Monthly Archives June 2018

In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

NEUROSCIENCE | CREATIVITY

Drunk People Are Better at Creative Problem Solving

An interview with Professor Andrew Jarosz of Mississippi State University. He and colleagues served vodka-cranberry cocktails to 20 male subjects until their blood alcohol levels neared legal intoxication and then gave each a series of word association problems to solve. Not only did those who imbibed give more correct answers than a sober control group performing the same task, but they also arrived at solutions more quickly. The conclusion: drunk people are better at creative problem solving. [HBR]

CLIMATE SCIENCE

Maybe We Can Afford to Suck CO2 Out of the Sky After All

While avoiding the worst dangers of climate change will likely require sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky, prominent scientists have long dismissed such technologies as far too expensive. But a detailed new analysis published in early June in the journal Joule finds that direct air capture may be practical after all. The study concludes it would cost between $94 and $232 per ton of captured carbon dioxide if existing technologies were implemented on a commercial scale. [MIT Technology Review]

STRATEGY | INNOVATION

How “The Lean Startup” Turned Eric Ries Into an Unlikely Corporate Guru

Although The Lean Startup focused on . . . well . . . startups, Ries now believes innovation lurks in the bellies of even the stodgiest corporations. Ries’s second book, The Startup Way, published in October, focuses squarely on big companies, and this interesting profile reveals a lot of his thinking. Ries thinks that the trick for big companies is to stop thinking about their size: they need to form small groups devoted to the practice of innovation, and empower and protect them on a continual basis. [FORTUNE]

INNOVATION | ECONOMICS

“A Powerful Signal of Recessions” Has Wall Street’s Attention

Every recession of the past 60 years has been preceded by an inverted bond market yield curve (with only one false positive), and we’re moving rapidly toward another inversion right now. That means it’s a good time to think about how your company will react to the next downturn, particularly in an area most of us really care about: innovation. With that in mind, we’re revisiting this 2008 Forbes’ piece by Scott Anthony and Leslie Feinzaig, Innovating During a Recession. As they point out, during a downturn “[f]ocusing too much on the core business can lead companies smack dab into the roots of the innovator’s dilemma, where they get diminishing returns from investments while missing great growth opportunities emerging in the fringes of their markets or in completely new ones.. [NEW YORK TIMES | FORBES]

BUSINESS MODEL INNOVATION

Fast-Fine Dining Is the New Restaurant Frontier

Driven by a shrinking pool of workers, high labor costs, and high rent, the Bay Area is trying to optimize something new by replacing employee labor with customer labor: the fine dining industry. So what? This trend—finding creative ways to eliminate labor cost through business model innovation—is something you ought to be thinking about in your own business because it’s going to spread, first to high-cost cities and soon to lower cost areas. As this shift happens, opportunities are going to be created for companies in the supply chain to optimize the experience of fast-fine dining. And outside the restaurant supply chain the same thing is going to be happening: if you make things that wind up in the service sector, the world is going to be changing fast. Start planning now to get ahead of the emerging opportunities. [BON APPETITE | NEW YORK TIMES]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

SEMICONDUCTORS | QUANTUM COMPUTING

Intel Can Now Produce Full Silicon Wafers of Quantum Computing Chips

Unlike previous quantum efforts at Intel, their latest is focusing on spin qubits instead of superconducting qubits. This secondary technology is still a few years behind superconducting quantum work but could turn out to be more easily scalable: Intel now has the capability to produce up to five silicon wafers every week containing up to 26-qubit quantum chips. The current technology being used for small scale production could eventually scale to beyond 1000 qubits. [TECHSPOT]

STRATEGY | ANALYTICS | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Ten Red Flags Signaling Your Analytics Program Will Fail

It’s the rare CEO who doesn’t know that their business must become analytics-driven, and many have been charging ahead with bold investments in analytics resources and AI, appointing chief analytics officers, chief data officers, or hiring all sorts of data specialists. But frustrations are beginning to surface: more boards and shareholders are pressing for answers about the scant returns on many early and expensive analytics programs. This long but comprehensive McKinsey article takes apart the various mistakes being made and suggests ways around them. [THINKGROWTH.ORG]

BIOLOGY | ASTROBIOLOGY

Mars Rover Finds Organics, Changing Methane Levels

NASA’s Curiosity rover has delivered some of its most intriguing results so far, with the discovery of organic molecules in three billion-year-old rock just beneath the surface of Mars. The pattern of small molecules detected was similar to what is seen when ancient organic matter from earth, known as kerogen, is analyzed by the same technique: crushing the rock, heating to 860°C, and then using mass spectrometry. [COSMOS]

NEUROSCIENCE | BOOK REVIEW | PODCASTS

How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan

How to Change Your Mind is Pollan’s sweeping and often thrilling chronicle of the history of psychedelics, their brief modern ascendancy and suppression, their renaissance and possible future, all interwoven with a self-deprecating travelogue of his own cautious but ultimately transformative adventures as a middle-aged psychedelic novice. Why should you care? Because recent studies have demonstrated the antibiotic-level effectiveness of psilocybin and other psychedelics at combatting treatment-resistant depression, addiction, and depression in the terminally ill. If you want to know more, below are several links to interesting interviews with Pollan and others who are conducting clinical trials of the treatment. [THE GUARDIAN]

Depression – The Psychedelic Cure? Rob Reid talks with Katya Malievskaia and George Goldsmith whose startup, Compass Pathways, will soon launch the largest triple-blind clinical trial ever of a psychedelic drug, psilocybin. Board members of the startup include a former head of the European Medicines Agency (the EU’s FDA) and the former Chief Medical Officer of Bristol Meyers Squibb; they’ve raised $20 million to manufacture a synthetic version of the drug and conduct the trials. [AFTER ON PODCAST]

Freedom from the Known. Neuroscientist Sam Harris discusses How to Change Your Mind with Michael Pollan. Good if you want to understand the science behind the growing confidence in psychedelics as a treatment for depression. [WAKING UP PODCAST]

MATERIALS SCIENCE | 3-D PRINTING

4-D Printing Using Light-Sensitive Ink

This article is intended for students, but it reveals a potentially important advance in multi-material printing, including laying down polymers and metals in the same layer. The new technology—still in a lab at Georgia Tech—can print 4D objects that respond to their environment, transforming in response to temperature changes, pH changes, or other factors. One of the key innovations is the use of precision light curing with epoxy composites that can allow the stiffest part of a printed object to be 600 time harder than its softest part. [SCIENCE NEWS FOR STUDENTS]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

QUANTUM PHYSICS

Coolest Science Ever Headed to the Space Station

On May 21, NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory arrived at the International Space Station to explore a state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), in which atoms shed their individual identities and crowd en masse into a single quantum wave. Long-predicted, but first observed in 1995, achieving the state requires chilling atoms to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, even colder than the average temperature of deep space. Moving experiments to space solves a key challenge: being able to observe the BEC for more than 10-20 milliseconds after release from the magnets and lasers used to trap and chill the atoms. [SCIENCE]

STRATEGY | PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Building a Better MVP: How to Say No to the Wrong Things So You Can Say Yes to the Right Things

The most persistent mistake companies make during product development is also one of the easiest to solve. In fact, post-mortem evaluations of over 100 startups revealed that the primary cause of startup failure—in 42% of cases—was “no market need.” How can this happen? Founders overwhelmingly said “they were more focused on solving an interesting version of the problem, rather than solving the real problem as it existed.” Don’t ignore the importance of deeply understanding the job-to-be-done: whether you are a start-up or a major corporation, get out and talk to the market. Again and again. [ALLEYWATCH]

CHEMISTRY | BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING

Chemists Synthesize Millions of Proteins Not Found in Nature

In a DARPA-funded project, MIT chemists have devised a way to rapidly synthesize and screen millions of novel proteins from amino acids not used in nature; the proteins could be used as drugs against Ebola and other viruses. These “xenoproteins” offer many advantages over naturally occurring proteins: they are more stable, don’t require refrigeration, and may not provoke an immune response. Amino acids can exist in two different configurations, known as L and D, but cells can use only the L variant. As building blocks for their xenoproteins, the researchers used 16 “mirror-image” (D) amino acids. The program has already synthesized D-variant proteins that will bind to the influenza virus, the anthrax toxin, and an Ebola glycoprotein. [MIT]

STRATEGY | AUTONOMOUS DRIVING

Building Autonomous Vehicles is Hard

This New York Times piece describes how Apple—handicapped by hubris and a demand to control everything—has struggled to find a partner to help execute its autonomous driving ambitions. Tesla, on the other hand, is struggling with a different problem: too much vision and not enough execution. In this piece (and podcast) which originally appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Steve Blank compares Elon Musk to Billy Durant (the founder of GM who was fired twice before Alfred Sloan took over) and “wonders if $2.6 billion in executive compensation [for Musk] would be better spent finding someone to lead Tesla to becoming a reliable producer of cars in high volume – without the drama in each new model. Perhaps Tesla now needs its Alfred P. Sloan.”

CHEMICALS | ENVIRONMENTAL

Water Woes Lead EPA to Toughen Fluorochemical Rules

The EPA held an invitation-only forum in Washington last week to announce the development of tougher national regulations on the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), and the related perfluorooctanoic acid, in an effort to keep these chemicals out of the drinking water supply. Administrator Pruitt said, “This should be and must be a national priority, and . . . we are going to be taking concrete steps as an agency to address that, along with you at the state and local level.” PFAs and PFOAs are known to persist in the environment and can pose health risks even at relatively low concentrations. Controversy plagues the EPA on this issue; it has been accused of suppressing a report suggesting the existing limits are too high and it did not open the May summit to affected community groups and activist organizations. New regulations will likely face opposition because of the importance of these chemicals across many industries. [PLASTICS NEWS]

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