President Trump’s Energy Agenda Won’t Stop Renewables’ and Energy Storage’s Momentum

President Trump’s energy agenda’s strongly positive rhetoric around boosting oil and gas production and revitalizing the coal industry will only go so far, as economics in both industries play a larger role. Despite Trump’s political agenda, his actual influence will have an overall moderate impact in the U.S. energy landscape.

In an examination of Trump’s America First Energy Plan, we determined how the Trump administration may impact domestic energy in five segments of the energy landscape – oil and gas, renewable fuels, coal, renewables and storage, and offshore wind.

Continue reading

Are There Opportunities for Biopolymers in the Emerging 3D Printable Materials Market?

3D printing has encouraged printable thermoplastic materials development and facilitated their application in functional prototyping, molds and tooling, and final part production. Only a small subset of these materials come from biological sources, making the production and disposal of 3D printed parts just as concerning for consumers and environmentally conscious businesses as in conventional manufacturing. New biopolymers currently in development for conventional manufacturing can provide interesting opportunities for expanding biopolymer use in 3D printing applications. Continue reading

Biopesticide Patent Landscape Dominated by a Select Few; One Will Soon Be Uncatchable

Biopesticides are en vogue in the world of agtech. Ever since Bayer acquired Agraquest for nearly half a billion dollars in 2012, start-ups have been raising significant money and jockeying for position as attractive partners and/or acquisition targets. The biopesticide market is still small – in the single-digit billions of dollars worldwide (see the Lux Research webinar “Planting Seeds for Future Success“) – but these products continue to take market share from the conventional pesticide market, which is worth more than $50 billion worldwide. While smaller companies like Marrone Bio Innovations and Stockton Agrimor have made headlines by developing promising biologicals, it’s really the world’s leading agrichemical companies that dominate the patent landscape for biopesticides (see figure below). Of the top 10 patent assigned in the biopesticide space, only five major companies and two smaller companies (Marrone and Qingdao Haolite) are represented. Notably absent from this group is Syngenta, a major player in the conventional agrichemical space.

Continue reading

Black Friday Every Day: Walmart Uses Virtual Reality to Train Its Employees

Walmart’s Academy training centers are planning on incorporating virtual reality (VR) as a part of their employee preparation by the end of 2017. The company will use this technology to assist in educating the estimated 150,000 employees that enter the 200 Walmart Academy training centers each year. VR software company STRIVR Labs, along with gaming PC and head-mounted display (HMD) Oculus Rift will be used to showcase the VR training materials. Continue reading

Not All “Digital Drug” Therapies Are Created Equal

Lux recently spoke with Chrono Therapeutics, developer of a digital smoking cessation program that incorporates a transdermal patch for timed drug delivery, a digital compliance platform, and virtual behavioral support. Chrono looks to combine innovation in drug delivery with digital tools to – it claims – double or even triple the quit rate achieved via traditional nicotine patches. Lux has spoken with other companies who characterize themselves, or whom others characterize, as developers of digital drug therapeutics, too; they include Medimetrics Personalized Drug Delivery, Proteus Digital Health, and Pear Therapeutics, and with $47 million invested in Chrono Therapeutics, $40 million in Proteus Digital Health, and $20 million in Pear Therapeutics – all in the last year – the digital drug space is gaining traction. However, through our conversation with David Matley, VP of Business Development at Chrono, a not-less-important insight than the value of digital surfaced: the term “digital drug therapy” is commonly used, though by different parties to mean different things. Continue reading

Rolls-Royce Invests to Make Sure Airlines Arrive on Time, All the Time

Several days ago, Rolls-Royce announced a brand-new “Airline Aircraft Availability Center.” According to a press release from the company, this facility is aimed at ensuring “every aircraft it powers departs and lands on time, every time.” The company monitors about 4,500 jet engines powering commercial airliners, which operate for a combined 14 million hours per year. The company said its new center will employ data analytics to optimize operations and plan and manage maintenance activities. Unsurprisingly, its SVP of Civil Aerospace Services said, “We are entering a new era of digital connectivity and new services technology which allows us to greatly expand the type of services we can offer….” Rolls-Royce also disclosed plans to make this availability center a hub for innovation, deploying new technologies such as “remote surgery” engineering tools; it is aiming to be using robots within the next five years. Continue reading

Ripple Effects of Dieselgate Continue to Negatively Impact Diesel’s Outlook

Once touted as the cleaner alternative to gasoline due to lower CO2 emissions, the use of diesel as a transportation fuel is under intense scrutiny following Volkswagen’s scandal in 2015. Since then, academics and media outlets have publicized the adverse effects of NOx emissions on air quality and public health. In a somewhat knee-jerk reaction, many governments around the world called for an outright ban of diesel vehicles.

Lux Research compiled a non-exhaustive list of cities around the world that announced intentions to ban diesel vehicles. While some cities called for a blanket ban, others are introducing restrictions to limit the number of diesel vehicles, a step we believe will eventually move towards a ban.

Continue reading

ExxonMobil’s Algal Biofuel “Breakthrough” Is Significant – but Not a Real Breakthrough

Last week, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics jointly announced they doubled the lipid content of an algae strain from 20% to 40% without significantly hindering the strain’s growth. The news comes on the heels of the second renewal of their joint research agreement originally started in 2009 and is the biggest breakthrough yet to come out of this partnership. According to the published research paper, the team used the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system to inhibit a gene that suppresses lipid production in the algae.

Lipid content is the most influential factor in the production cost of algal biofuels. We previously estimated the cost of algal fuels at $13.50 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (GGE) for an algae with 25% lipid content. However, increasing the lipid content to 40% only brings the fuel cost down to about $9.40/GGE, still a long way from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s target of $5.00/GGE by 2019. This improvement moves the needle in the development of algal fuels, but many more breakthroughs will be needed for the technology to reach commercial viability. This new development comes at a time where interest in algae fuels sharply collapsed, causing surviving algae developers to pivot into alternative markets. While consumer perception will curb the use of genetically engineered algae strains in food, animal feed may be a promising alternative target market although the technology will struggle to compete with inexpensive fish meal lipid alternatives. ExxonMobil’s and Synthetic Genomics’ announcement steers algal biofuels in a positive direction after years of failed promises but readers should remain cognizant that algae will unlikely be an economically viable technology solely for biofuels.

By: Runeel Daliah and Arij van Berkel

The Clariant-Huntsman Merger: Is Size the Only Thing That Matters?

On May 22, Switzerland-based Clariant and U.S.-based Huntsman announced that the two firms would merge and create a new combined company, the unimaginatively-named HuntsmanClariant. With little business overlap and few technical synergies between the two firms, the prime motivation of the merger is simply to create a larger firm. The combined firm would have had $13.2 billion in revenue in 2016 (excluding Huntsman’s Pigments and Additives business, which is to be spun out as Venator Materials this summer), making it the second largest specialty chemical company in the world behind Evonik at $15.2 billion and just ahead of Covestro also at $13.2 billion. Clariant and Huntsman believe that within the next 10 years, the specialty chemical industry will be dominated by six to eight global companies, each with sales in the $14 billion to $17 billion range. The two firms believe this merger will put them in a strong position to be one of the survivors.

As shown in Figure 1, HuntsmanClariant will consist of eight specialty chemical businesses, four from each company. Over time, the firm may off-load its two lowest-margin businesses, Clariant’s Plastics and Coatings and Huntsman’s Textile Effects. Huntsman had previously attempted to sell Textile Effects as part of its Venator spin-out, and Clariant has floated the idea of selling Plastics and Coating in 2015, and continues to do so.

Continue reading

Checking 3D Printing’s Pulse at the 2017 RAPID+TCT Conference and Exhibit

Lux Research recently attended the RAPID+TCT Accelerating 3D Manufacturing event, which brought more than 330 exhibitors and 4,000 attendees together for four days of keynotes, technical sessions, and networking. RAPID had over 100 more exhibitors than the 2016 event, covering every aspect of the additive manufacturing value chain. From materials suppliers to system providers, here are the top five takeaways with impact assessment, which includes a list of the five most notable companies at this year’s event.

1. Leading chemicals and materials companies were present, demonstrating increased interest in this market opportunity for metals, thermoplastics, and additives. Notable exhibitors included SABIC, Henkel, Covestro, Arkema, Praxair, and Sandvik. Continue reading