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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up October 29, 2021

Lux Research
October 29, 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. 

A decade later than expected, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) demonstrates the first 100% bio-based PET PlantBottle with UPM as partner

Tiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate, Lux Research

Tiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"A decade after TCCC introduced its partially bio-based PlantBottle, the company is now teasing the market with a limited run of 100% bio-based bottles fueled by technology TCCC co-owns with Changchun Meihe Science and Technology to produce bioMEG directly from sugars and Virent's bioPX technology for bioPTA. Interestingly, TCCC has opened up its MEG technology for non-competitors to use. With a strategy to scale bioMEG – UPM is currently building a full-scale commercial facility in Germany based on the technology – bioPX will still be a bottleneck, although large players like BP have entered the game in recent years. Given TCCC's goal to eliminate petrochemical PET in Europe and Japan, there is more demand for bioPX than ever before.

Sequoia's new fund structure is good deal for investors; impact for entrepreneurs or corporate innovators is TBD – but likely not large

Michael Holman, VP & Group Director, Lux Research

Michael Holman, Ph.D., VP & Group Director
Lux Take: Very Important


"Famed venture firm Sequoia Capital is reorganizing to have one open-ended parent "Sequoia Fund" over a variety of subfunds, some of which will remain typical closed-ended venture funds while others invest in public markets or assets like crypto or pursue new models like registered investment advisers. Given the convergence of public and private markets and the rise of tech-focused SPACs (as well as potential tax benefits), the move makes a lot of sense for Sequoia's partners and investors. The direct impact on entrepreneurs and corporate innovation leaders is more unclear but likely not as great. The open-ended structure could make it willing to invest in riskier earlier-stage tech, though that seems not to be the main motivation.

ESS Inc. lands 2 GWh order from SB Energy

Chloe Herrera, Senior Research Associate, Lux Research

Chloe Herrera, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"The iron-flow battery developer will supply batteries to SB Energy's projects across the U.S. through 2026, starting with a commissioned project of unnamed size in California in October 2021. ESS Inc. announced it would go public earlier in 2021, primarily raising funds to increase manufacturing capacity. Despite the accelerating need for large-scale energy storage, non-Li-ion technologies still struggle to land sizable projects. ESS's partnership with SB Energy will be a springboard for increased implementation, providing important benchmark performance data, a necessity for energy storage technologies looking to build a business case for long-duration storage; future projects with SB may hinge on successful metrics from the first project."

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Does bioenergy prevent climate change or contribute to it? Common opinion leans toward rejecting bioenergy as a solution to climate change

Arij van Berkel, Ph.D., Vice President & Group Director, Lux Research

Arij van Berkel, Ph.D., VP & Group Director
Lux Take: Very Important


"Combusting biomass releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Proponents of bioenergy argue that this doesn't add to the greenhouse effect, as the CO2 is absorbed by new biomass growing to replace the burned biomass. By that same logic, bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is carbon negative. This reasoning is based on mass balances and thus quite solid, but it only applies to a system in equilibrium. People opposed to bioenergy now argue that it will take decades for the system to reach equilibrium if that can be achieved at all. Meanwhile, biomass combustion contributes to the greenhouse effect. Biomass is more carbon-intensive than coal. The removal of Drax from the S&P Global Clean Energy Index shows which point of view wins the debate."

FYTO begins growing duckweed using animal waste to help decarbonize agriculture

Tim Appachanda, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Lux Research

Tim Appachanda, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Animal agriculture contributes nearly 15% of global GHG from enteric and manure emissions. Livestock emissions are managed through alternative feed supplements, biodigesters, pasture, and manure management. FYTO is growing duckweed using robots in controlled automated conditions – utilizing animal manure as feedstock, with claims to reduce the carbon footprint of dairy operations by 40%. Duckweed has multiple applications in animal feed, biofertilizer, plant-based food, and soil amendment compared to traditional animal feed ingredients like soybean, barley, corn, and alfalfa. Key players should engage with innovating companies like FYTO that are exploring solutions for transforming waste streams into resource streams."

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Kebotix partners with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation to develop substitute for toxic chemical Bisphenol A

Xiao Zhong, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, Lux Research

Xiao Zhong, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Kebotix has developed a closed-loop approach that connects machine learning with robotics. Here is a typical workflow: a) Machine learning is used to generate a candidate library consisting of molecules that could fit the requirement. b) Filtering of the library is conducted by experts with certain screening criteria. c) Synthetic routes are planned with machine learning and experts. d) Robotics is used to conduct simple steps of synthesis. Of the four steps, the integration of robotics, while getting the most traction, has been the slowest. It is unclear how much robotics integration Kebotix has developed in this partnership. Companies with similar needs could engage and ask about the level of maturity its robotics have achieved."

Rolls-Royce to roll out 100% hydrogen gas engines, installs fuel cell demonstrator

Jinze Dai, Ph.D., Analyst, Lux Research

Jinze Dai, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Following the course of Mitsubishi PowerSiemensDoosan, and Caterpillar, Rolls-Royce plans to offer 100% hydrogen gas engines for power generation in 2023. Prior to the launch of the 100% hydrogen product, the company will improve the hydrogen blending ratio from 10% in 2021 to 25% in 2022. In addition, Rolls-Royce installed a 250 kW hydrogen fuel cell demonstrator at its headquarters. Both initiatives serve to meet the company's target of reducing 35% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2019. At this point, the capability of running on hydrogen has become a common pursuit among turbine and engine manufacturers. Companies should realize that hydrogen turbines and engines are more scalable but less efficient than fuel cells."

Respectful launches carbon-neutral eggs in U.K.

Jamie Grippi, Senior Research Associate, Lux Research

Jamie Grippi, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance


"The company raises a select breed of white hen that has higher egg productivity with less feed than common brown hens. It also uses feed that doesn't include soybeans to prevent connection to supply chain-associated deforestation (e.g., South America) and generates renewable energy on-site for most of its operations. Although Respectful isn't the first to produce carbon-neutral eggs, the product launch highlights an integration strategy that enables legacy products to differentiate from the pack and compete with emerging nonanimal and plant-based alternatives. Carbon-neutral offerings will become key to gaining consumer attention as the impacts of and conversation around climate change become more urgent."

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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