The 5 Most Promising Clean Technologies of 2014

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The high cost and growing scarcity of resources have required clean tech companies worldwide to put on their thinking caps—inventing new solutions to help individuals and businesses maximize the resources available, better manage their costs and minimize their environmental impact.

2014 was a good year for clean tech, with several innovative companies worldwide finding impressive market traction and experiencing phenomenally successful financing rounds. From biofuels and waste treatment to energy management tools that utilize the power of the web, cleantech is a category on the rise—one where innovation is consistent and adoption is inevitable.

Here’s a look at a few technologies that are helping to drive this ever-expanding market category.

1. Next Generation Plastics

An Amsterdam-based company called Avantium has developed a unique sugar-to-furanics technology that will allow for the easy and inexpensive production of bio-based PEF plastics that can replace most petrochemical materials, like those used in bottles, films and fibers.

Their renewable chemicals have drawn impressive financing ($50 million) that will allow Avantium to build their firstcommercial PEF scale plant. They are also gaining traction with some of the biggest consumers in the plastics industries, like Coca-Cola and Danone.

bio plasticsAs this technology offers the potential to replace many petrochemical materials with renewable feedstock, it could be a game changer for consumer packaged goods manufacturers, among others. For this reason, Avantium is definitely a company to watch.

2. Robotics Technology

Robotics technology is quickly gaining traction in the clean tech space, with more and more companies finding new, cost-saving, energy efficient applications.

QBotix is one example. They’ve createQbotixd a technology called Solbot that’s designed to optimize the productivity of solar panel plants. The system relies on autonomous, mobile robots that automatically adjust the positioning of solar panels in real-time to ensure that the maximum amount of energy is retrieved through each solar installation. They are dustproof, waterproof and can operate in extreme conditions, allowing for impressive durability and the ability to last over the 20-year plus lifespan of a solar installation.

Another example is Finland’s ZenRobotics, a developer of robotic recycling systems that use artificial intelligence-enabled waste sorting.

zenroboticsReleased in November, the ZenRobotics Recycler (ZRR) device reclaims valuable raw materials from waste with the help of advanced machine learning technology. It uses multiple sensors (like visible spectrum cameras, NIR, 3D laser scanners, haptic sensors, etc.) to create an accurate real-time analysis of the waste stream.

Based on this analysis, the system makes autonomous decisions on what objects to pick and how. It is the world’s first robotic waste sorting system and offers enormous potential to reduce waste within the construction and demolition industry.

3. Dynamic Windows

Buildings are the largest source of energy consumption in the world—and energy lost through today’s inefficient window stock accounts for around 30% of the heating and cooling energy expended in buildings in the U.S.

Dynamic, smart windows manufactured by SageGlass, Pleotint, and View Inc. offer convenient solutions to this problem. Their technologies give commercial building managers the opportunity to better manage energy consumption and preserve heating resources with virtually zero effort.

For our purposes, we’ll focus on View’s energy-efficient Dynamic Glass. View’s windows tint electronically in response to the outside environment, helping to control the inside temperature of commercial buildings. The glass can be programmed to adjust different facades of the customer’s building at different times of the day. Additionally, when the sun moves or the weather changes, View’s algorithms can predict it and change the window tint automatically.

view windowsThese windows are powered by electrochromic technology, in which a low-voltage electrical current is applied to the window to change its color in order to reflect or absorb light. This tinting can cool or warm a room—helping save energy by cutting down on air conditioning and heating. According to their CEO, Dr. Rao Mulpuri, View windows can save 20% on heating and cooling system costs, 20% on lighting costs and can reduce peak load by 25%.

View Dynamic Glass has already been featured in 145 projects across North America and offers a great way for commercial buildings to earn LEED points, while saving on energy costs.

4. The Connected Home

UK-based company, AlertMe, has developed a smart energy and home monitoring system that allows users to control energy usage in all appliances. Their system enables users to connect to their home’s broadband and remotely controlled household devices, helping them cut their domestic energy consumption and costs.

alertme

They already serve over 500,000 homes in the U.S. and U.K., connecting over 50 devices from 22 different brands into a single home ecosystem. Providing personalized energy analytics, their technology helps smart meter and pre-smart meter customers understand their energy bills and how to save. Then, using dynamic data such as weather and home profiles, the system delivers personalized customer energy reports, both online and offline.

The AlertMe system also offers improved energy control—allowing for connected control of home heating, cooling and hot water so that customers can remotely monitor and control their home comfort. It can also connect to boilers, thermostatic radiator valves and under-floor heating—offering a streamlined approach to managing energy consumption throughout a customer’s entire home.

5. Intelligent Energy Storage

Based in Millbrae, CA, Stem provides energy optimization services that combine big data, predictive analytics and energy storage to reduce electricity costs for businesses.

They can deliver significant electricity bill savings through their integrated solution of cloud-based predictive software and advanced energy storage. Their system reduces peak loads, predicts their customers’ energy usage patterns and deploys stored energy (through their battery system) at precise times when electricity costs are highest—with no change in business operations required.

stemStem is well-financed —with their last equity financing round topping out at  $27 million, plus another $935k through the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. They also have strong partnerships in place with companies like Kyocera, Adobe and numerous utility companies nationwide, which will no doubt help to speed up widespread adoption.

While this is just a glimpse into a few notable technologies, new clean tech innovations are seemingly emerging every day—offering the possibility to change the way we consume energy, alter our definition of “waste” and help us maximize our resources, potentially for years to come.

 

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

Innovation Best Practices: 4 Tips from the 5 Most Patented Companies

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In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, innovation has become critical for companies both big and small. The question is: how do we quantify innovation?

While companies like Google and Apple may appear to be among the most innovative in the public eye, neither company cracked the top 10 in terms of invention output in 2013 by number of patents earned.

Of course, patents are not necessarily the sole indicator of a company’s innovation level, but they do offer one of the few publicly available metrics. According to the U.S. Patent Office, these were the most heavily patented companies in 2013:

  • IBM: 6,478 patents
  • Samsung: 4,676 patents
  • Canon: 3,825 patents
  • Sony: 3,098 patents
  • Microsoft: 2,660 patents

In many instances, the companies at the top of this list have reliably maintained their position—like IBM, which has earned the top spot for the last 21 years, or Canon, which has been in the top five for the last 20 years. So how are patent leaders keeping their edge? Here, we’ll explore the strategies and practices of these five patent giants to unearth the common threads that are consistently driving patent output, year after year.

1) Explore Alternate Applications to Build a Larger, More Diverse Portfolio.

Although each of the companies we mentioned is known for a particular type of product (e.g., Sony for consumer electronics), they actually hold patents that can be applied to a variety of industries.

For example, Canon discovered that one of the technologies they developed for use in its personal, handheld cameras could be used in a new endoscopic medical procedure. Canon’s research has stretched across industries to find additional patentable, profitable uses; they’ve also made some remarkable advances in robotics technology that they’ve patented for use in a variety of applications.

So while you may be exploring technologies that support only your core offering, don’t ignore their potential for unexpected and unintended applications.

IBM wholeheartedly embraces this idea in their patent strategy. Michael Karasick, a vice president and computer scientist at the IBM Almaden Research Center has commented that IBM patents typically cover “reusable technologies that can be applied to various disciplines.” Case in point: their Watson technology, which is being explored for a diverse set of applications—from medical uses to fueling cloud-based apps.

2) Form Smart, Mutually Beneficial Partnerships to Accelerate Innovation.

Companies like Canon are beginning to form strong strategic partnerships with other innovative companies with desirable IP portfolios. They recently signed a patent sharing agreement with Microsoft, leading many to believe that Canon’s camera technology may soon be powering all of Microsoft’s future devices.

“This collaborative approach with Canon allows us to deliver inventive technologies that benefit consumers around the world,” Microsoft IP Licensing general manager Nick Psyhogeos said in a statement. “Microsoft believes cooperative licensing is an effective way to accelerate innovation while reducing patent disputes.” In the agreement, Canon also gains the right to use some of Microsoft’s intellectual property.

Samsung is forming a similar patent cross-licensing agreement with Cisco. Each company gains access to the other’s industry leading patent portfolio, covering a broad range of products and technologies. “Innovation is stifled all too often in today’s overly-litigious environment,” said Dan Lang, Cisco’s Vice President of Intellectual Property. “By cross-licensing our patent portfolios, we are taking important steps to reverse the trend and advance innovation and freedom of operation.”

Sony also has several patent cross-licensing agreements in place with Technicolor, Aptina and Rovi.

3) Invest Heavily in Research and Development.

If innovation is your end game, your R&D department is your ticket there. IBM spent more than $6 billion a year on R&D globally from 2010 to 2012, with more than 8,000 inventors in 47 U.S. states and 41 countries contributing to their 2013 patents.

Additionally, they are aggressively investing in research for their Watson supercomputer, famously known for defeating human Jeopardy! champions in 2011. They’ve allocated $1 billion in R&D for that project alone, believing that further research will uncover a wide variety of profitable applications, including pharmaceutical drug development and testing.

Microsoft has also beefed up its R&D funding. They increased their investment in research and development from $9 billion in 2011 to more than $10 billion in 2013. As a result, they increased their patent output by nearly 9%, jumping from the #6 spot in 2011 to #5 in 2013.

4) Maximize Employee Collaboration.

IBM faciliates the formation of multidisciplinary innovation teams with a diverse set of skills and perspectives across various industries. Each team generally includes computer scientists, mathematicians and statisticians, but they add additional team members depending on the market vertical. For health care, they may include biologists, geneticists and medical researchers; and for oil and gas research, teams may include geologists and geophysicists. This collaboration among researchers helps IBM discover new ways of applying technology to real world problems.

Sony has deployed technology to better aid their global employee population in collaborating and communicating. They created more efficient tools for sharing information and more advanced tools for navigating this information database—helping employees tap into the expert resources within the company. They also added wiki capabilities to capture employees’ insights and comments, as well as search features to help new employees identify people who have similar innovation interests or work on similar projects. These features have helped employees work and collaborate more effectively, helping Sony better leverage the potential of its employees for innovation.

While the term “innovation” may be somewhat subjective, patents provide a concrete way to demonstrate invention output—which in turn, can help companies evaluate progress and assert industry leadership.

When patents are leveraged correctly, they can also be a source of significant profit, helping you extract more value out of your portfolio. IBM earns $1 billion a year from licensing agreements and Microsoft earned about $3.4 billion from its Android patents in 2013 alone! It’s this combination of high invention output and smart strategy that’s helping these companies stay at the top of their game.

Luckily, smart tools like Decipher Innovation make it easy to combine the two— helping your company make faster and better decisions. From speeding up the invention disclosure process to facilitating more effective global collaboration, Decipher provides companies with the tools they need to maximize their innovation potential.

*All trademarks used belong to their respective owners. Innovation Asset Group is not affiliated with them and all information provided comes from publicly available sources.

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

Ideas For Good: 10 New Medical Innovations That Are Saving and Improving Lives

Ideas for Good

Scientists and inventors today are developing new medical technologies with unprecedented speed and innovation. These new tools enable doctors to diagnose and treat disease and injury in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

These new discoveries in medicine are a perfect demonstration of one of our passions—how innovation can create tangible solutions to problems once thought insurmountable. Let’s have a look at 10 new medical technologies that are changing the field of medicine, improving and extending lives in the process.

1. Cancer Immune Drugs

Scientists have long puzzled over the fact that the immune system seems unable to attack cancer cells. But in uncovering the reason behind that inability, researchers have discovered a way to use the body’s own defenses to battle cancer.

It turns out that cancer cells are able to build a protective shield against the immune system—making it impossible for the immune system to detect and kill them. However, scientists have developed a new drug that breaks down the protection, enabling the immune system to battle cancer cells directly.

In studies, the drugs have been found to help patients with melanoma and kidney, lung, breast, ovarian, and colon cancers, among others. And interest in the new drugs is rising—Science Magazine named cancer immunology its “Breakthrough of the Year” in 2013.

2. 3-D Printing of Synthetic Body Parts

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Medical researchers have successfully used 3D printing to create artificial human body parts. Cornell scientists printed an artificial ear that looks and acts like a natural ear, researchers at MIT are printing bones that are durable, lightweight, and environmentally sustainable, and a San Diego company plans to unveil a printed human liver this year—the world’s first printed organ.

The new technology enables researchers to create bone, tissue, and even organs with the same functionality as their natural counterparts. These artificial human body parts have a huge range of potential—from correcting congenital deformities to healing broken bones to providing organs for the thousands of people awaiting donations.

3. Human-Powered Medical Equipment

Researchers are harnessing new ways to use the human body to power critical medical technologies. Scientists at the University of Michigan created a device that harnesses electricity from a beating heart to power a pacemaker. This technology could eliminate the need for surgeries to replace pacemaker batteries—expensive surgeries that patients with pacemakers must currently undergo every seven years.

In yet another example, researchers recently created a device that harnesses the electrical potential of the inner ear to power a tiny radio. Eventually, they hope to use this electrical potential of the ear to power a cochlear implant, enabling a self-powered hearing aid.

4. Responsive Neurosimulators

For the 2.8 million Americans with epilepsy, seizures are disruptive, anxiety-producing, and sometimes dangerous. In fact, the risk of dying for a person with epilepsy is 1.6 to 3 times higher than the general population.

For patients with intractable epilepsy, the current treatments available have failed to control their seizures, but a new neurological device could change that. The device, which is surgically implanted, detects the triggers of an impending seizure and delivers short electrical pulses to interrupt them before symptoms occur. A clinical study reported a 38% reduction in seizure frequency in the treatment group, compared to a 17% reduction in the control group. And amazingly, the results continue to improve with time.

5. Gene Therapy

genomic testing

Gene therapy is emerging as a viable way to treat medical conditions, especially those that result from a single defective gene. In gene therapy treatment, scientists transplant normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective cells to correct genetic disorders.

Studies have found gene therapy to be effective in treating patients with leukemia and other blood disorders. In fact, two patients who were given Bluebird Bio’s experimental gene therapy for the rare blood disorder beta-thalassemia were able to stop receiving blood transfusions within 12 days of receiving the treatment.

6. The Bionic Eye

bionic_eye

In 2013, the FDA approved a new technology featuring a retinal prosthesis —often known as the “bionic eye.” Its successful creation is one of the most recent and groundbreaking advances in bionic technology yet.

The device can treat retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes most patients to be legally blind by age 40. A tiny camera in the patient’s glasses captures images and converts them into electrical pulses. The optic nerve then transmits the pulses to the brain. While it doesn’t restore normal vision, the device allows patients to identify people and objects and detect light and dark.

7. Genomic Testing

Aggressive cancer treatments can do more harm than good. But new tests have the potential to transform the ways physicians diagnose and treat cancer. Genomic tests focus on groups of genes in an individual’s tumor to predict how it will behave.

One test helps determine whether chemotherapy is advisable in certain breast cancer cases, or if the patient will benefit from hormonal therapy alone. Another test looks at the gene activity in a tumor sample to determine the likelihood that colorectal cancer will reoccur. And this type of testing is on the rise–in 2013, the FDA approved a new genomic test for prostate cancer.

8. Anti-Bleeding Gel

anti_bleeding_gel

VETI-GEL™ was, incredibly, developed by a 20 year NYU undergrad student. It is a gel made from plant polymers that instantaneously stops bleeding without needing to apply pressure. It takes just a fraction of a second for the gel to activate the body’s own clotting process, creating a durable clot over the wound site, which can control mass bleeding easily and effectively. It is capable of controlling both internal and external bleeding, and in tests it has been demonstrated to control a wide variety of wound sizes.

The substance can be stored at room temperature which gives it the potential to be included in first aid kits, taken on hikes to remote locations, even used in war zone clinics. It’s an effective, immediate solution to trauma care that has the potential to save millions of lives. Right now, it has been approved for use in veterinary care and it is awaiting FDA approval for human use.

9. Oral Treatment for Hepatitis C

hep_c

Historically, patients with hepatitis C have had to endure lengthy treatments (up to 48 weeks) with difficult-to-tolerate drugs. Now, a new drug called Sofosbuvir (brand name: Sovaldi®) hopes to change all of that.

It is the first all-oral treatment for hepatitis C and it has been shown to improve treatment response rates by 90% or higher, with far fewer side effects than the alternatives. Having secured FDA approval and with doctors calling it a “game-changer,” the prospect of curing patients suffering from hepatitis C seems more viable than ever.

alivecor-heart-monitor10. Medical applications for Smart Phones

Our final look at new medical technologies is one you likely already have in your possession—your smart phone. Developers are moving beyond tracking exercise and calorie consumption to exploit the potential of smart phones to improve health.

New developments include a remote stethoscope that can transmit your heart rhythm to your doctor, a wristband that detects nutrients released into your bloodstream as they are broken down during and after your meals, and an iPhone case with electrodes that lets you send your heart data directly to your doctor.

These new technological developments are changing the landscape of medicine—reducing costs, creating breakthroughs in treatment and potentially saving lives.

Stay tuned for more articles from our Ideas for Good series and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Great inventors are, by nature, problem solvers. When their talents are put toward ideas for good, the possibilities are truly endless. Which of these technologies is most exciting to you? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for more articles from our Ideas for Good series. 

*All trademarks used belong to their respective owners. Innovation Asset Group is not affiliated with them and all information provided comes from publicly available sources.

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

The True Value of Intellectual Property: How the Information Revolution is Driving the Ascendance of IP

Commercialization and Licensing

Today’s marketplace demonstrates a marked shift from an industrial to an information economy. Competitive advantage and profit does not simply come from material assets. Instead, ideas are king.

There is increased pressure on companies to generate new and original ideas that can be capitalized on in order to remain competitive. What’s unusual about this shift is that a company’s value has moved from an emphasis on material assets to intangible assets.

But when assets are intangible, how do we measure their value? That is precisely where intellectual property rights come into play.

Hidden Wealth

IP turns intangible assets into exclusive property rights, which can then be exploited to their maximum potential. When your company’s ideas are protected by IP law, they acquire concrete value, as they become property rights which cannot be commercialized or used without your authorization.

Intellectual property rights themselves are not inherently valuable. Rather, their value comes from the strategic advantage afforded by their exclusivity. Simply put, IP makes intangible assets a bit more tangible by transforming them into valuable, exclusive assets that can be leveraged.

The Real Value of Intellectual Property

So how valuable is IP? In some industries like telecom, pharma and software, intellectual capital represents at least 50% of a company’s market value. For some companies, IP assets are actually worth significantly more than their physical assets.

According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report from March 2012, U.S. intellectual property today is worth approximately $5.06 trillion—equivalent to 35% of the GDP. A more recent and comprehensive Sonecon report suggests that the total value of patents, copyrights, and the R&D that produces them is a staggering $9.2 trillion.

These figures demonstrate just how valuable a company’s competitive advantage can be. Whether your products offer unique functionality, improved efficiency or more desirable aesthetics, IP can help them achieve a marketable value, helping you surpass competitors and building equity in your brand as the exclusive provider of these offerings.

Conversely, when your ideas are not legally protected by IP rights, they may be freely and legally used by any other enterprise without limitation. That means that the concrete value and competitive advantage that comes with exclusivity is lost. Now that a company’s balance sheet is no longer limited to material goods, this loss is simply not an option.

In today’s information economy, it is more critical than ever to safeguard your company’s intangible assets. Since IP now constitutes a significant part of your company’s value, it is an essential tool for preserving your market position and ensuring your long-term competitive viability.

What is your company doing to protect its intellectual property? And how large a role does IP play in your long-term growth strategy? Let us know in the comments below.

Great inventors are, by nature, problem solvers. When their talents are put toward ideas for good, the possibilities are truly endless. Which of these technologies is most exciting to you? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for more articles from our Ideas for Good series. 

*All trademarks used belong to their respective owners. Innovation Asset Group is not affiliated with them and all information provided comes from publicly available sources.

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

ViaSat and Space Systems/Loral settle intellectual property dispute

Intellectual Property Management

Satellite company ViaSat recently settled for $100 million with Space Systems/Loral, the company that built its first satellite and proceeded to use the technology to create competing satellites. Both companies create satellites for telecommunications purposes.

A U.S. District Court jury in San Diego found in April that Space Systems had breached a nondisclosure agreement with ViaSat, and had infringed three ViaSat patents. A second patent infringement suit was set to go to trial in 2016, but the settlement brought an end to both suits.

"We have worked hard and invested much to prove that ViaSat created and owns the critical enabling technology of the first generation of high-capacity satellites built by SS/L, including ViaSat-1, Jupiter-1 and others still being manufactured and identified in the referenced suits," Rick Baldridge, president and COO of ViaSat, said in a release.

The company's latest satellite is being manufactured by Boeing and will be launched in mid 2016, according to The Times of San Diego. Space Systems/Loral is protected from further lawsuits on an intellectual property or breach of contract basis by the settlement.