December 2015

Science & Technology

  • Researchers have developed a cheap and non-toxic superhydrophobic nanomaterial that can be applied to numerous surfaces via a spray. This could ultimately replace expensive and hazardous fluorocarbons that are commonly used today. More.
  • Scientists at Imperial College London are developing a bendable robotic needle, inspired by wood boring wasps, that should enable more accurate brain surgery. More.
  • Scientists at Northwestern University have for the first time created a two-dimensional sheet of boron (termed ‘borophene’), which offers numerous material properties with applications in areas including electronics.
  • SpaceX successfully launched into orbit and then landed a reusable rocket. More.
  • Researchers at Stanford University have developed a microscope that allows observation of muscle miscrostructures, thus providing new insights in the treatment of muscular degenerative diseases. More.
  • Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have developed sensors that can be powered by radio waves and have multiple potential applications within the Internet of Things.
  • Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany reported that they had successfully produced helium plasma in what is seen as a key milestone in the development of nuclear fusion.
  • Ford has developed an advanced plasma coating that can be applied to the internal walls of used engines to extend their useful lifespan.
  • Researchers at PennState have developed a new material that is transparent and electrically conductive, and thus has the potential to increase affordability and energy efficiency of a range of devices including touch screens and solar panels. 
  • Researchers at MIT have developed an optoelectronic microprocessor, which utilises light to move information, using only established manufacturing processes. Optoelectronic processors offer the potential of significant reduction in power consumption and may be a necessary development for the continued increases in processor power. More.

Business

  • Microsoft launched a philanthropic arm that will focus on leveraging technology to address a number of the most pressing global problems. As part of the project, the company will provide financial support to charities working on projects that are aligned to such objectives. More.

New Sources of Funding

  • France-based Sofinnova Partners closed a €300m fund from which it will invest in early-stage pharmaceutical and medical device companies based within Europe and the US.
  • Google Ventures announced that it would be abandoning its strategy of running separate funds for different geographies, just 18 months after allocating $125m to invest in ventures within Europe. The European fund has completed just six deals over that period.
  • India-based Nexus Venture Partners closed a $450m fund from which it will invest in early-stage companies in sectors including financial services, healthcare and education.
  • Germany-based Pau Ventures held a first close of its new fund on $45m. The fund will target early stage European companies operating within sectors including SaaS and e-commerce.
  • US Venture Partners closed a $300m early-stage fund from which it will invest in US/Israel-based companies operating in sectors including cybersecurity, enterprise software and healthcare.
  • US-based Foundation Capital raised a $325m early-stage fund.
  • Austria-based early-stage VC firm Speedinvest closed a $100m fund from which it will invest up to $500k in start-ups working across a range of sectors.
  • The University of California announced plans to invest $250m in start-ups emerging from its ecosystem. More.
  • Australia announced the launch of a $810m investment programme, the National Innovation and Science Agenda, as the country looks to bolster science and technology in the wake of the slowing minerals boom. More.
  • Colopl launched a $50m fund that will be dedicated to backing software and hardware start-ups within the virtual reality sector.
  • Chinese app developer APUS Group launched a $45m fund from which it will invest in Indian start-ups.
  • US-based OrbiMed closed a $950m healthcare fund from which it will invest in US/European companies operating in biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and healthcare IT.
  • US-based Vertex Ventures closed a $151m early stage fund that will focus on sectors including enterprise IT and cleantech.
  • China-based healthcare and life sciences focused venture firm WuXi Healthcare Ventures closed a $290m fund, from which it will invest in US companies that are planning to expand within China.
  • France-based Seventure Partners closed a €160m microbiome fund.

New products

  • Jukedeck generates unique pieces of music, tailored to a specific length and style, that are available to buy for £5. The service seeks to address the expense and copyright issues associated with using stock audio libraries. The company recently raised £2m from Cambridge Innovation Capital.
  • Jompeame is a not-for-profit crowdfunding site dedicated to addressing poverty within Latin America.
  • Koko and Paralign are apps that enable users to anonymously crowdsource advice on their worries. More.
  • Ofcom launched an app that enables consumers to test the performance of their wifi network. More.
  • Identilock employs rapid finger print recognition technology to secure firearms.
  • The world’s first modular phone, the Fairphone 2, went on sale. The design enables users to upgrade components and thus enhance the useful lifespan of the device. More.

New company Fundraising

  • DataScience, which works with organisations to garner valuable insights from their data streams, raised $22m from investors including Whitehart Ventures.
  • Israel-based Vayyar Imaging, a developer of 3D imaging technologies that utilises low power radio waves to ‘see through’ objects, raised $22m from investors including Battery Ventures, Bessemmer Venture Partners and Israel Cleantech Ventures.
  • US-based Rowheels, which is developing products that improve the propulsion efficiency of manual wheelchairs and thus counter the long-term physical impacts of wheelchair use, raised $1.5m from investors including WISC Partners.
  • UK-based Ebury, which provides a range of services (including management of currency exposure and payment collection) to small businesses operating internationally, raised $83m in a round led by Vitruvian Partners.
  • US-based Mazlo, which provides coaching programmes comprised of 10 minute per day ‘learn-by-doing’ exercises designed to enable users to develop new skills such as mindfulness, raised $10m from investors including Polaris Partners.
  • US-based Textio, which analyses text to assess the effectiveness of words / phrases within given contexts, raised $8m from investors including Cowboy Ventures, Emergence Capital and Bloomberg Beta. More.
  • US-based Swift Navigation, which is developing highly accurate and real-time GPS technology designed for use within autonomous vehicles, raised $11m from investors including New Enterprise Associates and First Round Capital.
  • US-based GoNoodle, which develops videos and games that are designed to encourage children to be active, raised $5m from investors including Chrysalis Ventures.
  • US-based CultureIQ, which develops software solutions designed to improve corporate culture, raised $3m from investors including Lerer Hippeau Ventures.
  • US-based ReliefBand Technologies, which is developing a wearable device that enables drug-free treatment of nausea associated with chemotherapy, motion and morning sickness, raised $5m from investors including PathoCapital. The technology works by using pulses of electromagnetic waves to stimulate the median nerve on the underside of the wrist.
  • US-based big data technology developer Palantir Technologies disclosed that it had raised a further $200m funding.
  • US-based Verlocal, an experiences marketplace, raised $2.7m from investors including VenturesLab and Seven Seas Partners.
  • UK-based Realsafe Technologies, which develops an app that detects if motorcycle riders have been involved in an accident and alerts emergency services, raised £1m from investors.
  • US-based Flux, which develops a collaboration platform for the construction sector, raised $29m from investors including Temasek, DFJ and Obvious Ventures.
  • US-based Neural Analytics, which develops solutions designed to monitor brain injuries, raised $10m from investors including Taiyu Capital.
  • New York-based Everwise, which connects users with mentors, raised $8m from investors including Sequoia Capital. More.
  • US-based BlueLine Grid, which develops a collaboration platform designed for use by law enforcement teams, raised funding from Motorola Solutions Venture Capital.

Other

  • Using ‘nudges’ such as a poster of a man’s staring eyes and a citrus smell can significantly boost rates of hand washing in hospitals, according to a study conducted by researchers at Warwick University. More.
  • A study of 700,000 UK women, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, has shown that happiness has no direct impact on mortality, contradicting previous studies that indicated that unhappiness/stress cause ill health. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at Cambridge University suggests that charismatic leaders can cause long-term damage to the organisations in which they operate through engendering emotional suppression and cognitive impairment among the wider group, resulting in increased strain, lower job satisfaction and reduced levels of information exchange. More.
  • Globally, average internet speed increased by 14% in the 12 months to September 2015, according to the Akmai State of the Internet Report. Broadband (defined as a connection with speeds of at least 25 Mbps) penetration stands at just 5.2% globally. More.