May 2015

Science & Technology

  • Researchers at Delft University of Technology have created a ‘bioconcrete’ that is capable of repairing itself when cracks form. The material contains capsules of dormant bacteria and calcium lactate that react with water to create limestone to fill emerging cracks. More.
  • Scientists at Cambridge University are developing a new computer-controlled breaking system for heavy goods vehicles that is capable of dramatically reducing stopping distance and improving control on slippery surfaces. The project is being funded by Volvo. More.
  • Outernet is developing a system that slowly transmits data (including Wikipedia, news and health resources) via satellites to cheap storage devices that provide access via local wi-fi networks. The system is designed for deployment in areas where internet access is prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable, particularly within emerging markets. More.
  • Engineers at the University of Maryland have developed a memory shape alloy comprising nickel, titanium and copper that is capable to springing back to its original shape after being deformed over more than 10 millions cycles. The alloy has potential application in medicine, aircraft or solid state refrigerators. More.
  • Researchers at MIT have successfully reactivated memories lost through amnesia using optogenetics. More.
  • A team of researchers at MIT reported that it has developed a technique that can be used to apply a layer of highly durable  graphene to the internal surfaces of steam condensers, which are used in the majority of electricity power plants. Early results show that doing so improves condenser efficiency by a factor of four (resulting in a 2-3% efficiency improvement for the power plant as a whole), with further improvements likely. More.
  • A team of researchers from universities including QMUL and MIT have successfully produced synthetic spider silk, which could have a range of biomedical applications. More.
  • Researchers at the University of Bristol are developing a technique that enables manipulation of microparticles using acoustic vortices. The technology may eventually be used in medical applications or water purification. More.
  • Researchers at MIT have developed an algorithm to automatically remove reflections from digital photographs. More.
  • Scientists at Caltech have developed flat microlenses capable of performing to a similar standard as traditional ‘curved’ lenses. The design relies on embedded silicon nanoposts to trap and delay incident light and form a curved wavefront and focal point. The technology could ultimately have applications in consumer electronics, where use of flat lenses would result in valuable space saving. More.
  • Scientist at Imperial College London are developing a smart knife that can identify brain tumours from healthy tissue within seconds, dramatically reducing current testing times and improving surgical accuracy. More.
  • A team of researchers at Bristol University has developed a technique that enables radio devices to transmit and receive on the same channel simultaneously. The development has the potential to increase data transfer rates, increase network capacity and reduce the power consumption of mobile devices. More.
  • Researchers at Vanderbilt University are developing anti-obesity treatments based on genetically engineered bacteria. More.
  • Spain-based Vortex Bladeless unveiled a new wind turbine design that contains no contacting moving parts. Based on the principles of natural frequency and vorticity, the design harnesses passing wind to generate oscillations that build to the natural resonance of the structure, thus optimising energy capture. The structure employs magnetic levitation to ‘float’ above its base in order to eliminate friction and remove the need for lubricating oils. With fewer parts, the design promises to increase efficiency and deployment density while reducing costs (both manufacturing and operational) and environmental impacts. The company, which has developed partnerships with Harvard University and Sun Edison, is currently conducting a crowdfunding campaign.
  • Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed a smartphone-connected microscope and video analytics application that can automatically determine parasitic worm concentration within a blood sample. It is hoped that the technology will improve in-field treatment within developing countries. More.
  • Engineers at Stanford have developed a new adhesive, based on the mechanisms employed naturally by geckos, that enables objects to be gripped without sticking. The technology has multiple potential applications including robotics, prosthetics and industrial processes. More.

Business

  • The UN’s International Telecommunication Union projected that 3.2bn people will be online by the end of 2015, at which point more than 7bn mobile subscriptions will be active. More.

New Sources of Funding

  • Oxford University  launched a £300m joint venture designed to commercialise research and technologies developed through the university. More.
  • US-based Redpoint Ventures closed a $400m fund that will focus on early-stage companies working within the mobile, cloud and social media sectors.
  • US-based Aspect Ventures raised a $150m debut fund.
  • Germany-based venture capital firm SHS closed a €125m fund.
  • Paris-based Kurma Partners raised a €33m venture capital fund to invest in diagnostic companies.
  • US-based venture capital firm Osage University Partners closed a $215m fund to invest in companies commercialising university research. More.
  • US-based Obvious Ventures closed a $123m debut fund to invest in for-profit companies making a positive environmental and social impact. More.
  • US-based Ignition Partners closed a new $200m fund that will focus on early-stage enterprise software companies.
  • Poland-based Joint Polish Investment Fund Management raised a $42m round to invest in early stage companies in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Israel-based Glilot Capital Partners closed a $77m fund that will focus on early-stage cyber security and enterprise software companies.
  • US-based Storm Ventures closed a new $180m fund. More
  • New York-based VC Collaborative Fund closed a new $65m fund.
  • Social + Capital closed a $600m fund.
  • Canada-based VIstara Capital Partners raised a $80m debut growth capital fund that will invest in technology companies in North America.
  • London-based Passion Capital raised a £45m micro VC fund. More.

New products

  • Microsoft released Office Lens, an app designed to enable users to capture text using a smartphone camera and store it in an editable and searchable format. More.
  • Lenovo launched a smart phone with built-in laser projector, which can be used to display images, videos or a virtual keyboard on flat surfaces. More.
  • Holland-based Nerdalise is reportedly developing ways to use distributed servers as heat sources in domestic settings. It is one of a number of companies looking at ways to recycle waste heat from IT equipment. More.
  • Startup Terbium Labs is developing tools to enable users to monitor the ‘dark web’ for the presence of sensitive stolen data.
  • MIT spin-out Verayo is developing low-cost microscopic markers that can be used to verify the authenticity of silicon chips used in consumer product tags, in an attempt to prevent counterfeiting. More.
  • Extremis Technology has developed a modular flat-pack shelter that can be built in two hours without specialiast skills or tools and is capable of withstanding hurricanes. This has applications in disaster relief.
  • Other innovative companies that we came across this month include:
    • Partpic: a visual search for component parts.
    • New Story: a crowdfunding site dedicated to providing new homes for victims of natural disasters
    • Peruse: developer of a natural language search facility for documents stored within cloud services. More.
    • Reeldx: a platform enabling medical professional to share pictures and videos of real cases with each other in an attempt to promote shared learning. More.
    • Crowdjustice: a UK-based crowdfunding site for hard-to-fund public-interest litigation. More.

New company Fundraising

  • US-based Banjo, which processes geographically proximate social and digital data in order to provide a real-time understanding of what is happening anywhere in the world, raised $100m from SoftBank.
  • China-based drone hardware/software developer DJI raised $75m from Accel Partners.
  • UK-based  Lontra, which has developed an energy efficient compressor (used in a vast range of application such as fridges, car air conditioning systems and factory machinery), closed a £2.5m funding round.
  • Farmers Business Network, which is developing a platform that enables farmers to share and analyse real-world data on topics such as  seed strains, soil acidity and fertilisers in order to optimise practices,  raised $15m from investors including Google Ventures and KPCB.More.
  • San Francisco-based Smarking, which develops an application that balance supply and demand of parking spaces in urban areas, raised $3m from investors including Khosla Ventures.
  • Canada-based Bit Stew Systems, which develops big data analysis applications designed to identify efficiency improvements in industrial systems, raised $17.2m from investors including GE Ventures.
  • US-based Joule, which is developing a solar-powered platform that utilises engineered catalysts to convert waste CO2 into renewable fuels, raised $40m from investors including Flagship Ventures.
  • US-based OmniEarth, which develops a platform that provides users with access to constant streams of geospatial data to inform decisions relating to agriculture, energy and water management markets, raised $5m from undisclosed backers.
  • Clothing manufacturer Patagonia invested $1m in Beyond Surface Technologies, a developer of sustainable textile treatments.
  • Japan-based cloud communication and collaboration platform ChatWork, which is designed for use by SMEs, raised $2.5m from GMO Venture Partners.
  • US-based EnergySage, which develops a solar energy comparison platform for both consumers and businesses, raised $1.5m from investors including Launchpad Venture Group.
  • Enervee, a consumer-focused platform designed to provide information on the energy and environmental impacts of electronic products, raised $3.7m from investors led by Obvious Ventures.
  • US-based E-Kare, which develops mobile applications for chronic wound assessment and treatment, raised seed funding from the Center for Innovative Technology.
  • US-based Autonomic Technologies, which is developing a microstimulator to treat severe headaches, raised $8m from investors including KPCB.
  • US-based NeuroVigil, which develops brain monitoring solutions used to identify pathologic activity, raised funding from a number of prominent angel investors. More.
  • UK-based Winnow raised $900k from angel investors, Mustard Seed (social investor) and D:Ax to further develop its range of connected kitchen devices and software that are designed to monitor and reduce food waste. Globally, it is estimated that food waste costs the hospitality £44bn per annum, according to resource efficiency charity WRAP. More.
  • University of Glasgow spin-out Anacall, which is developing a technology that enables ozone (activated oxygen, which is a powerful germicide) to be generated within sealed packages before decaying back to oxygen, raised£2m from investors including IP Group. The technology has a range of applications including food processing (post packaging treatment) and healthcare.
  • US-based Metabiota, which develops solutions based on analysis of field data to predict disease outbreaks, raised $30m in a round led by RSTP. More.
  • US-based Samsara, which develops plug-and-play wireless sensor services, raised $25m form investors including Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Paris-based Algolia, which develops ‘search-as-a-service’ solutions for websites and mobile apps, raised $18m from investors including Accel Partners.
  • US-based 3D Laser printer developer Glowforge, whose printers cut/etch objects from durable materials, raised $9m from investors including the Foundry Group.
  • Denmark-based Biosyntia ApS, which develops processes for biological vitamin production, raised $1.2m from investors including Novo Seeds.
  • Israel-based Intendu, which develops video games designed to improve cognitive performance of users, raised funding from Impact First Investments. More.
  • US-based Tissue Analytics, which develops smartphone-based solutions for chronic wound monitoring, raised $750k from investors including Tencent. More.
  • China-based Face++, which develops facial recognition software, raised $25m from investors including Qiming Venture Partners. More.
  • New York-based Talkspace, which develops an online therapy platform connecting sufferers of depression, stress and anxiety with licensed therapists, raised $9.5m from investors including Spark Capital.
  • US-based 3D metal printer developer MatterFab raised $5.75m from investors including GE Ventures.