Category Biology

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.

MATERIALS | ENVIRONMENT

Artificial Photosynthesis Breakthrough Could Turn CO2 into Plastics Cheaply

Scientists have long been able to capture and convert harmful CO2 into useful products. Researchers at Rutgers University have discovered that utilizing a new man-made photosynthesis process using nickel and phosphorus, which are both plentiful elements, converting CO2 is cheaper than ever. Next step, commercializing the technology and further investigation to go from the lab to producing plastics and other common materials. [NEW ATLAS]

ECONOMICS | INNOVATION | MANAGEMENT

Leaping Before the Platform Burns: The Increasing Necessity of Preemptive Innovation

10 years into the long recovery from the Great Recession, recessionary risks are rising. How is your business going to behave in the next downturn? History suggests that you will have a strong incentive to cut innovation investment and double-down on efforts to maximize efficiency and value extraction from existing core offerings. This is the wrong answer. In this wide-ranging piece, the authors draw on lessons from biology, computer science, and high-performing firms to suggest more successful strategies that you should start implementing now. [BCG HENDERSON INSTITUTE | REUTERS]

PHYSICS

A New Theory Unifies Dark Matter and Dark Energy as a “Dark Fluid” With Negative Mass

Drawing on a idea developed and then abandoned by Albert Einstein a century ago, a new theory attempts to explain why 95% of the universe appears to be missing. Astrophysicist James Farnes’ theory posits that dark matter and dark energy—unproven, placeholder theories designed to make the math accurately describe the observable behavior of the universe—with a new placeholder: a dark fluid with negative mass. If proven , the theory would challenge our fundamental understanding of the universe. [MOTHERBOARD]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

5 Important AI Predictions (for 2019) Everyone Should Read

Recent technological breakthroughs have raised questions and concerns about how they will improve, or destroy, our current way of life. Here are five Artificial Intelligence predictions that provide insight into some of those changes for the upcoming year and beyond. [FORBES]

BIOLOGY | GEOLOGY | PALEONTOLOGY | ANTHROPOCENE

How Giant Intelligent Snails Became a Marker of Our Age

Fossils and geochemical changes in the layers of the Earth’s crust are what scientist use to learn about geologic times past. New markers are being recorded, such as plastics, radioactive isotopes,–and the giant African land snail. Aided by its own natural survival traits and hitchhiking on human migrations around the globe, these large snails may play a key role in telling the story of the current Anthropocene era. [ATLAS OBSCURA]

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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.

POLYMERS | NANOPARTICLES | MATERIALS SCIENCE

Fluorinated Coating is Utterly Repellent

Scientists have created a super-omniphobic material containing polymer nanoparticles that form a highly texture surface trapping tiny air pockets that then repel liquids. Due to its unique chemistry and texture, this new repellent coating can rebuff oils and organic solvents, stay dry in water, heal itself after damage, withstand high temperatures and harsh acids, and much more. [C&EN]

BIOLOGY

The Human Cell Atlas is Biologists’ Latest Grand Project

The cell is the basic unit of life and has captivated scientists for hundreds of years. Until just the last few years, the technology to explore the inner workings of individual cells did not exist. Now that it does, an ambitious project, the Human Cell Atlas is underway with plans to catalog the 37 trillion cells that make up the human body. If successful, this map of cells could one day be instrumental in helping us better understand and treat diseases. [WIRED]

FIBER OPTICS | INTERNET

‘Twisted’ Fiber Optic Light Breakthrough Could Make Internet 100 times Faster

Fiber optic cables use pulses of light to transmit information, but engineers have created a new dimension for light to carry this info by twisting the light itself into a spiral. And with the creation of a tiny new detector to read the spiraled light, a faster and more efficient Internet could soon be headed our way. [THE GUARDIAN]

WWII | IONOSPHERE

Shockwaves from WWII Bombing Raids Rippled the Edges of Space

Scientists have long been aware that natural phenomena such as cloud to ground lightning strikes and solar flares have an observable and measurable effect on Earth’s atmosphere. But a new study published in Annales Geophysicae documents the similar effects that bombs dropped during WWII had on our ionosphere. Scientists hope the work will help more accurately predict communication-disrupting ionospheric disturbances in the future. [NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC]

3D PRINTING | TECHNOLOGY | INNOVATION

French Family Just Became the First to Permanently Live in a 3D Printed Home

This summer, a family of five moved into a 1,022 square foot home that was printed in 54 hours. The home, located in Nantes, France, features wheelchair access, smartphone controlled appliances, and walls made up of insulating polyurethane with cement filling between the layers. Other advances in architectural 3D printing from around the world are also covered. [BUSINESS INSIDER]

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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.

MATERIALS | VIDEO

This Improbable Membrane Could Block Germs While Allowing Surgeons to Operate Through It

In what might seem like science fiction, a team of researchers has engineered a reverse filter: it traps small particles and lets large ones through. The filter, held together by surface tension, is a transparent liquid membrane. Instead of sorting particles by size, it sorts them by kinetic energy—larger objects with more force break through, but lighter, slower objects do not. Once broken, the puncture self-heals instantaneously. [SCIENCE]

FINANCE | PODCAST

Should Companies Abandon Quarterly Earnings Reports?

In a tweet on Aug. 17, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to study whether it makes sense for publicly held companies to publish half-yearly earnings reports instead of the current quarterly mode. Many have argued that such a switch would help companies take a longer term view of the future to the benefit of both employees and investors. But watchdog groups and regulatory bodies worry that reduced oversight will lead to bad outcomes. This relatively short podcast (and comprehensive accompanying article) does a good job fleshing out the arguments on both sides of the issue. [WHARTON]

HEALTH | BIOLOGY

Gut Bug Enzyme Turns Any Blood into Type-O

By utilizing a promising new discovery, enzymes from gut bacteria, researchers believe they have found a reliable way to transform the different blood types into the universally accepted type-O. The future of blood donations could change for the better, if the next stage of clinical trials yields positive results. [BBC]

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES | NETWORKING

Autonomous Vehicles in 2025: Network Cost Outstrips AI Computing Cost

When they consider the cost of ADAS/AV (autonomous vehicles), many observers assume that the computing power required for AI processing is going to be the costliest element.“Not so,” according to Alexander E. Tan, vice president and general manager of Automotive Ethernet Solutions at NXP. He predicts that in 2025 in-vehicle networking will cost more than computing. [EETIMES]

SCIENCE AWARDS

Here Are Your 2018 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Ever wondered if saliva is actually a good cleaning agent, or how good chimpanzees are at imitating humans? Or whether stabbing a voodoo doll representing your horrible boss could help reduce workplace tension? The winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes have got you covered. Established in 1991, the Ig Nobels are a good-natured parody of the Nobel Prizes, honoring “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” [ARS TECHNICA]

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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.

BIOENGINEERING | TEXTILES

Next Generation Cotton You Won’t Have to Iron

A team at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has started working on a cotton with many of the properties of synthetics, such as being stretchy, non-creasing and even waterproof, while retaining its natural fiber feel. “We’re looking into the structure of cotton cell walls and harnessing the latest tools in synthetic biology to develop the next generation cotton fiber,” CSIRO scientist Dr. Madeline Mitchell said. The goal: use the next generation cotton to take substantial market share from the current synthetics industry. [CSIRO]

INNOVATION

The Future Belongs to Whoever Creates It

An interesting blog post from Jeffrey Phillips, author of Relentless Innovation: “The fact is that the future doesn’t belong to anyone. Given the rapid pace of change and the emergence of new technologies and solutions, you can’t say with much certainty who will win . . . but if we try just a bit we can understand what’s likely to happen and in some instances perhaps even influence it.” [INNOVATE ON PURPOSE]

ENERGY | ENVIRONMENT

The Big Bet in Fracking: Water

Some investors see fortunes to be made in the U.S.’s hottest oil field—by speculating in water, not crude. Fledgling companies, many backed by private equity, are rushing to help shale drillers deal with one of their trickiest problems: what to do with the vast volumes of wastewater that are a byproduct of fracking wells. The wastewater is commonly removed by truck, 125 barrels at a time, and start-ups are focused on building pipelines to handle the volume. It’s tempting to think of this as an infrastructure play, but global companies should be thinking about the opportunity in other ways because there is a lot of money to be made: rising water management costs can add as much as $6 to the cost of producing a single barrel of crude. [WSJ]

DRONES

Warehouse Drones are Ready for the Spotlight

Delivery drones may have been getting the most press, but warehouse drones are are already making a difference in many industries. This is just the start of many in-plant uses of drones and other autonomous robot, and it’s a great proving ground: Warehouses are much more physically structured than manufacturing plants and so make it easier to develop capabilities. [SUPPLYCHAINDIVE]

PHYSICS | BIOLOGY | (OLD) INFOGRAPHIC

Revisiting a 1958 Map of Space Mysteries

A year after Sputnik launched in 1957, speculation was sizzling. Surely, humans would be up there before too long, which in turn would finally put us in a position to answer our many, many questions about the universe. In 1958, the American Oil Company (AMOCO) released a pictorial map outlining some of the most bedeviling space-related puzzles of the age and predicting what might happen when space explorers were able to get a closer look. Some of these questions were tied up pretty quickly, but the rest aren’t so neatly resolved. Sixty years later, Atlas Obscura checked in with space experts to weigh in on which have been cracked, and what continues to confound. Use the zoom tool to take a closer look. [ATLAS OBSCURA]

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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.


We’re excited to announce the launch of GrowthPilot Insights, a series of white papers that grew out of our work on thousands of new product development projects. The papers distill what we’ve learned into simple principles and practical steps that any company can follow. The intro and the first paper at the link; others will follow in the coming months.

GrowthPilot Insights


POLYMERS | MANUFACTURING

New Polymer Manufacturing Process Saves 10 Orders of Magnitude of Energy

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new polymer-curing process that uses 10 orders of magnitude less energy and can cut two orders of magnitudes of time over the current manufacturing process. “This development marks what could be the first major advancement to the high-performance polymer and composite manufacturing industry in almost half a century,” said aerospace engineering professor and lead author Scott White. The findings, reported in Nature, describe a frontal polymerization method which uses the internal energy of the polymerization process—rather than external energy—to propagate the reaction and cure the material. [UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS]

INNOVATION | PODCAST

How to Think 10x Bigger (In Just 10 Minutes)

A short, tight talk by Dr. Astro Teller, CEO of X, Alphabet’s arm tasked with bringing its most audacious, difficult ideas to life. If you need to move truly new, technically demanding ideas off the drawing board and into the world, his description of how to run the teams attacking these challenges is as good as you will find anywhere. And it only takes about 10 minutes. You can stream the talk directly from the link, and—if you want to skip the intro—start at the 3:00 minute mark. [THE TIM FERRIS SHOW]

OCEAN SCIENCES | SENSORS | DRONES

This Man Is Building an Armada of Saildrones to Conquer the Ocean

Despite the ocean’s size and value, resources to study it are scant, and most of our data about global seas come from satellite readings and a smattering of sensor-equipped buoys. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is among the field’s best-funded research organizations and has all of 16 science ships, complemented by another 16 from university fleets. Australia has only one serious research vessel. Richard Jenkins is trying to change all this with his venture-backed startup, Saildrone Inc. [BLOOMBERG]

NUCLEAR POWER | ENERGY

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Move a Step Closer to Deployment

As a follow-up to the story on Thorium reactors we included two weeks ago, the first small modular reactor (SMR)—designed by UK-based NuScale Power—passed its Phase 1 review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late April. The SMR is designed to replace the one or more giant reactors in current nuclear power plants with smaller modular ones that can be assembled at a central facility and then shipped to the site for installation. [NEW ATLAS]

MATERIAL SCIENCE | BIOLOGY

Is Fungus the Material of the Future?

Fungus and slippers are two words that most people don’t want to read in the same sentence. However, scientists in the Netherlands are one step closer to changing people’s perceptions by creating everyday objects like chairs, lampshades and slippers using fungi—specifically oyster mushrooms. If you want to learn more and have 11 minutes to spare, there is an interesting video on the technology here. [SMITHSONIAN | MOTHERBOARD]

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Throughout our work week, in the course of our research for clients across many industries and fields, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we deliver five interesting things we came across during the preceding weeks. And no filler.

COMPUTING | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Chinese Police Add Facial-Recognition Glasses to Surveillance Arsenal

China is already the global leader in deploying cutting-edge surveillance technologies based on artificial intelligence. Now, mobile facial-recognition units mounted on eyeglasses are expanding the reach of that surveillance, allowing authorities to peer into places that fixed cameras aren’t scanning, and to respond more quickly. Unlike many fixed-camera facial-recognition systems that remotely connect cameras to vast facial databases stored in the cloud, the police glasses are wired directly to a hand-held device that contains an offline database—allowing them to work more quickly. [WALL STREET JOURNAL]

STRATEGY | INNOVATION | DISRUPTION

How GE Got Disrupted

GE’s problems are no secret, but their source is interesting: they spent the last few decades cutting costs, streamlining operations and increasing efficiency, yet it’s hard to think of any major invention that’s come out of the company since the CT scanner back in the 1970s. Six Sigma will only take you so far if you stop exploring: until GE can learn to make new discoveries that lead to new markets, its future will be in question. [DIGITAL TONTO]

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