December 2013

Science & Technology
  • During the course of R&D into chip design, IBM has reportedly developed a new polymer with applications in anti-fungal drugs. More.
  • UK-based E2V demonstrated a device that is designed to stop vehicles by using electromagnetic pulses to interfere with electronic systems and shut down the engine. More.
  • Google Glass is now being used in operating theatres, where benefits include delivery of information without having to leave the room or diverting attention. More.
  • Blaze has developed bike lights that employ lasers to project an image onto the road, thereby addressing the blind spot problem and improving cyclist safety at night.
  • Researchers from Pittsburgh have developed a self-repairing gel based on the process of regeneration seen in amphibians. The development employs ‘nanorods’ that expand when the material is cut, and could lead to self-healing tyres, electronic device screens and furniture.
  • A team of researchers from the Emory University, Atlanta, reported that they have identified evidence of a ‘genetic memory’, through which the experiences of a parent can seemingly influence behaviour of children and even grandchildren. This has implications in the understanding of conditions including phobias and anxiety. More.
  • Researchers at the University of Cambridge published a paper outlining the successful inkjet printing of  eye cells. More.
  • Researchers from  Harvard Medical School published results of a study in which they were apparently able to reverse some aspects of the ageing process. More.
  • Affectiva has developed software than can determine emotions through interpreting facial expressions. This will be made available to mobile app developers and has applications in advertising, education and healthcare. More.

  • An interesting article from the BBC looked at technology being developed to address the problems faced by the world’s 45m displaced people. These include a flat-pack, solar-powered shelter that has been jointly developed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Ikea Foundation. Also mentioned is the Praekelt Foundation, which works to develop mobile technologies for non-profits organisations working with marginalised people, and Wikipedia Zero, an initiative designed to enable free mobile access to Wikipedia articles for users in developing countries. More.
  • Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed a phased array of ultrasound transducers that can make a specified point in space vibrate, and has applications in gesture-based control. More.
  • Oslo-based Thin Film Electronics demonstrated a prototype printed electronic tag that can integrate sensors to enable item-specific tracking and may eventually replace product bar codes currently used by retailers. More.
  • USAID granted $13m to 12 start-ups developing innovative energy solutions for the agriculture sector. More.
Business
  • Dell announced the launch of a £$300m VC fund to target opportunities in areas including storage, cloud computing, data centres, big data and security. Benchmark hit its target of $425M for its eight venture capital fund, while London-based Hoxton Ventures announced that it has raised a $40m fund to invest in European start-ups. Seed-stage impact investor Unitus Seed Fund raised $3.3m to invest in Indian start-ups targeting the ‘base of the economic pyramid’.
  • American Efficient raised $2.5m from Clean Pacific Ventures to connect consumers to energy-efficient products and green power plans.
  • Moovit raised $28m to further develop its app that provides real-time information on public transport networks by aggregating information from network operators and commuters.
  • CrunchBase reported that the average successful US start-up raises $41m and exits for £243m. Start-ups that were ultimately acquired (after an average of seven years) raised $29m, while those that went on to IPO raised an average of $162m (after an average of 8.25 years). The study covered all exits tracked since 2007. More (including a useful graph of top investors for portfolio company exits).
  • Soundhawk raised $5.7m to develop its hearing-enhancing hardware. More.
  • US-based Grokker, which develops a platform through which consumers can access expert videos, raised $5.5m from investors including Khosla Ventures.
  • Planet Labs raised $52m to expand its network of low-orbit satellites, which are designed to capture high resolution images that can be used to track deforestation, changes in weather and agriculture. Investors included DFJ, Capricorn and Founders Fund. More.
  • Geostellar launched a website and app that enables users to easily assess the viability of solar panel installations, and compare available supplier deals, at any given address in the US.
Other
  • An interesting article in the FT looked at the dangers posed by reliance on big data analysis, namely the sacrificing of long-term targets for short term insights backed-up by numbers. The article points out that complex analysis can still contain fundamental flaws/omissions that can be difficult to spot, particularly for non-technical managers.
  • A study published by Yale University highlighted the growing risks posed by a shortage of rare materials commonly used in modern technologies. Of the 62 materials considered, none were found to have fully satisfactory alternatives while 12 were found to have no replacements. More.
  • The UK government pledged £1.5m for the Manchester-based Social Enterprise Accelerator, which will be designed to support at least 36 social start-ups over the next three years. The UK government also announced that it will be making available £90m per year for the next five years to fund collaborative research projects with emerging nations in areas such as space exploration. More.