March 2015

Science & Technology

  • Chemists working at UC Berkeley have developed a new material, a ‘diamine-appended metal-organic framework’, that can capture carbon dioxide directly from the air and then release it at much lower temperatures than current carbon-capture materials. This offers the potential to develop air purification and carbon-capture and storage systems that are far smaller and cheaper to run than existing systems. More.
  • A team of researchers from Imperial College London and spin-out Econic Technologies has developed a novel catalyst technology capable of converting waste CO2 into polymers for use within production of a wide range of consumer and industrial products. It is estimated that for every tonne of CO2 used in the process, a further two tonnes could be saved by avoiding making the raw material that it displaces.  More.
  • Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a thermoelectric material (germanium-doped magnesium stannide) capable of generating electricity from waste heat more effectively than available materials.  More.
  • Floating solar power plants (dubbed ‘flotovoltaics’), which are typically deployed on wastewater ponds (reducing land use, preventing algae growth and limiting water evaporation), are taking off in locations such as the US, Japan and Australia. Construction of the largest US example, a 12.5MW site in California, started this month.
  • Researchers at MIT have developed an online peer-to-peer tool designed to help sufferers of depression and anxiety build support communities and practice therapeutic techniques. More.
  • Boeing has reportedly been granted a patent for a ‘plasma force field’ that is designed to protect vehicles from nearby explosions. More.
  • Researchers from the University of Texas have developed a new yeast strain that could enhance the efficiency of biofuel production. More.
  • Thync, a start-up staffed by neuroscientists, is developing a small electronic device capable of delivering small pulses of electricity to targeted regions of the brain in order to enhance mood. More.
  • Researchers at MIT have managed to ‘programme’ bacteria to identify hard-to-detect liver cancer. It is hoped that the technology can be developed further in order to detect different types of cancer and possibly develop treatments. More.
  • Researchers from Imperial College London have developed a resilient paint using coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles that can endow a wide range of materials with self-cleaning properties. More.
  • Researchers at Caltech have developed a new technique that enables graphene to be manufactured at lower temperatures, more quickly and at higher quality than established techniques. The technique could potentially open-up widespread commercial applications of the material. More.
  • Scientists at Clatech have developed a protective nickel oxide coating that can be applied to semiconductors to facilitate solar-dirven production of fuels safely and with record efficiency. More.
  • Researchers at the University of the West of England have developed a prototype urinal that generates energy, with particular applications in refugee camps. More.
  • Researchers at MIT have developed a novel technique to stimulated targeted parts of the brain using external magnetic fields and injected magnetic nanoparticles. The technique could potentially form the basis of new treatments for neurological diseases. More.
  • Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed a smart bandage that uses electrical currents to detect pressure ulcers and bedsores before they are visible. More.
  • A team at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London is developing a device that will make it easier and safer for healthcare workers to apply stitches to a wound. More.
  • Researchers at Imperial College London and King’s College have been awarded a £4.8m grant to study the waves of electrons generated by directing light onto nano-structured metal surfaces (plasmonics). It is thought that the study could yield insights that enable the development of numerous new solutions including data storage and clean energy. More.
  • Qualcomm launched an advanced fingerprint sensor that uses ultrasound to penetrate the outer layers of a user’s finger, and is able to read prints through contaminants such as sweat, as well as glass and plastic.
  • Researchers at MIT and Stanford have developed a new ‘tandem’ solar cell that adds a layer of semi-transparent perovskite to silicon cells in order to harvest a broader range of solar energy. More.
  • Researchers at Stanford have developed a manufacturing process that radically reduces the cost of using gallium arsenide instead of silicon within electronic devices. The development could pave the way for development of higher efficiency solar cells at commercially viable cost. More.
  • Sweden-based Sol Voltaics announced that it has managed to double the previous PV conversion efficiency record.

Business

  • IBM announced the acquisition of AlchemyAPI, a provider of deep learning text analysis and image recognition capabilities via an API. More.
  •  73% of tech exits in 2014 were not VC-backed, according to data released by CB Insights.

New Sources of Funding

  • Boston-based G20 Ventures closed a $60m fund that will focus on enterprise software companies.
  • California-based data-focused accelerator the Hive closed a new $22m fund.
  • Taipai-based accelerator AppWorks launched a $50m fund to target Taiwan-based start-ups. More.
  • Deutsche Bank’s Global Social Finance Group closed a $50m debt fund for social enterprises working within the energy, health and base of pyramid financial services sectors.
  • San Francisco-based Obvious Ventures closed its $77.7m maiden fund.
  • India-based Lightbox Ventures closed a $38.2m venture capital fund. More.
  • Austria-based Speedinvest raised a €60m early-stage venture fund to target European companies in the internet/mobile sectors.
  • Alibaba announced that it is establishing a $300m not-for-profit fund that will support start-ups in Taiwan. More.
  • US-based Upfront Ventures launched a $100m fund.
  • US-based Social+Capital Partnership launched a new $450m fund that will target companies that are aiming to create ‘change on a global scale’.
  • US-based Mercato Partners launched a $175m venture capital fund. More.
  • US-based Flagship Ventures closed a $537m fund, which will be used to create/support new ventures in therapeutics, healthcare and sustainability (energy, water, agriculture). More.
  • Madrid-based Bitext, which develops a multilingual text analysis solution with a range of applications including customer sentiment analysis and fraud detections, raised $900k from investors including Inveready.
  • The UK government, working alongside leading pharmaceutical companies including GSK and Pfizer, established a $100m venture capital fund to back early-stage research into dementia. More.
  • Accel Partners launched a $305m India-focused fund that will invest in consumer, mobile, enterprise and healthcare sectors. More.
  • IP-focused incubator AKT IP Ventures, which has offices in Paris, Panama City, Bogota, Dubai, New York and Washington DC, launched a $20m venture capital fund. More.

New products

  • Industrial Microbes is developing micro-organisms that are able to convert natural gas into industrial chemicals. More.
  • A student from Brazil has developed a portable medical lamp that uses biodegradable microneedles to deliver bacteria-killing light beams below the skin in an attempt to overcome antibiotic resistance. More.
  • Apple launched the much-anticipated Apple Watch.
  • University of Manchester spin-off Graphene Lighting is reportedly close to launching an LED lightbulb that will be the first mass market product made with graphene. More.
  • Hooks is an app that allow users to select from a directory of more than one million user-created mobile notifications. Read More or download the app here.
  • Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing an open-source, intelligent speech- and image-based digital assistant software, called Sirius. More.

New company Fundraising

  • UK-based electronics firm Dyson invested $15m into University of Michigan spin-out solid-state battery technology developer Sakti3. More.
  • University of Twente spin-off Clear Flight Solutions, which develops drones that resemble birds of prey for use in bird control at airports, harbours and waste management sites, raised €1.6m from the Cottonwood Euro Technology Fund.
  • UK-based Oxford University spin-out Oxford Photovoltaics, which is developing thin-film pevroskite solar cells that can be printed directly onto silicon/CIGS solar cells to improve efficiency  or glass to enable semi-transparent building-integrated PV, raised an £8m series-B round from investors including MTI Partners and Longwall Venture Partners.
  • Boston University spin-out RayVio, which develops novel UV LED technologies with applications in medical treatments and water disinfection, raised $9.3m from investors including Applied Ventures.
  • Pinterest raised $367m from new and existing investors, at a valuation of $11bn. More.
  • London-based Bboxx, which designs, manufactures, distributes and finances solar systems for the developing world, raised $3m from investors including Bamboo Finance and DOEN Foundation.
  • London-based visual search and image recognition software developer Cortexica raised $3.5m from Imperial Innovations.
  • US-based LiquiGlide, which is developing a technology that enables permanently wet and slippery surface coatings, raised $7m from investors including Roadmap Capital.
  • US-based Joyable, which develops cognitive behavioural therapy software designed to help users overcome social anxiety, raised $2.1m from investors including Thrive Capital. More.
  • UC Berkeley spin-out Eko Devices received $2m investment to develop an analogue stethoscope attachment that digitises heart beats to improve cardiac diagnosis. More.
  • US-based Modernizing Medicine, which develops clinical decision support technology that enables healthcare workers to submit natural language queries on symptoms and treatments, raised $20m from investors including IBM. More.
  • Be-Bound, which is developing optimisation technology to enable smart phone users to access the interent through any existing networks, raised $4.5m. The technology has particular applications for the estimated four billion people that have no or limited internet access. More.
  • Audvisor, which delivers three minute videos of experts talking about a business-related subject, raised $1.4m from angel investors. More.
  • App search company Quixey, which specialises in surfacing content within different apps, raised $60m from investors including Alibaba and Goldman Sachs. More.
  • US-based Ginkgo Bioworks, which develops technologies designed to engineer microbes in order to produce ‘cultured ingredients’ with applications in food and cosmetics production, raised $9m from investors including Felicis Ventures.
  • US-based Orbital Insight, which is developing AI systems designed to analyse satellite imagery, raised $8.7m from investors including Sequoia, citizen.vc and Google Ventures. The technology has applications in numerous areas, including traffic management and agricultural monitoring. More.
  • UK-based Darktrace, which is developing technology originally developed at the university of Cambridge to detect network threats in real-time across an organisation’s network, raised $18m from investors including Invoke Capital, Talis Capital and Hoxton Ventures.
  • US-based Blue Pillar, which is developing a real-time monitoring/management platform for distributed energy assets, raised $14m from investors including EnerTech Capital.
  • US-based Voxel8, which is developing multi-material 3D printers capable of manufacturing embedded electronics, raised funding from in-Q-Tel.
  • Real-time information discovery solutions developer Dataminr raised $130m from investors including Fidelity.
  • US-based Clearpath Robotics, which develops robot software and hardware for a range of applications including agriculture, aerospace and industrial processes, raised $11.2m from investors including RRE Ventures.
  • US-based Quid, an AI company developing solutions to tackle complex problems through intelligent processing of large amounts of data, raised $39m from investors including ARTIS Ventures.
  • Machine intelligence software developer Ayasdi raised $55m from investors including KPCB.
  • Israel-based developer of language learning tools Lingua.ly raised $1m from investors.
  • Canada-based Prevtec Microbia, which develops healthcare solutions for livestock, raised $4.7m from investors including VVC.
  • Long-duration drone maker CyPhy Works received investment from Motorola Solutions to further develop its high-speed data transmission solutions.
  • UK-based Blippar, which develops augmented reality/image recognition technologies to provide users with information on physical objects, raised $45m from undisclosed investors. More.
  • Berlin-based Memorado, which develops brain-training games, raised $3.3m from investors. More.
  • New York-based Dataminr, which processes large quantities of real time social media content in order to deliver insights on developments for application including public safety and finance, raised $130m in a round led by Fidelity. More.

Other

  • A study conducted by researchers from the University of Kansas suggests that drinking milk may help to prevent neurodegenerative diseases. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol suggests that moderate alcohol consumption can make the drinker appear more attractive. More.
  • An interesting article on BBC looked at the phenomenon of rising IQ. Improving nutrition, more intellectually demanding jobs and exposure to increased levels of artificial light are among the theories that have been suggested as an explanation. More.
  • Research conducted at UC Berkeley has found that willingness to engage in behaviour that is positive for society can be increased through taking a drug that alters the neurochemical balance in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The research could underpin new diagnostic tools and treatments for some mental conditions. More.