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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up May 1, 2020

Lux Research
May 1, 2020

Every day our analysts comb through major industry headlines and provide their analysis on developments and trends in the news. Our researchers evaluate news based on potential importance ranking developments from Truly Disruptive to Ignore.

Each Friday 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 tech and strategy as they relate to the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 will impact the global energy transition in the near term, but could accelerate developments upon economic recovery

YuanSheng Yu Photo_edited

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

"The WEF predicts that COVID-19 may enable a new energy order to accelerate the global energy transition. There will undoubtedly be near-term impacts on renewable energy deployment, but fossil fuels will face the same effects as companies cut back on capital spending and banks put a hold on financing major projects. In the long term, a drawn-out economic downturn will instead shorten ROI timelines for major fossil fuel projects, while government plans for decarbonization are likely to stand firm. The industry may witness a boom in renewable energy deployments during recovery as countries strive to mitigate the effects of volatile commodities and increase the resiliency of their domestic energy systems while achieving decarbonization goals."

COVID-19's impacts on meat are opening the door for alternative proteins

Olsen, Sara

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


"African swine fever (ASF) had already decimated Asian swine herds before COVID-19 came along to put further strain on Asia's meat supply, and the rest of the world's meat industries are in serious danger of being unable to maintain status quo production. Agricultural challenges in commodity crop production and processing will be slower to percolate into the food chain, meaning plant-based burgers and chicken alternatives have a window of opportunity right now to present themselves as more reliable alternatives – or potentially the only choice – next to empty meat cases in grocery stores. Only products in retail today will benefit immediately, but longer-term, expect more people to shift to "flexitarian" approaches to protein consumption."

Hong Kong International Airport tests full-body disinfecting channels or "pods"

14215-thumb-squareTiffany Hua, Research Associate | @tiff_hua Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"As social distancing is relaxed and travel increases, methods of disinfecting and managing spread will still be a large concern, especially in high-traffic places like airports. Hong Kong Airport is testing full-body disinfection channels currently designated for airport staff dealing with flight arrivals. The fully enclosed podlike vessel, dubbed CLeanTech, features an antimicrobial photocatalytic coating in the interior surface as well as sanitizing spray for instant disinfection. There is an opportunity for materials and chemical companies to investigate product innovations to combat COVID-19 and build new markets rather than relying on governments or public transportation companies to adopt coating and disinfecting solutions."

Lincoln cancels Rivian-powered BEV, pushing back electrification program

Robinson, ChristopherChristopher Robinson, Senior Analyst | @CRobinsonLux Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"The company cited impacts from COVID-19 as the reason for delaying the project, although the announcement mostly speaks to Lincoln and Ford scaling back electric vehicle plans. If it were committed to electric vehicles, using Rivian's existing platform to underpin the vehicle would be more cost-effective than designing or adapting a new one. Those interested should note that other automakers in the U.S. are likely to take a similar approach, as there are no regulatory drivers to make less profitable electric vehicles. In Europe, automakers face costly fines for missing the 95 g/CO2 targets, and in China, they face a penalty for not producing zero-emission vehicles – providing an incentive for automakers to focus on lower-emission vehicles."

Continued innovation helps Iberdrola grow profits in the face of coviD-19

Patricia Seoane da Silva - Lux Research - Research AssociatePatricia Seoane da Silva, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"The Spanish utility reported a 5.3% increase in net profit in the first quarter of 2020. This outcome follows in the footsteps of Iberdrola's 2019 financial results and showcases how continued investments in digital tools, renewables (which represent 26% of the company's EBITDA), and energy networks can push economic growth. This upward trend is expected to continue throughout 2020, as Iberdrola has already commissioned 1.2 GW of renewables and announced plans to invest €10 billion ($10.7 billion) in renewable projects this year. COVID-19 is raising awareness about energy resilience – companies should regard Iberdrola as a valuable example of how renewables and innovation can increase resilience while driving profits."

Brookings Institution report highlights China's Belt and Road Initiative as a vehicle for its global 5G deployment

Jerrold Wang Lux ResearchJerrold Wang, Analyst | @jerroldwang Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"The report updates the current U.S.-China 5G competition and provides recommendations to the U.S. Besides China's government plan and fast deployment, another difference in 5G development between the two countries mentioned by the report is that China tied 5G to its Belt and Road Initiative, a strategy involving infrastructure development in about 70 countries. This means China has potential to deploy 5G solutions to various countries. So far, China 5G has already had a strong impact on the globe, as Huawei has obtained more worldwide contracts than Ericsson and Nokia, and more than half of its contracts are from the EU. Given the uniqueness and impact of China 5G, companies should monitor it as a reference for geographic operations."

Earth observation satellites show that Permian oil production emits 260 million tons of CO₂ equivalent in gas each year

Arij-van-BerkelArij van Berkel, Ph.D., Director, Research | @aivanberkel Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

Tropomi is the ESA's most advanced Earth observation satellite to date. It is capable of accurately measuring concentrations of 10 substances, including NOx and methane in the atmosphere, with a resolution of 7 km × 7 km. Thus, it can accurately pinpoint sources of pollutants. Since its launch in 2017, the satellite has already uncovered methane leaks during an incident in Ohio and from a pipeline in Turkmenistan. The system also made headlines by showing the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns on air pollution. Now the research has shown that methane emissions from Permian oil production are twice as large as thought. This means the industry is wasting huge potential revenue from natural gas and is also much more polluting than assumed."

Didi commits $1 billion to bike-sharing as part of expansion plan

Chad Goldberg - Research Associate at Lux ResearchChad Goldberg, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"SoftBank and Legend Capital have reportedly contributed $150 million in outside funding to Didi's bike-sharing unit Qingju, an addition to the reported $850 million of internal funding from Didi itself. The move and amount are surprising considering the rocky history of bike-shares in China. However, the timing may be appropriate, as consolidations and bankruptcies have nearly normalized China's bike-share market to a point that may promote improved operations and competition. Additionally, in a time when commuters are wary of public transportation, Didi may view this as an opportunity to inject some cash in and reinvigorate an affordable mobility option that promotes social distancing, though Didi has not specify how funds will be used."

In the telehealth rush triggered by COVID-19, United Health is adding mental health provider AbleTo to its offerings for $470 million

Danielle Bradnan Lux ResearchDanielle Bradnan, Research Associate @DBradnan Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"AbleTo offers a combination of video or phone chats with mental health professionals and educational materials on mild to moderate mental health conditions. However, in this regard, AbleTo is largely undifferentiated from other mental health offerings. What makes AbleTo special is its ability to integrate into payer platforms and use data from payers to target at-risk individuals proactively. This move will enable United Health to optimally utilize existing patient data streams. Companies looking to acquire  telehealth companies should consider not only tech differentiators from the patient perspective, but how the tech is differentiated in terms of what value it can provide when integrated with a client's existing data streams."

Plantible Foods raises $4.6 million to commercialize duckweed protein

13463-thumb-squareLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"The round was co-led by Vectr Ventures and Lerer Hippeau and joined by Eighteen94 Capital, Kellogg Company's venture capital fund, and FTW Ventures. Plantible Foods will use the funding to bring its duckweed-derived protein to market, anticipating the company's first sales by the end of 2020. While this news signals that players within the food industry are looking to diversify plant protein sources, the key question is, can duckweed production support an industrial-scale capacity? Currently, Plantible Foods is operating a 2-acre pilot facility, while the largest facilities are producing 3,500 MT/year (e.g., Parabel). Companies should note the interest in duckweed as a protein source but be aware of the need for increased economies of scale."

AR contact lens developer Mojo Vision generates a lot of hype to successfully attract investors

Vladimir Roznyatovskiy, Ph.D., Senior AnalystVladimir Roznyatovskiy, Ph.D., Senior Analyst | @roznyatovskiy Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Embedding an AR display in contact lenses is a bold and innovative vision that may change the way people perceive the world, but only after many material and manufacturing obstacles are resolved. This is what an early-stage startup, Mojo Vision, has been actively marketing after coming out of stealth mode with $100 million in investments just a few months ago. Today's announcement of $50 million in Series B equity sold is a signal of a tremendous hype for what, at best, is exploratory work. Without publicly available samples or competitors, Mojo Vision as a business is similar to Magic Leap in its early days. Those interested should read this news as investors' FOMO behavior and stay focused on manufacturing feasibility first." 

Reebok and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. partner with thredUP, a "Resale-as-a-Service" platform

14215-thumb-squareTiffany Hua, Research Associate | @tiff_hua Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"In addition to Reebok and Abercrombie partnering with ThredUp, we have seen other major apparel brands join the resale bandwagon, including H&M, Patagonia, The North face, Gap Inc., Macy's, JCPenney, and many more. Given the slowdown of the apparel industry due to the prior decline of in-person shopping, apparel brands' and retailers' adoption of all-online retail due to COVID-19, and the economic downturn, it is likely that online resale and reuse will see increased consumer adoption. Partnering with online resale and reuse platforms is an option that can add a much-needed revenue stream."

Japanese eVTOL developer boasts first manned test flight

Chad Goldberg - Research Associate at Lux ResearchChad Goldberg, Research Associate
Lux Take: Ignore

"Cartivator recently published images showing its two-seater flying car hovering above the ground with a human passenger. While the company claims a series of test flights over the past few months have helped to technically validate its vehicle, it is extremely surprising that Cartivator expects to sell a consumer-ready flying car by 2023. There is no additional evidence to suggest the expected vehicle is anywhere close to complete validation, especially considering it is being marketed as a vehicle capable of road and air travel. Organizations should ignore the news and the company, as many other competitors in the space have deeper pockets, more years of development, and more impressive test flights under their wings."





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