October 2016

Science & Technology

  • A study conducted by researches at University College London found that an AI system was able to correctly predict the outcome on 79% of cases at the European Court of Human Rights, following analysis of language datasets relating to  584 cases. More.
  • Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University are developing a crop protection system that utilises lasers to scare large pests, thus avoiding the use of poisons. More.
  • Microsoft Research is developing digital post-it notes that incorporate solar cells and thus do not need to be recharged. More.
  • BMW is developing a self-balancing motorbike. More.
  • Scientists at Imperial College London are developing a system (based on inductive coupling) that can wirelessly transfer power to drones while they are flying, enabling them to remain airborne indefinitely. More.
  • Barack Obama announced plans for the US government to work with the private sector to develop a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.
  • Researchers at Oxford University have developed an AI-powered system, called LipNet, that can lip-read far more effectively than humans. The system achieves an accuracy level of 93%, versus the 60% typical for people, and has multiple applications including within hearing aids. More.
  • Researchers at Boston University are developing a hydrogel that could replace bandages, and thus reduce pain, in burn recovery. More.
  • A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney suggests that regular resistance training including weightlifting may help to prevent dementia in older adults. More.
  • Researchers at MIT have developed spinach plants embedded with carbon nanotubes that are capable of detecting explosives and wirelessly communicating the fact. The technology could also be developed to enable environmental monitoring. More.

Business

New Sources of Funding

  • Japan-based SoftBank Group (in partnership with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia) announced plans to invest at least $25bn in the global technology sector within the next five years.
  • MIT launched a $150m initiative (called ‘The Engine’) to back start-ups developing potentially transformative technologies in sectors including biotech, robotics, medical devices and energy.
  • Finance Wales launched a £136m fund to back Wales-based SMEs.
  • US-based Centana Growth Partners closed a $123m fund from which it will invest into fintech and enterprise technology companies.
  • US-based Javelin Venture Partners closed a $125m fund that it will deploy to support early stage companies.
  • US-based Inititalized Capital closed a $115m early stage venture fund.
  • Spain-based venture firm Kibo Ventures closed a €71m fund that will be used to back early stage companies with up to €5m funding.
  • China-based search engine provider Baidu launched a $3bn fund to invest in mid and late-stage internet companies.
  • Sofinnova closed a $650m biotech-focused fund.
  • France-based Daphni closed a €150m venture fund from which it will invest up to €3m in early-stage European start-ups.
  • Spain-based Ysios Capital closed a €126.4m venture fund that will be deployed to support European biotech, medtech and diagnostic companies.
  • Spain-based K Fund launched a €50m venture fund that will invest up to €1m in Spanish start-ups.
  • Early-stage focused Redpoint Ventures closed a $180m China-focused fund.
  • US-based Zetta Venture Partners closed a $100m fund from which it will invest in intelligent enterprise software companies.

New products

  • Language-learning company Duolingo has launched a chatbot that is designed to help users practice new languages via text message conversations.
  • US-based Zipline has launched a drone delivery network to bring medical supplies to remote communities in Rwanda. More.
  • Shine provides on-demand text-based life coaching services.
  • Horus is a wearable assistant for the visually impaired that identifies and describes people and objects as users go about their daily lives.

New company Fundraising

  • Canada-based Kinduct, which develops data analytics software designed to improve human performance within sectors including sport, military, healthcare and public safety, raised $9m in a Series-A round led by Intel Capital.
  • US-based Nurx, which provides on-demand birth control within a couple of hours, raised a $5.3m Series-A round led by Union Square Ventures.
  • UK-based Healx, which applies advanced data analytics to identify novel applications for existing drugs to treat rare diseases, raised a £1.5m Series-A round led by Amadeus Capital.
  • UK-based Resolver, which provides a website designed to make it easier for consumers to make complaints to brands or organisations and secure compensation, raised £2.8m from Draper Esprit and Imperial Innovations.
  • US-based Hyperloop One, which is developing advanced transportation systems for people and cargo, raised $50m in a funding round led by DP World Group.
  • UK-based ComplyAdvantage, which is leveraging AI technology to provide enterprise compliance solutions, closed a $8.2m Series-A round led by Balderton Capital.
  • Italy-based WaterView, which is developing a solution that is able to determine rainfall patterns by analysing images captured by surveillance cameras and smartphones (with applications including agriculture), raised €0.5m from angel investors.
  • New York-based DataKind, which connects data science experts to social innovators addressing problems relating to education, poverty, health, human rights and the environment, raised $2m from Omidyar Network.
  • New York-based CariClub.com, a social impact platform that is designed to drive involvement of young professionals within nonprofits (via associate board positions), closed a seed funding round.
  • US-based Embodied, which is developing interactive robots that are designed to improve human wellness through acting as motivators, coaches and companions, received an investment from Intel Capital.
  • US-based Shape Security, which is developing a patented cybersecurity platform for enterprise and government clients, raised a $40m Series-D from investors including Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures and Hewlett Packard Pathfinder.
  • UK-based Pragmatic Printing, which develops flexible integrated circuits that can be used within applications including intelligent packaging and wireless document tracking, raised £18m from investors including Cambridge Innovation Capital and ARM.
  • US-based MedMinder, which is developing a medication dispensing system that is designed to improve adherence and management, secured funding from Trinnovate Ventures.
  • US-based BrainCheck, which provides an app that enables users to determine if they have suffered a concussion, raised $3m from investors.
  • US-based Paperspace, which is developing a cloud-based computer / desktop that is accessible from anywhere, raised $4m from investors including Ludlow Ventures.
  • d.light, a US/Kenya-based company that develops solar-powered products for off-grid households and businesses, raised $7.5m debt financing from Developing World Markets.
  • Ireland-based Smartfrog, which is developing connected home security solutions, raised €20m from investors including e.ventures.
  • UK-based University of Cambridge spin-out Carrick Therapeutics, which is developing treatments for the most aggressive and resistant forms of cancer, raised $95m from investors including ARCH Venture Partners and Woodford Investment Management. More.

Other

  • A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that competition is far more effective than friendly support in encouraging people to exercise. In fact, friendly support was found to make people less likely to exercise. The study has implications for promoting other healthy and pro-social behaviours. More.
  • A statistical analysis of Shakespearean works conducted by researchers at De Montford University claims to confirm that they were not written by one person, and has identified likely contributors. More.
  • A meta-study conducted by researchers at Oxford University has shown that being kind to other people has a small but positive impact on happiness. More.