors will help sweat sensor technologies gain public awareness

Lisheng Gao

Lisheng Gao, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Gatorade announced that it would start to sell disposable hydration monitoring sweat sensors to athletes at $25 each. While the price is high, the move would help sweat sensor technologies gain public awareness. Lux has analyzed the potential of sweat sensors for various applications and considers Gatorade's hydration sensor an important milestone for sweat sensor technologies. For hydration monitoring applications, clients should also consider the latent market opportunity in dehydration monitoring of workers in harsh environments. Furthermore, with the strong link between some biochemicals in sweat and various health conditions, companies should envision using sweat sensors for broader health testing and monitoring applications."

Lux Research - Newsletter Research

Infarm raises $100 million to diversify its produce

Krishfield, LauraLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"Building on a $170 million round in September 2020, this investment from Hanaco Ventures and Atomico brings Infarm's total funding to over $400 million. Infarm will use the funding to diversify its crop production beyond leafy greens to include mushrooms, tomatoes, and chilies. Vertical farming continues to receive investments (e.g., Plenty, AeroFarms), focusing the capital toward scale, diversification, and producing higher-value crops. While these moves seek to promote profitability, developers like Infarm that develop in-store systems are confined by shelf space and methods of consumer interaction to ensure production meets demand. Those interested, novel crops will carry novel challenges, but Infarm's growth is clear as the food system evolves."

U.S. legislators propose investment tax credit incentives for stand-alone energy storage systems

Hernandez, JessicaJessica Hernandez, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"The new Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2021 is a bipartisan effort aiming to expand the investment tax credit (ITC), which currently applies to energy storage systems only when installed together with solar photovoltaics (PV), in order to support stand-alone storage installations in residential and commercial buildings as well as for utility-scale deployments. In addition, the bill supports all kinds of storage technologies, including batteries, compressed air, pumped hydro, hydrogen, and thermal energy storage. The ITC had an important impact on the solar industry in the U.S.; if this legislation is approved, clients can expect a considerable rise in storage deployments of all sizes."

BioPhero's fermentation pheromones gain additional investors in $17 million Series A round

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

"Building off its seed investment round in 2018, the DCVC Bio-led round brings in newly established FMC Ventures along with previous backers Syngenta Ventures and Novo Holdings. Like Provivi, BioPhero adds its name to those disrupting the pest control market by improving the cost-competitiveness of mating disruption through yeast-based fermentation. The company will target broadacre solutions for rice and soybean; this round will help achieve scale, and its involvement in the PHERA grant will aid in scaled testing. Companies, beyond scale and testing of actives, long-term success requires investment in or partnering for advanced formulation and delivery strategies, both of which are potential alternatives to engage in outside of investing"

Northvolt expands to U.S. through acquisition of Cuberg and establishment of Silicon Valley outpost

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"
This marks the first major technology acquisition made by Northvolt, which historically manufactures conventional Li-ion batteries with graphite anodes. The company was founded to build up a battery supply chain in Europe, using undifferentiated battery technology to get there. Now that it has established that supply chain, Northvolt is moving into technology innovation with its acquisition of Cuberg. The company is already working with numerous automakers and aviation companies for higher-performing batteries. Northvolt's move to the U.S. will enable rapid entry into the innovation landscape and attract both the cleantech investors and technical talent needed to scale up Cuberg's battery technology."

Be wary of hype around Blackstone "3D printed" battery technology

Mike Holman Lux Research

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

"Blackstone's process appears to be more a matter of using screen printing to deposit electrode materials (and potentially other parts of the battery) than what most would usually regard as 3D printing. Thin-film battery developers like Imprint Energy have explored similar printing processes, though Blackstone's use of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) in such a process is unique, and it claims the thicker electrodes it can produce thanks to this process offset LFP's usual energy density disadvantage and allow it to reach 220 Wh/kg cell energy density. Monitor the company's progress, but be wary of its claims of achieving such a figure in volume production by early 2022."

Making Sense of Sustainability

U.S. Department of Energy announces $24 million funding to advance direct air capture

Jinze Dai

Jinze Dai, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Following the $22 million and $15 million funding rounds announced in March 2020 and January 2021, the DOE is making another round of investment in direct air capture (DAC). The $24 million funding will support basic research to understand the energy transfer mechanisms, mass transport, and temporal material changes during the DAC process and science-driven material synthesis. Though DAC is currently far from economically viable, the continuous governmental support and the long-term demand for industrial CO2 offsets will spur the formation of startups like Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. Companies should expect to see the emergence of more technological options for DAC originating from early R&D activities."

Henkel Adhesives invests in sensor tech startup for predictive maintenance

Anthony Vicari Analyst at Lux Research

Anthony Vicari, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Henkel Adhesives has invested in Feelit Technologies, a startup that develops printed and flexible strain, temperature, pressure, and vibration sensors for monitoring machinery parts. Henkel hopes to use Feelit's sensors to add predictive maintenance capabilities under its Loctite brand for maintenance, repair, and overhaul solutions. Combining sensor and predictive maintenance offerings with a conventional adhesives business enables Henkel to better access improved digital and service-based business models that will become increasingly common and important for chemical and materials companies in the next several years."

Toppan's monomaterial packaging commercializes with Unilever in Japan

drishti masandDrishti Masand, Research Associate | @DrishtiMasand Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"In August 2019, Toppan announced its flexible plastic monomaterial packaging solution to replace multimaterial packaging; there were announcements from other materials companies, such as Mitsui Chemicals and Dai Nippon, around the same time. Toppan is the first materials company to announce the commercialization of its monomaterials, doing so with Unilever's brand Lux for personal care sachets. More companies are moving toward monomaterial packaging, and with mass adoption, all the challenges around cost and high-barrier properties could be solved in the coming years. Companies should continue to monitor the progress of monomaterial development by chemicals companies and also brands developing packaging solutions with them."

Digital ADHD platform Inflow raises $680,000 in pre-seed funding but also raises questions on validity

Anshul GupteAnshul Gupte, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance


"
While there is promising evidence in support of using cognitive behavioral therapy for managing ADHD, Inflow faces challenges in validating its platform. At this time, it does not have the documentation necessary to classify itself as a therapeutic tool, compared to other ADHD platforms. This means that Inflow will either attempt to get validated later or rely on marketing to appeal to its user base. Its strategy seems to be leveraging its limited trial to prove efficacy in time for a full release. It is important to note that under their terms, the platform is a way to manage ADHD symptoms and is not a treatment. Clients should take note of this distinction and evaluate potential partners' market strategy."

Last-mile delivery robotics startup raises $4.2 million seed round

Lewie Roberts Lux Research

Lewie Roberts, Senior Research Associate | @roberts_lewie Ico twitter
Lux Take: Low Importance


"
The startup Refraction AI develops a three-wheeled robot that operates on bike lanes and roads. The company is testing its slow-speed fleets (maximum 15 mph) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is using its new seed funding to expand operations and target restaurant and grocery deliveries. Refraction has an interesting form factor, but it's much more likely that a better-established autonomous vehicle company will dominate this space, where autonomous capabilities are more important than any other differentiator. Those interested in autonomous last-mile delivery can watch Refraction for interesting data points surrounding that application, but we don't recommend engaging any further."

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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