March 2014

Science & Technology
  • An interesting article in the Economist looked at some of the innovations currently being developed for ISO shipping containers. These include lighter containers made with carbon fiber composites and piezoelectric vibration sensors. More.
  • Engineers from the Perceptual Robotics Laboratory at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Italy demonstrated what they claim to be the most advanced human exoskeleton (i.e. wearable robot) yet developed. Such devices have numerous potential applications within the medical sector. More.
  • Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have created a new material that displays large changes in magnetism in response to small changes in temperature. The material combines thin layers of nickel and vanadium oxide and may have applications within electronics. More.
  • Researchers from the University of Surrey (UK) working alongside Philips announced a breakthrough in the development of a new type of transistor that could be important in the commercialisation of flexible electronics. More.

  • Scientists from Tufts University (USA) are pioneering techniques that allow metal plates and screws used in medical procedures to be replaced by alternatives made from silk, which breaks down naturally in the human body. More.
  • The UK government announced that it is to allocate £290m to international science projects, including the Square Kilometre Array. More. It announced an additional £45m to support developers of technologies for the internet of things.
  • Researchers at Stanford University are developing externally-administered optogenetic treatments to control pain. More.
  • Researchers at the University of Michigan have reportedly developed a novel method to capture infrared light using graphene. The technology could potentially be integrated into contact lenses.  More.
  • Researchers at MIT have demonstrated ‘living materials’ based on bacteria that could pave the way for more efficient bottom-up manufacturing. More.
  • A team from Argentina’s National Technology University is reportedly developing a novel computer interface for blind people. The solution employs 2,000 small rods that move up and down to represent information. More.
  • Researchers at MIT are reportedly developing novel water filtration techniques using plant xylem. More.
  • Hybrid Air Vehicles launched the Airlander 10, at 92m the longest aircraft in the world. The hybrid design relies on helium and aerodynamic shape to provide lift. More.
Business 
  • Goldman Sachs announced that it plans to partner with the International Financial Corporation to create a $600m fund for female entrepreneurs.
  • UK-based music recognition software developer Shazam raised $20m.
  • Google Chairman Eric Schmidt selected 10 nonprofits to share the $1m New Digital Age Grant. More.
  • Vodafone announced that it plans to launch M-Pesa, the secure mobile payment-by-SMS system pioneered in Africa, in Europe. The initial trial will run in Romania. More.
  • San-Francisco-based Rise Capital announced that it is raising a $100m fund to invest in emerging market start ups.

  • Loci Controls, which develops technologies for the extraction of methane from landfill sites, received investment from backers including Launch Capital.
  • Lanzatech, which develops technologies to convert carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into ethanol, raised $60m from investors including Mitsui & Co. More.
  • Blue River Technology, which develops robots designed to optimise agricultural operations and reduce use of chemicals, raised $10m from investors including Data Collective Venture Capital.
  • Equity crowdfunding platform Globevestor, which focuses on high-impact start-ups within emerging markets, launched.
  • UK-based what3words, which is attempting to improve location identification by replacing post codes with three word labels relating to 3 x 3m patches, raised $1.5m from private investors.
  • Intel acquired Basis Science, a developer of wearable technologies with a health focus.
  • Private equity firm Blackstone launched Global Water Development Partners to support companies and projects focusing on desalination and waste water treatment globally.
  • Andreessen Horrowitz closed a $1.5bn fund, which it will use to invest in a range of early stage companies, while prominent venture capital firm Founders Fund closed a $1bn fund.
  • The Gates Foundation announced that it will be providing $2m to six companies developing innovative solutions for global sanitation. More.
  • FireChat, an app that allows phones to connect using Bluetooth or wifi rather than phone networks, launched.
  • Interesting healthcare companies that we came across this month include iHear, which develops affordable hearing aids that can be customised by users through a web-based hearing test, and CareMEssage, which develops software to help healthcare professionals maintain contact with at risk patients following care.
Other
  • Shigeru Ban, the Japanese architect who has designed a range of cardboard buildings for victims of natural disasters, was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.