October 2014

Science & Technology

  • Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington are developing a device that can efficiently harvest drinkable water from dew drops. The technique employed is inspired by the feeding techniques of small birds. More.
  • Surgeons in Poland have restored a paralysed patient’s ability to walk using a technique, involving transplantation of cells from the nasal cavity into the spinal cord, that was developed by researchers at the Institute of Neurology, University College London. More.
  • Researchers at MIT have developed a nano-patterned material that can manipulate liquid droplets to form any shape, and could have applications in the development of new display technologies and microchip manufacture techniques. More.
  • The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scienists for their work in improving the resolution of optical microscopes. More. Meanwhile, the Nobel Prize for physics went to three early pioneers of blue/white LED lighting. More.
  • Researchers at Stanford are developing a method to induce formation of synapses in adult brains. The technique could be used to facilitate learning or treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. More.
  • Scientists from Harvard Medical School are developing a cancer treatment that involves genetically  engineering stem cells  to secrete toxins that destroy brain tumours.  The technique could herald a new approach in cancer treatment. More.
  • Ford announced that it is developing a drivers’ seat capable of detecting heart attacks and bringing cars to a safe stop.
  • Scientists at Imperial College London have developed a new zinc-based material capable of more effectively removing arsenic from water than existing treatments. More.
  • A study published by Strategy& claimed that there is no significant link between a company’s R&D investment and its financial performance. The survey showed that almost 60% of R&D is focused on developing incremental improvements to existing products, with just 14% allocated to generating ‘breakthrough innovations’. More.
  • Researchers at Dundee University are attempting to develop eye tests that can identify the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. More.
  • Imperial College London and the Georgia Institute of Technology launched a £60m project that will attempt to develop technologies that could one day enable amputees to regenerate missing limbs. More.
  • IBM has developed automated hypothesis generation software capable of sifting through huge amounts of text, including scientific reports, to make diagnoses of hard-to-identify medical conditions.
  • Researchers at the Australian National University have developed a tractor beam capable of repelling or attracting objects over far longer distances (20cm) than existing designs. The set-up utilises heat created by a doughnut-shaped laser to move objects. More.
  • The UK’s Met Office announced that it has secured £97m to develop a supercomputer that will improve forecasting and climate modelling. The facility should improve flood warning, inform renewable energy investment decision making and reduce travel disruption. More.

Business

  • Rocket Internet raised €1.4bn from its Frankfurt IPO, although its share price fell in early trading
  • A report by consulting firm EPG placed the total annual amount spent on corporate social responsibility by US and UK members of the Fortune 500 at $15.2bn.
  • Twitter provided $10m to the MIT Media Lab to fund a project designed to improve understanding of content being published online. More.
  • Ebay announced that it would be spinning-out PayPal into a separate entity. The change should take place within the second half of 2015.
  • A survey by PwC found that just 8% of family-owned businesses in the UK has plans to ‘expand aggressively’ over the next five years. The corresponding figure is 16% in the US and 57% in China. The UK’s three million family-owned businesses reportedly employ nine million people and contribute 25% of GDP.
  • Intel’s Q3 earning exceeded expectations, signalling a resurgence in PC sales fuelled by business and IT infrastructure demand.
  • Q3 profits (£1.7bn) at Google dropped by 5% against 2013 figures, reflecting increased hardware and data centre costs and diversification of business activities.
  • The MoneyTree report from PwC and the National Venture Capital Association (US) revealed that venture capital firms invested $9.9bn through 1,023 deals during Q3 2014. This takes the 2014 total to more than £33bn, exceeding figures for the whole of 2013. Software, media and entertainment were the most active sectors.
  • A report released by the Federation of Small Businesses placed London in 18th position (out of 24) in its Small Business Cities Burden Index, with high property prices in particular posing major problems for SMEs.

New Sources of Funding

  • Israel-based Carmel Ventures closed a $194m early stage fund focusing on sectors including enterprise software, fintech, cyber security and consumer apps.
  • Australia-based OneVentures announced that it has raised $60m of its targeted $100m fund.
  • Vancouver-based Version One Ventures raised a $35m early-stage fund.
  • Moscow-based venture capital firm life.SREDA  announced that it has commenced fundraising on a $100m fintech-focused fund.
  • Boston-based OpenView Venture Partners closed a $250m fund to invest in expansion-stage companies. The firm offers access to an in-house operational support team that assist in areas such as market research, recruitment and sales & marketing.
  • Singapore state-funded Infocomm Investments launched a London office and announced that it will expand its focus to cover Europe. The firm is looking to invest £1-5m alongside Europe-based VCs.
  • France-based venture capital firm Breega Capital raised €20m to invest in European technology start-ups.
  • UK-based DN capital closed a €144m fund to invest in early-stage, northern European companies operating within the software, digital media and e-commerce sectors.
  • Jerusalem Venture Partners announced that it has raised $100m to invest in digital media, storage/infrasturcutre, enterprise software and cyber security companies.
  • London-based Advent Life Sciences closed a £146m venture capital fund that will focus on early- and mid-stage medical companies in Europe and the US.

New Products

  • UK-based ARM announced that it is developing an operating system for the Internet of Things. This will be made freely available but will only be compatible with devices using ARM chips.
  • Microsoft unveiled initial details of its new operating system, Windows 10.
  • Advert-free, invite-only social network Ello revealed that it is now receiving 40,000 new user requests per hour, just six months after launching. The company also announced that it has raised $5.5m from investors including the Foundry Group.
  • Google released details of version 5.0 (‘Lollipop’) of its Android operating system. This will focus more on enterprise use, enabling users to partition personal and work content/apps, and will be available to install from 3 November.
  • Sustainable Deltas 2015, a project designed to share Dutch flood assessment and mitigation technologies with the developing world, launched.
  • Facebook launched a ‘Safety Check’ feature that is designed to provide information on user wellbeing after natural disasters.
  • Bionym, which is developing a wristband that enables users to replace passwords with their heart rhythm, took a step closer to general release. More.

Company Fundraising

  • AlgoBox, an online marketplace for businesses to identify and access algorithms contributed by researchers on a pay-as-you-use basis, exceeded its target on crowdfunding site Seedrs.
  • US private equity firm KKR invested $55m in Germany-based Arago, a developer of software solutions designed to automate work traditionally undertaken by IT administration staff. More.
  • UK-based Zone-V, which is developing smart phones designed for elderly users, neared completion of its latest funding round.
  • The Air Umbrella, which uses blasts of air to deflect rain and keep users dry, surpassed its Kickstarter funding target.
  • Sweden-based Truecaller, which develops a contact management app, raised $60m from investors including Atomico, KPCB and Sequoia.
  • US-based uBeam, which develops wireless ultrasound charging technologies, raised $10m from investors including Andreessen Horrowitz.
  • Tel Aviv University spin-out StoreDot, which is developing ‘bio-organic nano-crystal’ technology that promises to enable faster-charging batteries, raised $42m for a number of strategic investors. More.
  • US-based Magic Leap, which is developing advanced augmented reality technologies, raised $542m from investors including Google. More.
  • Map-D, an early stage company that is developing real-time big data visualisation solutions, raised $1.5m from investors including Google and Nvidia.
  • The Hendo ‘Hoverboard’, which employs four engines to create magnetic fields that allow it to levitate above certain surfaces, exceeded its target on Kickstarter.
  • Oxford University spin-out Adaptimmune, which is developing cancer treatments that re-programme white blood cells to attack cancer, raised $104m
  • Berkeley spin-out Alien Technology, which develops extremely small RFID tags, raised $35m from investors. 
  • A study released by London & Partners reported that London-based start-ups received more than $1bn investment during the first three quarters of 2014,a 30% increase on the same period in 2013.

Other

  • A report by Incomes Data Services revealed that directors at the 100 largest listed businesses in the UK earn an average of £2.43m per year, 120 times the average salary of their respective companies. This is up from 47 times the average in 2000. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at MIT indicates that workplace gender diversity improves company performance but reduces worker happiness. More.
  • A study commissioned by London-based VC Atomico found that 60% of internet/software companies that have reached a value of $1bn or more were created outside of Silicon Valley. Of the 134 companies in this category, 21 are based in Europe. The average period taken to attain a $1bn valuation was six years.