Category Strategy

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.

COMPOSITES | GRAPHENE | MATERIALS

Graphene Nanotubes Find Industrial Niche in Fiberglass Storage Tanks

Roughly 10% of accidents that involve storage tanks are caused by the electrostatic charge generated when dissimilar materials are in relative motion to each other. To combat this, fiberglass tank manufacturers have typically relied on anti-static fillers such as carbon black or conductive mica, but graphene nanotubes are allowing them to reduce filler ratios by an order of magnitude while at the same time providing other benefits. [COMPOSITES WORLD]

STRATEGY | TRANSFORMATION

How to Embrace Digital Transformation

If you are sick of hearing about digital transformation, it’s understandable: the term has been used so indiscriminately that it’s become almost meaningless. But don’t give up because companies that do it wrong (or don’t do it at all) are not long for this world. This article provides a quick primer about the right way to think about the subject. [RACONTEUR]

PLATFORMS | BLOCKCHAIN | STRATEGY

The Myth of the Infrastructure Phase

Apps always come before infrastructure. Although this piece is aimed at the future of blockchain, there are lessons for any business struggling with a great idea that the world may not be ready for yet: the lightbulb came before the electrical grid, and airplanes were flying before there were airports. [UNION SQUARE VENTURES]

ENGINEERING | THE FUTURE

Will Elevators to Outer Space Ever Get Off the Ground?

Are space elevators the future of extra-planetary travel? Supporters see them as a way to ferry people and goods to space for a lower cost than rocket trips and with little need for passenger training. But this far-off goal faces significant engineering and political challenges. And don’t skip the comments because they are hilarious. [WSJ]

DATA SCIENCE | INFOGRAPHIC

FiveThirtyEight Gave It’s Readers 3 Million Russian Troll Tweets. Here’s What They’ve Found So Far

Last week, FiveThirtyEight published nearly 3 million tweets sent by handles affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll factory.” They shared the data with the public in concert with the researchers who first assembled it, Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, both of Clemson University. The goal: that other researchers, as well as FiveThirtyEight’s broader readership, would explore the tweet data, and share their findings, deepening our understanding of Russian interference in American politics. Readers did not disappoint. Some found ways to improve the data set while others created some useful—and startling—data visualizations. [FIVETHIRTYEIGHT]

Read More

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]

Read More

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]

Read More

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]

Read More

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.

3D PRINTING | ELECTRONICS

3D Printing Circuits Onto Human Skin

Micheal McAlpine of the University of Minnesota has developed a technique to draw an electrical circuit directly onto the skin; uses could include chemical sensing, solar charging, heart monitoring, and more. The system uses computer vision to adjust its position in real time, allowing it to print complex designs onto unreliable surfaces. In addition to laying down “wires” composed of silver flakes in solution that cure at room temperature, the targeting system has also been used to layer cells onto an open wound on a mouse. [DISCOVER]

STRATEGY | MANAGEMENT | INNOVATION

Do You Have an Organization That Can Manage the Present and Invent the Future?

An open letter to CEOs from Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (inventors of the Business Model Canvas). They point out that “innovation is only an expensive gamble when you do it wrong,” and then go on to lay out their view of a 21st century organizational structure that can be world class both at managing factories AND manufacturing new growth engines. “If you don’t want to end up like Kodak, Nokia, or Blackberry, then you have to start now.” [THINKGROWTH.ORG]

SLEEP SCIENCE | PODCAST

Your Lack of Sleep Is Killing You. Literally.

An intensely interesting, long-form interview with Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Dr. Walker knows more about the science and impact of sleep than anyone alive, and he’s a great communicator. If you don’t have time to listen on your commute or in the gym, there’s a good review of Walker’s recent book, “Why We Sleep,” here. In addition to the link at the headline, you can also find the podcast on iTunes or anywhere else that carries popular podcasts. PG13 warning: the interviewer, Joe Rogan, occasionally uses colorful language, and there is a brief discussion of mind-altering substances. [THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE]

NUCLEAR POWER | ENERGY

This Is How a Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Works

After nearly forty years of almost no development, interest in thorium for clean power generation is picking up again, with new plants coming on line in the Netherlands and China. Thorium is incredibly abundant in the Earth’s crust, and molten salt thorium reactors have many advantages over existing plant designs: they can’t melt down, produce almost no plutonium, can—in fact—consume plutonium from existing stockpiles, produce only tiny amounts of other transuranics, are smaller and cheaper to operate than traditional fast breeders, and produce waste that remains dangerous for a much shorter time. [POPULAR SCIENCE]

MATERIAL SCIENCE | SENSORS

Graphene Opens Up New Applications for Microscale Resonators

A range of sensing and communications technologies, such as satellites, already rely on tiny devices called resonators—also known as vibrating microelectromechanical and nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS). But engineers have faced limits in the temperatures these tiny components can withstand and the range of frequencies that they can pick up. Now scientists at Case Western Reserve University have constructed resonators out of a single layer of graphene that can withstand high temperatures and operate across a broad range of frequencies. [C&EN]

Read More

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]

Read More

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.

BIOENGINEERING | GMO

Crispr’d Food, Coming Soon to a Supermarket Near You

This past Wednesday (March 28, 2018), the US Department of Agriculture announced it will not regulate “certain gene-edited” plants in an effort to incite innovation in the field. The designer plant fast lane is limited to genetic alterations which could have occurred naturally, such as an insertion, simple swap, or deletion, but does not protect more significant or cross-species editing. By eliminating regulatory burdens, even relatively small-market plants are worth developing, allowing small start-ups to compete with even the largest agricultural firms. No word yet on the labeling requirements. [WIRED]

MATERIAL SCIENCE

Now You See It: Invisibility Material Created

Inspired by the ability of squid and other cephalopods to rapidly change color, scientists at UCI Irvine have designed a new material that can—by stretching or stimulation with an electrical impulse—quickly change how it reflects heat. Potential uses include better camouflage for troops and insulation for spacecraft, storage containers, emergency shelters, clinical care, and building heating and cooling systems. The inventors believe the prototypes can be scaled to large sheets of commercially usable material. [SCIENCE DAILY]

AUTOMATION

Every Study on What Automation Will Do to Jobs, in One Table

Though undertaken by reputable institutions and organizations, estimates of the number of jobs which will be lost to automation vary widely—anywhere from 9% to 47%—depending on the study. Some reports include estimated timelines, number of expected jobs gained, and/or number of jobs significantly altered or requiring substantial new training. We think this is all ridiculous speculation: examining a single industry might be worthwhile if enough information is available today, but trying to predict where the technology will go when it is moving so rapidly is a fool’s errand. So we agree with the author: “we have no idea how many jobs will actually be lost to the march of technological progress.” [MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW]

3D PRINTING | MANUFACTURING | PODCAST

Are You Ready for the Third Digital Revolution?

Knowledge@Wharton interviewed two of the authors of the new book, “Designing Reality,” for a recent podcast. The authors discuss the two previous digital revolutions, computation and communication, and suggest the third digital revolution will be decentralized fabrication. From bits to atoms, the conversion of digital data to products will occur at local fabrication facilities or even in-home. As with Moore’s Law—a roadmap forward developed by looking back—can we predict large-scale adoption of additive manufacturing using what we know now about the speed of development? How can we use what we know about previous digital revolutions to identify and address disparities in education and opportunity beforehand? [WHARTON – UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA]

If you have time on your commute or an upcoming flight, the podcast is worth your time, but the full transcript is available using the link above.

STRATEGY | PSYCHOLOGY

How To Convince People You Have a Good Idea

Costas Markies of the London Business School describes five important variables that determine how likely it is that your efforts to convince people to back your idea will succeed. All five have to be right but the good news is you can influence them if you think strategically about each one in turn. Read past the list itself: all five seem obvious, but they come to life as he expands on them deeper in the piece. The key message is that good ideas don’t sell themselves no matter how much we wish that was true. So don’t just hope for the best; make it happen. [LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL]

Read More

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.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

In Just 4 Hours, Google’s AI Mastered All the Chess Knowledge in History

In a new paper, Google researchers detail how their latest AI evolution, AlphaZero, developed “superhuman performance” in chess, taking just four hours to learn the rules (with no strategic programming) before obliterating the world champion chess program, Stockfish. “We now know who our new overlord is,” said chess researcher David Kramaley, the CEO of chess science website Chessable, “It will no doubt revolutionize the game, but think about how this could be applied outside chess. This algorithm could run cities, continents, universes.”
[SCIENCE ALERT]

STRATEGY

Grow by Creating Markets, Versus Killing Competitors

This short summary of “Blue Ocean Shift,” W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne’s update to “Blue Ocean,” describes a systematic, five-step approach to creating new markets rather than fighting to the death with your existing competitors. In our experience, the approach works, but even innovative companies struggle with Step 2: building an objective view of the strategic landscape. Their deep connection to existing markets, low risk tolerance, focus on short-term revenue pressure from investors, and rapid executive turn-over, are all factors conspiring against their ability to take the long-term view of their future necessary to build new markets from scratch. [ALLEYWATCH]

BLOCKCHAIN

In Search of Blockchain’s Killer-Apps

“Blockchain has yet to cross the chasm from technology enthusiasts and visionaries to the wider marketplace that’s more interested in business value and applications”. Though most commonly associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain has been getting a lot of breathless publicity for its potential to transform almost any application [we doubt it: blockchain has a massive scaling problem ]. The author speculates that two killer-app categories will benefit most from blockchain: 1. applications involving complex transactions and multiple institutions, and 2. internet security applications for identity management and data sharing. [WALL STREET JOURNAL]

CHEMISTRY | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Retrosynthesis: Here It Comes

Chematica—the MilliporeSigma-owned retrosynthesis software—was put to a DARPA-funded test: could the software produce a better synthesis path for eight molecules of commercial interest? The results: software 8, chemists 0. For seven of the eight targets, Chematica substantially improved synthesis routes (shorter routes, fewer chromatography steps, higher yields, more reproducible) and came from several directions (completely different synthetic approaches, different starting materials, etc.). For the eighth, it did even better, improving the synthesis but also breaking the patented route to the compound. [SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE]

ENERGY | PULP and PAPER

Newly Discovered Cellulose Could Have Applications From Energy to Medicine

A modified version of cellulose polymer was noticed in the extracellular matrix structure of e.coli . The newly identified version of cellulose does not form crystals and is readily soluble in water, making it a more suitable precursor for ethanol production. Because of its function as an extracellular matrix component, this cellulose polymer nurtures infectious bacteria, leading to a follow-on set of experiments inhibiting production of the cellulose in mice. Next stage research will involve introducing the modified cellulose genes into plants for scaled up production. [STANFORD]

Read More

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.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Nokia and Vodafone Will Bring 4G to the Moon

With upcoming, non-governmental space missions delivering two new rovers to the lunar surface, Nokia and Vodafone are partnering to create a 4G base-station on the moon. The Vodafone station will use Nokia hardware to communicate more seamlessly with the rovers as well as stream high-def video back to Earth. [ENGADGET]

BATTERY CHEMISTRY

Investment in Lithium-ion Technologies May Crowd Out Future Innovation

This article highlights how the growth of lithium-ion-based battery infrastructure is creating technological lock-in: in spite of known thermal hazards and the impracticality of lithium-ion for powering airplanes and large trucks, chemistries beyond lithium-ion are facing higher barriers to entry and, thus, less commercial interest. The article suggests policymakers need to respond to lithium-ion lock-in by promoting research and development in high energy density alternatives, like aluminium-air or lithium-sulfur. [BROOKINGS INSTITUTION]

POLYMERS | SUSTAINABILITY

Lego Bricks to Be Made from Plants

Implementing a sustainability roadmap developed in 2015, the Danish manufacturer began production of Lego blocks from bio-based polyethylene. Beginning with the plant-like tree and leaf Lego pieces, the move from ABS to more sustainable materials will start small but looks to provide a different meaning and a sustainable future for “block polymers.” [CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING NEWS]

COMPUTING | BIOMEDICAL DEVICES

Biocomputer and Memory Built Inside Living Bacteria

Reporting on two separate feats in bioengineering, this article recaps original research in which the DNA of e.coli was manipulated to store data and, indirectly, perform basic logic functions. Researchers at Harvard archived a 36×26 pixel GIF in the e.coli DNA and then were able to retrieve the GIF with 90% efficiency and obviously recognizable form. Separately but concurrently at Harvard, a synthetic strand of DNA introduced to e.coli directed the cell to produce a RNA-based “computer” capable of basic logic and programming. [IEEE SPECTRUM]

INNOVATION | CORPORATE STRATEGY

The Five New Forces In Innovation Strategy

The article summarizes some key topics from the Drucker Forum 2017 with a focus on the five new forces outlined by Lean Start-Up pioneer Steve Blank. In addition to discussing the five forces, the article notes the importance of avoiding “innovation theater” by maintaining a healthy innovation pipeline with measured results. [FORBES]

Read More