September 2015

Science & Technology

  • Researchers at Telefonica Research in Barcelona have developed an algorithm capable of detecting boredom in smart phone users. More.
  • DARPA, the Pentagon’s research unit, is developing a robotic leg system designed to enable helicopters to land on uneven or moving surfaces. More.
  • Scientists at MIT have developed a new polymer gel that could enable medical devices to reside in the stomach and provide extended drug delivery from a single pill. More.
  • South Korean electronics giant LG will reportedly release a prototype ‘rollable’ TV, based on flexible OLED technology, in 2016.
  • Researchers in California are developing techniques to stimulate brain cells using sound waves, and for the first time demonstrated the technology to cause a change in the behaviour of worms. More.
  • Scientists at UC Berkeley have, for the first time, successfully concealed a microscopic 3D object from visible light. The technique,  which employs an ultra-thin cloak comprised of gold blocks, is thought to be scalable for application to larger objects. More.
  • Intel announced a ten year collaboration with Delft University of Technology to develop quantum computing technologies. Similarly, Google announced a seven year contract with quantum computer developer D-Wave Systems, as the search giant attempts to apply the technology to further a range of applications such as text and image analysis.
  • Researchers at Stanford University are developing a technique through which a virus can be re-engineered to form a highly targeted mechanism for delivering vaccines and therapies directly to diseased cells while leaving those that are healthy unaffected. More.
  • Neurologists at the University of California are developing a ‘spine bypass’ method capable of connecting brain signals to limbs in an effort to restore function. More.
  • Researchers the the Jikei University School of Medicine, Japan, have successfully tested lab-grown kidneys in animals. More.
  • Researchers at Stanford are investigating the use of maellworms, the guts of which contain micro-organisms capable of biodegrading plastics, as a potential solution to the growing problem of plastic waste.
  • A team at MIT has created a low-cost coating for solar panels that reduces reflection in order to increase the amount of light absorbed.
  • Researchers at Stanford have developed a transparent coating (a thin patterned layer of silica) that cools solar cells to improve efficiency by radiating the heat outwards.
  • Designers at the University of Michigan are developing a solar cell that uses techniques from kirigami to enable it to track the sun without the need for conventional motorised trackers, which are too heavy and bulky for a numbers of applications. Tracking the sun increases the amount of energy captured by solar cells by around 40%.
  • Researchers at Purdue University have developed a piece of software that can dramatically reduce the amount of power consumed by apps while a phone is not being used, an issue that is thought to account for around one third of energy drain. The software identifies and stops background tasks that are not important to the user.
  • Researchers at California Polytechnic State University are developing a system that could utilise lasers to alter the course of asteroids. More.
  • Researchers at Microsoft have developed software capable of automating, speeding-up and increasing the accuracy of the process of 3D modelling tumours from normal CT scans, helping doctors to quantify tumours and plan treatment programmes. More
  • Scientists at Oxford University have developed the first light-based memory chip capable of permanently storing data. The innovation could ultimately lead to dramatic improvements in the speed of computers. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at Rutger University suggested that low levels of vitamin D are associated with faster cognitive decline among the elderly. More.
  • Researchers from the University of Southern California have developed an implant capable of mimicking the electrical signals used by the human brain to create memories. The technology could be used to bypass damaged areas of the brain and improve memory among sufferers of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Researchers from the Technische Universitat Berlin are developing a novel touch screen that embodies a layer of gel that can be hardened through application of heat to form raised buttons designed to improve ease of use. More.
  • Researches at MIT have developed a ‘tunable’ carbon-based catalyst that can be adapted to promote different chemical reactions and may provide a viable alternative to rare metals in applications such as fuel cells. More.

Business

New Sources of Funding

  • US-based Ascent Venture Partners held the first close of its latest IT-focused fund at $64m.
  • 500 Startups closed a $85m fund. 
  • Switzerland and New York based Evolution Equity Partners held the first close of a growth stage fund at $70m. The fund will be invested into cybersecurity and enterprise software companies within the US and Europe.
  • India-based Zodius Capital held the first close of its early-stage technology fund at $45m.
  • Amsterdam-based henQ launched a €50m venture capital fund that will invest in early-stage enterprise software companies within the Netherlands.
  • Life science-focused investment firm Accelerator Corporation has closed its oversubscribed fourth fund on $62.8m.
  • Milan-based venture firm Innogest closed an €85m fund that will focus on the medical and digital sectors. More.
  • Netherlands-based Main Capital Partners closed an €85m growth fund that will focus on the software sector.
  • Nauta Capital, which is based in the UK, Spain and the US, held the first close of its early-stage, software-focused fund at $70m.
  • Qualcomm announced plans to invest $150m in Indian start-ups.
  • Pictet launched a fund that will invest in robotics and AI companies.
  • Shanghai-based Gobi Partners launched a $94m fund that will focus on early stage opportunities within China.

New products

  • Intel launched a new range of processors designed to improve performance and battery life across a wide range of devices. More.
  • Facebook announced that it will start delivering missing children alerts to UK-based users that are located within key search areas. The move follows the launch of a similar service in US earlier this year. More.
  • Slant is a news app that aims to provide crowdsourced news content that has been edited by its professional in-house team.
  • UK-based Sofmat, working in collaboration with the University of Bradford, has developed a 3D barcode system that could more effectively tackle counterfeiting of drugs and jewellery. More.
  • South Africa-based Lumkani has developed an inexpensive fire alarm, which works by detecting heat rather than smoke, for use in urban informal dwellings, which are often packed together and built from highly flammable materials. The device communicates with others in its proximity, thus helping to prevent fires spreading. More.

New company Fundraising

  • US-based Headspace, which provides a meditation app, raised $30 from investors.
  • CartoDB, which develops tools that are designed to visualise data on maps, raised $23m from investors including Accel.
  • US-based Vorago Technologies, which develops integrated solutions designed to make semiconductors more resillient to radiation and extreme heat exposure while boosting longevity, raised $10m in a round led by New Science Ventures.
  • US-based LearnUp, which provides an education platform that delivers easily-consumable training modules to entry-level job applicants, raised $8m from investors including NEA, Shasta Ventures and Greylock. 
  • uBeam, which is developing ultrasound-based wireless charging solutions for mobile devices, raised $10m from investors including WME Ventures. More.
  • BlaBlaCar, a France-based long distance ride sharing platform, raised $200m from investors including Insight Venture Partners.
  • First Light Fusion, a UK-based, Oxford University spin-out researching energy generation by inertial confinement fusion, raised £22.7m from a syndicate including IP Group.
  • US-based HelloTech, which connects tech-savvy university students with people in need of technical support, raised $12.5m from investors including Madrona Venture Group.
  • US-based Cloudflare, which provides a range of services designed to bolster the security and performance of websites, announced that it had raised $110m from investors including Fidelity, Google, Baidu and Microsoft.
  • US-based Premise, which harnesses millions of data points captured by a global network of contributors to provide visibility to global decision makers, raised $50m from investors including Valor Equity Partners.
  • Alignable, a US-based social network for small business owners, raised $8m in a round led by Mayfield.
  • UK-based crowdfunding platform Crowdcube announced that it has enabled more than £100m of investment into 290 companies. The site has around 200,000 registered investors.
  • US-based Tetra Discovery Partners, which is developing treatments for cognitive impairment, raised $1m from investors.
  • Long-form publishing platform Medium raised $57m in a round led by Andreessen Horrowitz.
  • US-based Joylux, which develops therapies using LED lights, raised $3m from angel investors.

Other

  • A study conducted by Cornell University and INSEAD ranked Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US as the world’s most innovative countries.
  • A study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford suggests that some London Tube strikes may actually produce a net economic benefit through encouraging people to discover more efficient travel routes. More.
  • A study by researchers at Oxford University has found that nearly 50% of Wikipedia article edits are made by contributors from the UK, US, France, Germany or Italy, meaning that residents of developed countries have a hugely disproportionate influence on the content of articles, even in the case of subjects about which they are not necessarily best placed to comment. More.
  • A study conducted at Tulan University has linked consumption of spicy food with decreased chance of premature death. More.