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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up May 7, 2021

Lux Research
May 7, 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 first week of May.

Kaia Health raises additional $75 million in Series C for its digital therapeutic platform

Anshul Gupte, Research AssociateAnshul Gupte, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"The company, which focuses on delivering at-home musculoskeletal therapy, plans to use the funds to expand its user base in the U.S and Europe. Its platform combines active physical therapy guidance with mental health tracking, and it has recently expanded this model to include an initiative for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The utilization of multimodal therapeutics for treating chronic pain improves long-term patient outcomes by targeting comorbidities and is a great example of how digital tools bring value to the space. Those interested in digital pain management should follow Kaia Health closely and recognize the benefits of holistically treating chronic conditions."

Solid Power closes $130 million Series B

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"China's GAC Group is in the final vehicle testing phase for its graphene-based battery that can withstand up to 6C charge rates. Due to its high electron mobility and good rate performance, graphene has the potential to be a successful anode material. The cost to manufacture of graphene has been a barrier to mass production, and creating a 3D anode material has typically only been achieved at lab scale. Other companies have claimed to have a graphene battery but have failed to follow through with any product. While pure graphene batteries are unlikely to become the norm in Li-ion batteries, this announcement indicates that innovations in carbon nanotechnology will become increasingly important for competing with silicon-based anodes."

Growing fitness app Keep has become an emerging sales channel for food and apparel

Jerrold WangJerrold Wang, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"In 2020, Keep's consumer products achieved a user base of 8 million and $155 million in revenue. This covers IoT fitness equipment like exercise bikes and adjacent CPGs like low-calorie meals (with sales above $15 million) and sports apparel, all under Keep's brand. It seems Keep's food products have done well among users, given its food revenue per user being about half of its meal's unit price. CPG companies making food and apparel should reach out to Keep for white-label product opportunities. The Keep app has shown potential to become a significant user engagement and sales channel for CPGs. Keep also plans to enrich its brand-label food and apparel offerings to capitalize on higher profit margins and a much higher repurchase frequency."

Modern Meadow raises whopping $130 million Series C despite lack of progress

Kristin Marshall, Analyst at Lux Research

Tiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate at Lux ResearchKristin Marshall, Analyst | @KMarsh4Bio Ico twitter
Tiff Hua, Senior Research Associate | @tiff_hua Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"Modern Meadow has repeatedly overhyped its technology, setting expectations high and then failing to deliver despite its large previous capital and support from large industry players like Evonik. Now, Andras Forgacs is stepping down as CEO, and the company is shifting its first product launch to a textile coating. This is surprising, as the company recently stated that its plant protein-based leather was set to come to market this year. Its coating move is another far cry from the company's original target of synthetic meats and then cell-based and collagen-based leathers. Modern Meadow has taken a further step backward, putting its alternative leathers on the back burner. Those interested should not engage until it can deliver a product to market."

Partnership between Luminar and Airbus will test transferability of autonomous vehicle technologies to aircraft

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

"Luminar announced that it would partner with Airbus to test its lidar technologies on aircraft for detecting obstacles in the air. Airbus aims to develop autonomous aircraft for short-distance in-city transportation. Lidar will be one of the core sensor technologies to enable the use cases. The recent deal that Luminar signed with Volvo allows the company to offer a hardware-software combination to other vehicle makers, making Luminar capable of offering autonomous driving solutions rather than just the sensors. Companies should monitor if the partnership between Luminar and Airbus enables the feasibility of transferring autonomous vehicle sensor technologies to aircraft."

Lux Research - Newsletter Research

Bentley Systems integrates iTwin digital twin platform with Nvidia Omniverse

Akshay Chaudhari, Ph.D.

Akshay Chaudhari, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"Digital twins of manufacturing facilities and infrastructure projects use large CAD models for visualization and need heavy processing power to run. In addition, multiple teams work on these models simultaneously, creating multiple versions. Nvidia tackles these challenges with the Omniverse platform, which runs on centralized servers where users can work collaboratively. Bentley Systems and BMW have adopted the Omniverse platform given the native support for simulation and rendering engines, including PhysX, RTX, and AI, with unique centralized GPU processing capabilities. Interested companies should monitor the Omniverse ecosystem evolution, as it has the potential to change the digital twin landscape."

Zoe raises $20 million Series B to further develop personalized nutrition solutions

Jerrold Wang

10085-thumb-squareJerrold Wang, Analyst 
Thomas Hayes, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important

"Ahren Innovation Capital led the round, which is one of the biggest VC deals, if not the biggest, by a personalized nutrition startup Lux has observed in a long time. Its total funding now stands at $53 million. Based on its own gut microbiome studies, Zoe uses machine learning and big data to analyze how people's bodies respond to different foods and offers personalized nutrition advice, launching its first commercial product in the U.S. in September 2020 for $360 (with plans for the U.K. later in 2021). Food, nutrition, and beverage companies should monitor Zoe's progress, as its work on the fundamental science has potential to pave the way for health- and wellness-related claims."

New insights about human immune response to COVID-19 have implications for vaccine design against new variants

Ramanathan, Nardev-1

Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Multiple new and emerging COVID-19 variants with higher transmission rates have thrown into question the continued efficacy of existing vaccines across these newer strains. Previous research has focused on the receptor-binding domain (RBD) given its importance in attaching to and infecting human cells. This study, however, found that 84% of circulating antibodies from recovering COVID-19 patients were in fact targeting areas outside the RBD, and some were targeting parts of the virus that are not easily mutable. Next-generation vaccine design could focus on amplifying these antibodies. One limitation is that the study was based on blood plasma samples from four patients; a larger sample size is needed to validate this observation."

GM and LG Energy Solution to invest $2.3 billion in second Ultium Cells manufacturing plant in U.S.

Shishir JairamShishir Jairam, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"General Motors and LG Energy Solution announced a $2.3 billion investment to build their second battery cell manufacturing plant in the U.S. The investment will help Ultium Cells, a joint venture of LG Energy Solution and General Motors, increase the production of large-format, pouch-style cells that can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. The technology on the BEV platform was previously highlighted during the LG investor day, with a focus on optimizing battery energy storage and layout for each vehicle design. Although the plant is expected to be functional in 2023, companies are encouraged to monitor the development and view this investment as further progress in the U.S. domestic supply chain system."

FreeWire Technologies receives $3.5 million grant from California Energy Commission

Hernandez, JessicaJessica Hernandez, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"As part of the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, the California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded part of the Bringing Rapid Innovation Development to Green Energy (BRIDGE) grant funding to FreeWire to expand the capabilities of its Boost Charger, a battery-integrated electric vehicle (EV) fast charger. Earlier this year, FreeWire raised $50 million to accelerate international expansion, and with this new grant funding, the company intends to further develop its EV charging solution and demonstrate how its technology can provide application stacking at two project sites. Stationary storage has been proving valuable to support fast charging stations; using these systems for grid services can only improve station economics."

Lux Research - The Next Energy Transition eBook

Honda targets zero tailpipe emissions by 2040

Christopher Robinson

Christopher Robinson, Research Director
Lux Take: Average Importance

Honda is the latest automaker to announce a full zero-emissions strategy, announcing it will end combustion vehicle sales by 2040. The date is slightly later than that of some of its peers; luxury brand Jaguar Land Rover will go zero tailpipe emissions by 2030. This is expected; as we've noted previously, higher-priced luxury brands are among the first where electric powertrains can compete on costs with combustion vehicles. It's notable that this date is also later than GM's, which Honda shares a deep partnership with on both electrification and autonomy, underscoring GM's aggressive commitment to electrification. Companies should expect to see more automakers make such announcements, with luxury brands setting the most aggressive targets."

Google to power data centers in Virginia with 24/7 clean energy

Seoane da Silva, PatriciaPatricia Seoane da Silva, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Last September, Google set a goal to procure 24/7 zero- or low-carbon (e.g., nuclear) electricity by 2030. In line with this ambition, the company signed a 10-year supply agreement with AES Corporation, which will build a 500 MW portfolio of renewable energy (wind, solar, and hydro) and electrical storage assets tailored to Google's needs. This portfolio will require an investment of about $600 million and will start supplying electricity toward the end of 2021. As we previously pointed out, more corporations will follow in the footsteps of Google and demand larger amounts of around-the-clock renewable energy, with data centers playing a significant role along this transition."

Withings enables its connected health scale to estimate "vascular age" to indicate cardiovascular disease

Anshul Gupte, Research AssociateAnshul Gupte, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Withings develops a number of connected health devices, and this feature has been pushed to its Body Cardio smart scale. The scale measures pulse wave velocity (PWV), which is correlated with arterial stiffness and is an indicator of cardiovascular disease. It remains to be seen how precise its estimation of PWV is, as the company itself currently notes that the feature is not meant to diagnose or monitor any condition. It could be looking to leverage data as a future market strategy. An approximation is still very valuable in leading to better outcomes, particularly for at-risk users. Those interested in heart disease management should note the distinction and see if this measurement can be paired with their own offerings."

Solidia raises $78 million and names new CEO – will these developments finally lead to commercialization?

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

"Solidia Technologies has a new CEO, Bryan Kalbfleisch, along with $78 million more in funding from Imperative Ventures, Zero Carbon Partners, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, along with existing investors. The company has a promising technology, but the lack of scale-up and commercialization activity leaves many questions and doubts about the technology's viability. Solidia needs to progress soon or risk losing interest and market advantages as competitors like CarbonCure continue growing and spreading rapidly. Companies should continue to monitor Solidia with hopes that the company can validate its technology at the commercial-scale soon."

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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