July 2015

Science & Technology

  • Barack Obama issued an executive order for the US to build a supercomputer that is 20 times more powerful than the world’s current leading machine by 2025. More.
  • Scientists from Seoul National University have developed a robot, based on the design of the water strider insect, that can jump on water. The technology could be used in the environmental monitoring of water systems. More.
  • Researchers at Stanford have developed a technique that significantly improves the accuracy of brain-controlled prostheses. More.
  • The Future of Life Institute announced funding for 37 research projects designed to prevent unwanted outcomes related to AI. More.
  • The world’s first Malaria vaccine, which has been under development by GSK for almost 30 years, received approval from European regulators, potentially opening the way to WHO approval and deployment across Africa. While not a full cure, the vaccine holds the potential to significantly reduce the more than 500,000 deaths per year that occur as a result of the disease.
  • Scientists at the University of Sheffield have developed a lightweight bag, made with a Kevlar-based material, that is designed to absorb shrapnel and shockwaves from bomb blasts, with potential applications in aviation security. More.
  • Surgeons in the UK have performed the world’s first bionic eye implant designed to address macular degeneration, the most common cause of vision loss in the developed world. The system employs a retinal implant to convert images captured by a small video camera worn on glasses. More.
  • Researchers from Bristol and Sheffield Universities are developing a method that employs low-intensity ultrasound to stimulate and accelerate the healing process of chronic wounds. The method is particularly effective for the elderly or sufferers of diabetes. More.
  • Artemis Intelligent Power, a University of Edinburgh spin-out that is now part of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group, was awarded the MacRobert Award, the UK’s top engineering prize, for the development of a digital hydraulic power system. The £50,000 prize, which was previously awarded to the inventor of the catalytic converter, reflects the system’s status as a ‘technical advance of global importance’, which could be used to realise significant improvements to the efficiencies of wind turbines and transportation systems. More.
  • Researchers from the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China have developed a genetically engineered strain of rice that produces less methane. This is achieved by reducing the amount of food available for soil microbes to break down. More.
  • UK-based Rothamsted Research has successfully completed a trial of plants that have been genetically modified to produce omega-3 marine oils in their seeds. This could form a more sustainable source of fish feed for use in commercial aquaculture, which currents used around 80% of all fish oil currently produced.
  • Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology have developed a method to make paper and cardboard impenetrable without applying an external coating and without impacting its recyclability. The approach applies an ultra-thin polymer coating to the cellulose fibres within paper, increasing weight by just 1%-10% The institute is currently working with Italian carton manufacturer Novacart to commercialise the technology.
  • A team of researchers at MIT is developing nanocellulose paper (a transparent and biodegradable material derived from wood) as an alternative to plastic in flexible electronics or silicon in microprocessors.  Successful commercialisation of the technology could help to address the growing problem of electronic waste.
  • Researchers at Brown University have identified a material, composed of hafnium, tantalum and carbon, with a higher melting point than any known material. More.
  • Intel and Micron have developed a new type of memory technology, called 3D XPoint, that is up to 1,000 times faster than current solid state drives used in computers. The innovation is likely to feature in new products coming to market from 2016. More.
  • Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have developed a system that capable of identifying people using their thermal signatures, meaning it can operate effectively in low or zero light conditions. More.
  • A consortium led by the University of California, Berkley was awarded $4m by the US Geological Survey to further develop its prototype earthquake early warning system, ShakeAlert. More.
  • A group of more than 1,000 prominent scientists called for a ban on the application of artificial intelligence for military use. More.
  • Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine (St Louis) are developing a technique to control stress and anxiety through optogenetics. More.
  • The World Health Organisation reported that preliminary results on a new Ebola vaccine had shown a 100% success rate and that it was a potential ‘game changer’. More.
  • Researchers at Stanford have genetically modified yeast to produce painkillers, a technique that could boost access to medication within developing countries and lead to new treatments for multiple diseases. More.

Business

New Sources of Funding

  • US-based Costanoa Venture Capital raised a $135m fund to invest in early-stage cloud services companies.
  • US-based BioStar Ventures raised a $68m fund to invest in medical device and connected health technology companies.
  • VC fundraising exceeded that of buyout firms in the US for the first time since Q1 2012.
  • N+1 was selected to manage a €525m Spanish industrial technology fund. More.
  • US-based Pelion Venture Partners closed a $205m venture fund.
  • Cyber-security focused Allegis Capital raised $100m to invest in early stage companies.
  • London-based SAAS venture firm Notion Capital raised a $120m fund to focus on enterprise software opportunities within Europe.
  • Boston-based VC firm .406 Ventures closed a $217m fund targeted at Enterprise IT companies.
  • A number of corporate investors including Airbus have backed an £80m fund (managed by Seraphim Capital) that will invest in companies developing technology in space-related activities.
  • US-based Foundry Group closed a $225m fund to invest in seed and early-stage companies in the software and IT sectors.
  • Singapore-based Golden Gate Ventures closed a $35m fund to support start-ups in South East Asia. More.
  • Vancouver-based Vistara Capital Partners closed a $100m technology growth fund.
  • Canada-based Northleaf Capital Partners closed a $300m venture catalyst fund.
  • California-based Benhamou Global Ventures closed a $72m early stage fund.
  • California-based Envision Ventures closed a $100m fund that will invest across a variety of stages into big data, security and IoT companies.
  • New York-based Deerfield Management closed a $550m fund to back emerging technologies within the healthcare sector. The fund will donate a portion of profits to its own foundation, which promotes childrens’ healthcare throughout the world. More.

New Products

  • Beagle generates one page visual summaries of complex legal documents.
  • US-based ClipMine provides tools that enable tagging and annotation of videos to make content more usable. More.
  • Google has started to provide information on busy times at searched-for locations. More.
  • Spoiler Alert is an app that is designed to make it easy for companies to donate or sell surplus food inventory, thereby addressing the increasing problem of food waste.
  • Leada is creating a platform through which students can apply their data analytics expertise to real world problems.

New Company Fundraising

  • Core Informatics, a UK/US-based developer of software designed to accelerate scientific innovation through management and analysis of data, raised $17.5m from investors including Oak Hc/FT.
  • US-based Twilio, which develops solutions that enable users to embed real-time communication capabilities into software applications, raised $130m from investors including Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, Amazon.com and Salesforce Ventures.
  • US-based 23andMe, which is developing a low-cost DNA testing and genome sequencing platform, raised $79m from investors.
  • US-based Voxel8, which is developing a 3D printer that is capable of printing embedded electronics, raised $12m from investors including Braemar Energy Ventures and In-Q-Tel.
  • US-based Bulletproof, which develops a range of food products designed to improve physical and mental performance, raised $9m from investors including Trinity Ventures.
  • Stockholm-based BIMA, which delivers insurance services via mobile devices in emerging markets, raised $38m from investors including LeapFrog Investments.
  • US-based data analytics platform developer Palantir raised $450m from investors, valuing the company at $20bn. More.
  • US-based Upstart, which provides a platform through which individuals can leverage their educational/professional credentials to secure loans to help start-up a company or attend a coding bootcamp, raised $35m from investors including Third Point Ventures and Khosla Ventures.
  • Berlin-based Ascribe, which utilises blockchain technology to help users manage the IP of digital creative work, raised $2m from investors including Earlybird Venture Capital.
  • US-based GitHub, which provides a collaborative source code repository for developers, raised $250m from investors including Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz and Thrive Capital.
  • Israel-based TytoCare, which develops a telehealth platform and handheld devices that enable patients to perform a range of examinations during remote consultations, raised $11m from investors including Cambria Health Solutions.
  • US-based software review site G2 Crowd raised $7m from investors including Pritzker Group Venture Capital.
  • UK-based Autifony Therapeutics, which develops novel treatments for hearing disorders, closed a £15m round from backers including SV Life Sciences and Imperial Innovations. More.
  • US-based Arivale, which develops a platform that combines biological and lifestyle data to develop personalised ‘wellness’ plans for individuals, raised $36m from investors including Polaris Partners.
  • US-based Light, which is developing multi-lens cameras that promise to dramatically improve the quality of smartphone cameras, raised $25m from investors including Formation 8. More.
  • Kalarismo, which builds 3D models of human bodies using MRI scans, raised $2.1m from Khosla Ventures and Atomico. More.
  • New York-based RapidSOS, which develops emergency prediction and data capture solutions for first responders, raised $5m from investors including Highland Capital Partners.

Other

  • A study conducted by researchers at NYU suggests that the impact of lack of education on life expectancy is similar to that of smoking.  This results from factors such as reduced income level and psychological well being. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley has shown that lack of sleep reduces our ability to interpret facial expressions accurately. More.
  • Researchers from the University of Exeter have conducted the world’s first controlled experiment demonstrating the physiological and psychological benefits of exposure to nature. More.