January 2015

Science & Technology

  • Researchers from Brown University, working alongside Blackrock Microsystems, are developing a device that enables wireless transmission of electrical signals collected by brain implants. Potential applications include prosthetic limb control systems for paralysed patients. More.
  • A joint venture between the Pew Charitable Trust and UK Satellite Applications Catapult has established Project Eyes on the Seas, which meshes satellite monitoring of vessels with other data sources such as real time weather conditions and probable fish locations to identify illegal fishing activities.
  • A team of researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania have developed a method to control the movement and position of electrons in graphene, which could pave the way for graphene to replace silicon in semiconductors. More.
  • A collaboration between the University of Bristol and University of Dundee has developed a device capable of shaping and steering light beams far more rapidly than had previously been possible. The development could have numerous applications, including development of improved holograms.
  • Researchers at Microsoft are developing a system that automatically identifies smart phones in a room and charges them using light beams. More.
  • Scientists at Nottingham Trent University are developing smart scanners capable of identifying the sites of road potholes before they form. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at Penn State University suggests that memory is far more selective than previously thought, and that people may have to ‘turn on’ their memory in order to remember even simple details of an experience. More.
  • Researchers in the Netherlands have discovered a salt-tolerant potato that could be cultivated in land previously considered to be unsuitable for agriculture. More.
  • Physicists from the University of Rochester, New York have developed self-cleaning, super-hydrophobic metals by incorporating laser-etched parallel surface grooves. More.
  • Scientists from Glasgow University have successfully altered the speed of photons by changing their shape. More.
  • Researchers at the University of Liverpool have developed a method to simultaneously generate both magnetisation and electrical polarisation within a material. The development has potential applications in low-energy data storage. More.
  • Scientists at Northeastern University, Boston, have developed a potentially revolutionary method for growing bacteria that looks set to catalyse the development of multiple new classes of antibiotics. More.

Business

  • Google suspended sales of Google glass following privacy-related criticism.
  • Box conducted its much-delayed IPO at a valuation of $1.7bn.
  • Apple reported the largest net income ($18bn) of any pubic company in history for Q4 2014.
  • Venture Capitalists invested $48.3bn across 4,356 deals in 2014, according to the MoneyTree report released by PwC and NVCA. This represents a 61% increase on the amount invested in 2013 and is the highest level since 2000. More.

New Sources of Funding

  • Japan-based venture capital firm Incubate Fund raised a new $91m fund to invest in start-ups across Asia and North America. More.
  • French telecoms company Orange launched a $23m venture fund called Digital Ventures, which will invest globally across a wide range of sectors including e-health, security and communications.
  • Pearson announced plans to expand its corporate venture fund by committing $50m to invest in start-ups developing solutions for low-cost private education in Africa and Asia.
  • Germany-based venture capital firm HV Holtzbrinck Ventures closed a €285m fund to invest in early- and growth- stage companies in the internet, mobile and digital media sectors.
  • Early-stage investor Artis Ventures closed a new $60m fund.
  • New-York based Eniac Ventures closed a $55m fund to make seed-stage investments in mobile startups.
  • London/Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm 83North raised a $200m fund to invest in consumer and enterprise technology companies. 
  • Paris-based Partech Ventures raised a $250m fund to invest in early-stage companies across Europe and North America.
  • Israel-based venture capital firm Singulariteam closed a $102m fund to invest in start-ups working in sectors including fintech, robotics and the internet of things.
  • Accelerator Techstars announced that it has raised a $150m fund to provide support to early stage companies emerging from its ecosystem. More.
  • The eco.business Fund, a public private partnership that will provide funding for companies in Latin America that are working to preserve biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources, was established with €17m seed funding from the German development bank KfW. More.

New products

  • Lynparza, an ovarian cancer treatment developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and AstraZenica, became the first PARP-inhibitor to be granted approval when if was given marketing authorisation by the European Commission. The drug offers a more targeted method of destroying cancerous cells with fewer side-effects than established treatments. More.
  • Microsoft unveiled the HaloLens, a headset that overlays holograms on the real world. The company also announced that the next version of Windows will be available as a free upgrade to existing users and will feature its Cortana personal digital assistant, allowing users to submit natural language queries.
  • The first Samsung smartphones running the company’s Tizen operating system went on sale in India. Samsung has designed the system to enable superior performance on low-end devices.
  • Helsinki Institute for Technology spin-out Etsimo is developing a search interface called SciNet, which engages users in the search process to improve results in complex searches. By presenting a visual representation of keywords related to a search term, results are theoretically improved by relying on recognition rather than memory recall, and enable more personalised results. This is especially useful for ‘exploratory searches’ where users do not necessarily know what they are looking for More.
  • Denmark-based developer Robocat has developed an app that enables visually impaired users to have live videos captured on a smartphone deciphered by sighted volunteers. More.
  • UK-based satellite operator Inmarsat announced that it will open up its platform to third party developers in an attempt to move its business into new areas.

New company Fundraising

  • Music identification app Shazam raised a further $30m at a $1bn valuation.
  • UK-based Pavegen, which develops floor tiles that can convert kinetic energy from footfall into electricity, raised $1m from angel investors.
  • Edinburgh-based university spin-out PureLifi, which is developing technologies to provide internet connectivity using light, raised £1.5m from investors.
  • Planet Labs, which develops small and low-cost satellites, raised a further $95m form investors including Data Collective.
  • SpaceX raised $1bn from Google and Fidelity to fund a series of projects including the development of a fleet of satellites designed to establish internet connectivity in underserved parts of the world. More.
  • US-based EcoPesticides International, which harnesses naturally-ocurring bacteria and fungi to develop crop protection solutions, raised $400k from a number of early-stage investors.
  • UK-based Gluru, which is developing a digital personal assistant capable of identifying and delivering context-relevant information from user files, raised $1.5m from investors including Playfair Capital. More.
  • France-based Ynsect, which deploys insects to consume organic waste before harvesting them to make useful products, raised €5.5m from investors including New Protein Capital and Demeter Partners.
  • US-based Skydio, which is developing ‘smart’ drones, raised $3m from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Accel Partners. 
  • US-based Rethink Robotics, which develops robots for manufacturing applications, raised $26.6m from investors including GE Ventures and Goldman Sachs.
  • US-based meal replacement company Soylent raised $20m from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures. The company is developing a food product of optimal nutritional content that can act as a meal substitute.
  • London-based international money transfer start-up TransferWise raised $58m from US-based venture firm Andreessen Horowitz.
  • US-based Accion Systems, which is developing advanced ion-beam propulsion systems for satellites, raised $2m from investors including RRE Ventures.
  • London-based Verne Global, which develops energy efficient data centres, raised $98m from investors including Stefnir and Wellcome Trust.
  • US-based X.ai, which develops an AI-based virtual personal assistant for business users, raised $9m from investors including FirstMark Capital.
  • US-based USGI Medical, which is developing incision-free (i.e. using natural body orifices) surgery to treat obesity, raised $19.5m from investors including GE Capital.
  • US-based healthcare R&D company PureTech raised $57m to develop a pipeline of novel treatments for issues including depression and obesity. More.

Other

  • Sharing news stories through social media sites may encourage people to become more engaged, for longer periods, with that content, according to a study by researchers at Penn State. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at Penn State University has found a link between flexible working practices (whereby employees decide when and where they work) and improved sleep and health. More.