June 2015

Science & Technology

  • Researchers at MIT are developing a method to infer material properties, and hence identify structural defects, from analysis of vibrations captured in videos. More.
  • Work conducted by NATS has started to investigate the possibility of using television signals to track aircraft, thereby providing a cheaper alternative to the radar systems in use today. Early results suggest that such a technique would also encounter less disturbance from wind turbines. More.
  • Researchers at MIT have developed a 3D-printed material, comprising two types of polymer of different stiffness, with dynamically controllable and reversible surface properties More.
  • Researchers at Stanford have developed a computer that operates by harnessing the physics of moving water droplets, enabling both information and physical materials to be processed simultaneously. The development, which is not intended to compete with digital computers, could ultimately have applications in high-throughput biology and chemistry. More.
  • Researchers at Cambridge University are developing novel treatments that harness a gene that can ‘switch off’ pain. The work could ultimately lead to development of powerful drugs for sufferers of chronic pain. More.
  • Researchers at Sheffield University have developed a new 3D printer, based on high speed sintering (which utilises infra-red absorbing ink, applied to powdered plastic, to control and fuse the plastic) that will manufacture plastic parts at speeds comparable to standard production lines. More.
  • Researchers at Bristol University have developed a smart material capable of mimicking the complex biological pattern generation systems found in squid. More.
  • Researchers at MIT are developing a technique to artificially reactivate happy memories in an effort to prevent the onset of depression. Treatments based on this technique could have fewer side effects than common anti-depressant drugs. Early results indicate that this is far more effective than engaging in pleasurable activities after becoming depressed. More.
  • Car manufacturer Lexus is developing a ‘hoverboard’ using superconductors cooled by liquid nitrogen. More.
  • Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a new technique that enables production of aviation fuel from sugarcane biomass and associated waste material. Aviation currently accounts for 2% of man-made carbon emissions.
  • Researchers at Cambridge University have developed a new material, based on the wing structure of owls, that can be sprayed onto the blades of wind turbines to reduce noise generated without significantly affecting aerodynamics. This could enable wind farms to operate at higher speeds, producing more energy with less noise. Other applications include computer fans and plane propellers. More.
  • Researchers at the University of Washington (Seattle) are developing a power-over-wifi system capable of powering low-powered electronic devices with ambient wifi signals.  The technology could ultimately prove to be an important enabling technology for the ‘internet of things’. More.
  • Scientists at the University of Illinois have created self-healing coatings with applications including pipelines and machinery within chemical refineries. More.
  • The UK government announced a partnership with IBM that will see £300m invested in big data and cognitive computing research and commercialisation in the UK. More.
  • Buses in London are beginning to incorporate intelligent tracking systems that limit speed in relation to local conditions. More.
  • The US army is developing Kevlar-reinforced ‘wallpaper’ that is designed to be easily applied to temporary structures in order to provide greater protection against explosions. More.

Business

  • It was reported that Uber had lost a case with a ruling that could lead to its drivers being classified as employees rather than contractors. The company is appealing against the decision, but if upheld the ruling could have a significant impact on operating costs of ‘on-demand’ service providers. 

New Sources of Funding

  • US-based early-stage venture firm RezVen Partners raised a $50m fund to target companies operating within the software, social media an digital sectors.
  • London-based Felix Capital Partners closed a £120m maiden venture capital fund that will invest in early stage e-commerce, digital media and ‘connected life’ companies.
  • US-based Madrona Venture Group closed a new £300m fund that will focus on early stage companies across a broad range of technology sectors including mobile, data analytics and SAAS.
  • Intel Capital launched a $125m diversity fund that will back technology startups run by women and underrepresented minorities.
  • The Business Growth Fund announced that it will be launching a £200m venture capital fund to invest in early-stage UK companies.
  • Berlin-based Point Nine Capital raised a €55m fund to target early stage companies in sectors including SAAS, e-commerce, drones and IoT.
  • Denmark-based SEED capital closed a new DKK 500m fund to invest in early stage IT and Medtech companies.
  • San Francisco-based DBL Partners, which invests in companies making a positive environmental and social impact, closed a $400m impact fund.
  • Amazon launched a $100m fund to support development of technologies based on the human voice, including natural language processing and speech-to-text. More.
  • US-China technology incubator InnoSpring raised $5m to support startups, Toronto-based Whitecap Venture Partners raised a $100m fund and Paris-based Quadrille Capital raised a €65m fund.
  • Los Angeles-based CrossCut Ventures raised a $75m fund to invest in start-ups working within a number of sectors including eCommerce and AdTEch.
  • US VC firm Garage Technology Ventures partnered with Norway-based StartIpLab to launch Silicon Valley Catalyst, an initiative to help Northern European startups expand into the US. More.

New Products

  • Google launched a new subsidiary called Sidewalk Labs, which will develop technologies designed to improve the quality of urban life.
  • Airbus revealed details of a reusable rocket, with a winged module capable of returning itself to Earth after detaching from the main rocket. More.
  • Unicef launched CauseTech, a new platform designed to crowdsource innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. More.
  • Apple launched a new streaming music service that is set to rival services such as Spotify
  • Google unveiled Now on Tap, an extension of Google Now that will enable users of mobile devices running Android to access information from within other apps. More.
  • MIT spin-out Microchips Biotech is developing wirelessly controlled implantable drug delivery systems that can improve adherence to prescribed medication programmes. More.
  • Fresco is an app that enables citizen journalists to share content captured around breaking events, allowing news organisations to access and use the information More.
  • Google introduced an ‘unsend’ feature for its Gmail service, allowing users to recall an email up to 30 seconds after it has been sent.
  • Twitter announced the launch of ‘Project Lightning’, an initiative that will employ content editors to compile lists of tweets relevant to specific subjects.
  • South Korea-based Tree Planet is a crowdfunding platform for reforestation projects.
  • UK-based Anywhere Sim launched a consumer-focused pay-as-you-go national roaming Sim card that is designed to automatically connect to the mobile networks with the strongest signal. More.
  • Genius launched an API that will enable integration of its annotation tools into third party applications.
  • Eyewitness to Atrocities, an app designed to enable safe and verifiable (geospatial-stamping) reporting of war crimes, was released following a collaboration between the International Bar Association and LexisNexis. More.
  • Electroloom is developing a fabric printer that works by spraying a cotton/polyester blend to create seamless items of clothing. More.
  • Gracious Eloise develops a range of software tools for digitising, manipulating and replicating handwriting. 
  • Few Minutes provides news articles that are matched with the amount of time that a reader has. More.
  • Kyruus facilitates data-driven matching of patients and medical professionals. 
  • Lyra Health is developing predictive analytic solutions to identify people at risk from developing behavioural or mental health conditions (which affect around 20% of developed country populations) and ensure that they receive the appropriate treatment.Depression alone is estimated to cause 200 million lost workday in the US each year, according to the CDC. More

New Company Fundraising

  • Spotify reportedly raised $525m from investors at a $8.53bn valuation
  • US-based language-learning platform Duolingo raised $45m in a new round led by Google Capital.
  • New York-based Codagenix, which develops software platforms for vaccine design, raised $2m from investors.
  • US-based Bolt Threads, which develops advanced textiles based on engineered silk fibres, raised $32.3m from investors including Foundation Capital and Formation 8.
  • Tile, which develops small tracking devices that help people keep track of items via a mobile device, raised $3m from Khosla Ventures.
  • US-based Sano, which is developing wearable and non-invasive sensors designed to monitor metabolic activity (through measuring glucose levels in the bloodstream), raised $10m from investors including Intel Ventures. More.
  • The Fove headset, the world’s first eye-tracking virtual reality headset, raised funding from Samsung Ventures.
  • US-based Zymergen, which develops data-driven industrial microbiology processes to manufacture high value chemical and materials, raised $44m from investors including DFJ, Innovation Endeavours and Obvious Ventures.
  • US/Israel-based CropX, which develops adaptive irrigation systems that deliver water to different parts of fields based on topography, soil structure and moisture levels, raised $9m from investors including Finistere Ventures and Innovation Endeavours.
  • Fitbit raised $732 through an IPO that valued the company at $4.1bn.
  • Propel(x), a platform designed to connect investors to ‘deep technology’ startups operating within the lifesciences, energy and materials sectors, raised $1.5m from angel investors. More.
  • US-based employer-driven telemedicine platform Doctor on Demand raised $50m from undisclosed investors to drive further expansion. More.
  • Berlin-based DirectPhotonics Industries, which develops ultra-high brightness direct diode lasers for material processing applications, raised €3.3m from new and existing investors. More.
  • Canada-based Volley, which develops an online question and answer platform, raised $500k from Version One Ventures.
  • US-based Nantero, which is developing ultra fast and dense memory chips based on carbon nanotube technology, raised $32m from investors including Charles River Ventures and DFJ. More.
  • US-based Classy, which develops software for mission-driven organisations, raised $18m from investors including Mithril Capital and Salesforce Ventures. More.
  • OneWeb, which is developing a low-orbit micro satellite network designed to provide affordable internet connectivity to remote and developing regions, raised $500m from investors including Virgin Group, Qualcomm and Airbus.
  • US-based Tamr, which combines machine learning and human insight to aggregate and analyse disparate data sources in order to improve organisational performance, raised $25.2m from investors including Hewlett-Packard Ventures and Google Ventures.
  • US-based Matterport, which develops specialised cameras that capture real-world settings and convert them into virtual reality, raised $30m from investors including Qualcomm Ventures. More.
  • US-based Spire, which provides a range of data solutions relating to weather, trade, shipping and maritime monitoring by leveraging satellite-captured data, raised $40m from investors including Bessemer Venture Partners.