space market

Start-ups Marking a Milestone in the Emerging Tug Space Market

The race for space commercialization started with the development of reusable rockets and the lowering of the cost of the launches to make them affordable to a larger number of players. SpaceX completed 61 launches in 2022 alone, within its smallsat rideshare program but now a new market segment started to unfold with the launch of the first space tug.

A space tug is a multi-purpose vehicle used to perform a series of operations in space, such as transferring spaceborne cargo from one orbit to another orbit, adjusting satellites’ positions, or re-supplying other space vehicles. With the space starting to crowd with rideshare flights, the presence of such utility vehicles is the next logical investment in the sector.

Several start-ups, like Launcher, Magdrive, and Epic Aerospace are already competing in the space race by launching as soon as tomorrow space tug missions linked with Transporter-6, the most recent SpaceX mission.

As Launcher’s tug, named Orbiter, will deploy or host payload for 10 separate customers, these initiatives will contribute greatly to developing the new space market for customers that need a specific orbit at a lesser cost than a dedicated rocket launch.

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Dynamic 3D holograms , medTech

One Step Closer to the Use of Dynamic 3D Holograms in MedTech

The 2D imaging methods currently used in the medical field, such as MRI scans, may be replaced in the not-so-distant future with a technology that allows dynamic 3D holograms to enhance the visualization of patients’ interiors and organs.

Researchers at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems (TMOS) are developing a new cheap, energy-efficient, and extremely compact device that can remove the key obstacles to making dynamic 3D holograms.

Though 3D holographic technology already exists, it is cumbersome, as it relies on a combination of several components that make for static and expensive systems. Especially in the medical sector, this limits their adoption and use to large, established hospitals. Therefore, the real challenge for the TMOS researchers was to reproduce these same systems in an optimized device that is sufficiently small to be carried in a pocket.

At the heart of the new device is a vertical nanowire combined with an indium phosphide microring laser made of semiconductor nanostructures, developed using meta-optics and less than 5 microns in size. The experiment – conducted under laboratory conditions and described in a paper published in Laser & Photonics Reviews – demonstrates the effectiveness of this coupling.

“This is the way forward towards low power consumption, on-chip microlasers with tunable emission directionality. This new development removes one of the key obstacles standing in the way of realizing 3D holograms,” said lead researcher Wei Wen Wong. “It is our hope that this novel device will one day be integrated into a device small enough and cheap enough for medical professionals slip into their pocket as they travel to remote areas, allowing full color dynamic holograms to be projected from field operating tables.”

TMOS lead researcher Hoe Tan stated that the next steps in the research will focus on creating a pixel arrangement in which the beam shape and wave front can be individually controlled and dynamically adjusted.

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computer design, electronics, chips, memory

Harnessing spin: Nanoscale electronics enable a new twist in computer design

Recent research at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics has explored the possibility of using the quantum property of spin as the basis for new computer designs.

With advanced materials and nanoscale manufacturing processes, scientists hope to build faster and more energy-efficient random-access memory (RAM) and microchips. While the field of spin electronics, or spintronics, is still a fairly new one, the MIT engineers hope that their work will soon lead to computer configurations and hardware with significantly higher performance.

Spin, or angular momentum, is a fundamental quantum-level property of electrons that can be used to represent binary information. Rather than expressing this through positive or negative electric charge, as in conventional computing architecture, the intrinsic “up” or “down” spin of the electron is used to represent “ones” and “zeros”. The advantage is that changing spin requires much less energy than reversing electric charges. In this way, transistors can be switched faster and using less power, resulting in electronic devices with higher performance and lower energy consumption.

“There are many challenges that we must overcome in our work,” says Luqiao Liu, associate professor at MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. “In spin electronics, there is still a gap between what could be done fundamentally and what has been done so far. There is a lot still to study in terms of getting better materials and finding new mechanisms so we can reach higher and higher performance,” he adds. 

In addition to developing faster microchips, Liu and his collaborators are studying how magnetic properties resulting from quantum-level spin can be harnessed to speed up the retrieval and storage of data from computer memory. Angular momentum makes electrons behave like nano-scale magnets, which makes them suitable for use in computer memories. using antiferromagnetic materials that produce no magnetic fields. This allows them to be packed more densely on a memory device for greater storage capacity. 

Due to the lack of a magnetic field, their spin states can be rapidly switched between “up” and “down” for much faster transistor operations than would be feasible using conventional materials. “In the scientific community, it had been under debate whether you can electrically switch the spin orientation inside these antiferromagnetic materials. Using experiments, we showed that you can,” Liu explains.

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skin vr, touch, feeling, WeTac

Skin VR – Touch Experience in The Virtual World

WeTac, a technology acting as a second skin, collects data about tactile sensations, providing users with a realistic touch experience in the metaverse. The advanced wireless haptic interface system, which can be worn on a hand, could be used in robotics, gaming, various types of training, vr and virtual social activities.

Developed by a research team from the City University of Hong Kong (CityU), the device aims to replace bulky haptic devices that require complicated wire connections, pumps, and air ducts, which limit the immersive virtual reality experience. To address these shortcomings, WeTac was developed based on two main elements: One is a software driver unit, 5cm x 5cm x 2.1mm, that weighs 19.2g and is attached to the forearm and acts as a control panel.

The second component, a hydrogel-based electrode, is 220 µm to 1mm thick and is placed on the hand, being responsible for the haptic interface. The 32 electrotactile stimulation pixels on the palm provide wide coverage allowing for the electroactive feedback to be delivered at the proper intensity range.

Further customization of the feedback parameters is necessary to accommodate users with various levels of sensibility. Still, the research team is confident they will be able to bring to the market a universal tool that will eliminate the major existing bottlenecks in haptic technology.

Talking about the applications of this technology, Dr. Yu Xinge, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at CityU, said: “We believe that this is a powerful tool for providing virtual touching and is inspiring for the development of the metaverse, human-machine interface (HMI), and other fields.”

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cultured meat

The ‘Yuck Factor’: Scientists Explore Consumer Attitudes to Cultured Meat

In assessing the prospects for commercializing cultured meat grown in-vitro from animal stem cells, consumer attitudes are of great interest. In particular, researchers aim to understand (and counteract) the reasons for the “yuck factor”.

After all, what would be the point of developing a product that many or most potential consumers perceive as disgusting and unfit for consumption? Interest in the psychological underpinnings of such perceptions has motivated several studies since the first animal-free beef patty was presented in 2013. As of 2022, researchers seem to have identified the main factors that account for disgust towards lab-grown meat.

According to Paul Rozin, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the leading researchers on disgust, our relationship with meat is generally a turbulent one: “We love it, and we are easily disgusted by it. Cultured meat has to navigate that difficult boundary,” he explains. Thus, our feelings of disgust are driven by the perception of traditional meat as a potential vector for disease and contamination. When it comes to cultured meat, this pre-existing feeling is compounded by distrust of an unfamiliar meat product.

Actually, lab-grown meat is safer than traditionally farmed meat due to its controlled methods of production. However, several studies have shown that the risks associated with artificially produced meat are much less accepted than those associated with natural meat. According to Rozin, this is because the technology is considered “unnatural,” and therefore perceived as less safe and, consequently, repulsive when it comes to food.

Rozin’s findings appear to confirm the results of the research paper “Testing potential psychological predictors of attitudes toward cultured meat ” published in 2019 by Yale University. When participants in that study were asked about their views on cultured meat, most indicated that their primary association was that this food is “unnatural”. “People seem to define something as unnatural perhaps when it looks bad, disgusting, or scary,” explains Matti Wilks, professor of psychology at the University of Edinburgh and one of the study’s authors.

However, the research revealed that the dominant factor in revulsion toward cultured meat is food neophobia, or fear of novel foods: The less accustomed participants are to trying or experiencing new foods, the less willing they are to accept cultured meat and recognize its benefits. Research on consumer attitudes toward cultured meat in four countries, conducted by Supertrends in 2021 in collaboration with experts Yahan Liang, Jessica Büchi, Somya Bansal, Miguel Ángel Caro, and Frank Staedtler, also aligns with these findings.

However, despite the disgust factor among some consumers, the market for cultured meat continues to grow and attract funding worldwide to advance the technology. Moreover, attitudes could to be changing among some consumers and in some parts of the world: In a recent poll conducted in the US, two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents said they would be willing to try cultured meat.

According to this data, the spread of a more accommodating attitude toward these “unnatural” meat products is linked to the pressing challenges of our time, primarily food and environmental insecurity and the rising global economic challenges. In this context, potentially cheaper, more accessible, and more environmentally friendly food sources are welcome, perhaps even to the point of overcoming disgust.

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blockchain, ibm, maersk

Lack of Industry Collaboration – A Major Challenge In Blockchain Adoption

A.P. Moller – Maersk and IBM have announced their decision to discontinue TradeLens, a digital, blockchain-based platform aimed at streamlining data processing in the supply chain and promoting more global trade. According to Rotem Hershko, Head of Business Platforms at Maersk, the reason for this decision is the lack of industry collaboration and failure to reach the expected level of commercial viability.    

IBM and GTD Solution, a division of Maersk, pioneered the TradeLens platform in 2018 with the goal of using blockchain solutions to make global trade more secure and efficient. The platform promised to replace paper trails and lack of cargo visibility with digital documents, digital electronic Bills of Landing, digitized trade documents and audit trails, and real-time critical and shipping notifications. Industry heavies such as Puma, Highland Foods, and Roberto Bucci have already started to implement TradeLens, reporting significant improvements in terms of inventory management, shipment coordination, and custom point-to-point setup.

In a press release issued in June 2021, Sunghub Song, Team Leader at Highland Foods Co. Ltd, said that due to the TradeLens platform, the company’s supply chain had become faster, cheaper, and more transparent. Peter Stockhammer, Senior Manager, LSP Strategy and Management at PUMA, also stated that TradeLens “has helped generate process efficiency savings of approximately 8 hours per week.”

However, the TradeLens platform will be discontinued and taken offline by the end of Q1 2023. Maersk’s Rotem Hershko said the decision had been prompted by commercial considerations: “TradeLens was founded on the bold vision to make a leap in global supply chain digitization as an open and neutral industry platform. Unfortunately, while we successfully developed a viable platform, the need for full global industry collaboration has not been achieved. As a result, TradeLens has not reached the level of commercial viability necessary to continue work and meet the financial expectations as an independent business.”

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Nuclear ‘Microreactor’ Could Supply Power to Remote Consumers

The Westinghouse Electric Company, a US provider of nuclear technology, is developing a design for a reliable, low-maintenance compact heat pipe reactor that could be deployed in remote locations or for other applications requiring autonomous off-grid power generation. Westinghouse claims its eVinci nuclear “microreactor” is disruptive and could help decarbonize electricity production.

The company says the main benefits of microreactor are its solid core and advanced heat pipes, the latter facilitating passive core heat extraction for autonomous operation and load following, i.e., the ability to adapt power output to match demand fluctuations. As such, Westinghouse says, the eVinci has minimal moving parts and almost operates as a “solid-state” reactor. Its compact design means the eVinci can be transported by four trucks carrying the reactor, the electrical conversion system, instrumentation and controls, and additional equipment. The core of the reactor is designed to operate for three years or more, so that it would not require frequent refueling.

The microreactor can generate 5 MW of electricity, or 13 MW of heat, from a 15 MW thermal core. The company notes that waste thermal energy emitted as a byproduct of the power conversion system can power district heating systems or generate low-temperature steam. eVinci could also be used to generate hydrogen, in applications for maritime environments, or for industrial heat. Its passive cooling design using heat pipes eliminates the need for pumps to circulate water or gas. Conventional reactor coolant pumps, reactor coolant systems, primary coolant chemistry controls, and all associated auxiliary systems are replaced by the heat transfer system.

With the eVinci, it would be possible to supply emissions-free power and heat to remote communities, mining sites, data centers, and other consumers that are not connected to the grid or require autonomous generation capacity for other reasons, Westinghouse says. The company hopes to subject eVinci to additional tests between 2023 and 2025 with nuclear fuel at one of the US’s national laboratories. Subsequently, the reactor design could be finalized and a prototype produced for further testing in 2026. While regulatory hurdles remain to be cleared, Westinghouse believes the microreactor will be ready for commercial deployment by 2027.

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climate action, climate finance, COP 27

Climate Finance – Redesigning the Financial Foundations of Climate Action

Representatives of governments and other participants at the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP 27) have agreed on key principles for reforming the financial structures required to promote and sustain climate action. According to guest speakers such as the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), immigration policies, unfair trade, and inadequate finance flows are currently hindering efforts to meet the climate-related goals.

Mottley stressed that developing countries encounter difficulties accessing concessional funding and lack the necessary resources and goods to reach net zero. Okonjo-Iweala cited the power of trade policies to diversify supply chains and promote inclusivity, while the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, stated that private companies should also financially support climate action.

Among the industry leaders that participated in the event, the International Cooper Association (ICA) has pledged to help Africa to minimize grid losses through a newly-launched Grid Efficiency and Resiliency Partnership Initiative. Google has also committed to investing US$1 billion in digitalization projects for Africa.

Introduced in 2018 within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), climate finance includes all types of financing (local, national, and transnational) from public, private, or other alternative sources used to support actions to address climate change. Since large-scale investment is needed to reduce emissions, setting this mechanism in motion is paramount for preventing and mitigating the effects of climate change. Moreover, financial assistance and support provided by wealthier countries for the disadvantaged and more vulnerable ones is an important aspect of climate finance.

The publicly accessible Climate Finance Data Portal shows the financial resources mobilized to support developing countries in their climate actions. Besides public funds, impact investing is an essential source of resources for environmental protection. Such initiatives not only have a positive impact on the global climate, but also offer the opportunity for financial return.

Another financial mechanism promoted as a way of achieving sustainable development goals is blended finance, a public-private partnership that aims to boost the economic potential of countries and increase the speed and scale of the impact on sustainability. Together with other countries, Indonesia has already announced its commitment to using such alternative and innovative financial mechanisms.

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Lab-grown blood cells

Lab-Grown Blood Cells Could Improve Treatment for Blood Disorders

A first-of-its-kind medical trial at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK could open up new avenues for improving treatments for patients with disorders related to blood cells, rare blood types, or people with severe transfusion needs. 

The aim of the “Recovery and survival of stem cells originated red cells” trial is to transfuse lab-grown red blood cells onto human volunteers to test how well such cells survive in the body compared to the standard ones taken from a donor. 

For the trial, the scientists extracted hematopoietic stem cells from adult volunteers and then matured them in lab-grown red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Once filtered to remove the white blood cells, the mature lab-grown cells were tagged with a radioactive marker to allow the scientists to monitor them in the volunteer’s body after transfusion. So far, this procedure has been done on two out of at least ten volunteers, and no side effects have been recorded.

Among the various benefits expected by scientists, the use of lab-grown red blood cells – manufactured to survive longer than standard cells – would allow patients requiring long-term transfusions (such as those with sickle-cell anemia) to reduce the rate of transfusion, thereby reducing the risk of organ damage caused by excessive iron accumulation in the body.

“If our trial, the first such in the world, is successful, it will mean that patients who currently require regular long-term blood transfusions will need fewer transfusions in the future, helping transform their care,” says chief investigator Dr. Cédric Ghevaert, a professor in transfusion medicine and consultant hematologist at the University of Cambridge and National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

Lab-grown cells lend themselves well to being engineered to meet specific requirements, thus showing enormous potential for medical researchers to grow rare blood cells in the lab. The possibility of targeting the antigens that differentiate both the major blood groups (A, B, AB, and 0) and the lesser-known ones, could simplify the challenge of finding the necessary match between donor and recipient to avoid life-threatening immune reactions in the latter.

So far, the trial bodes well, but further participants and research are needed before lab-grown blood cells become a standard in transfusions and meet the expectation of being able to transform care for those suffering from blood diseases.

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Flying car, Dubai, XPeng

Flying Car Successfully Completes First Public Test Flight in Dubai

Flying cars could dramatically change urban transport, freeing up roads and thus making them safer for pedestrians and cyclists and reducing traffic. For those who are still dreaming about replacing the long daily commute with a few minutes of flying, the wait might soon be over. The two-seater flying vehicle made by Chinese company XPeng showed its capabilities by completing its first public test flight at GITEX technology expo in Dubai in mid-October 2022.

With its eight propellers, the XPeng X2 can take off vertically without requiring a runway, which makes it suitable for crowded urban areas. The fully electric car can carry two passengers, and the manufacturer claims it can ascend at a rate of around two meters per second and reach speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (nearly 130 km/h).

Thanks to AI-powered automation, the car can be steered by a person or fly in auto-pilot mode, as well as learn how to avoid traffic and buildings. Although the maiden flight only lasted 90 seconds, XPeng claims that the only obstacle to making the X2 available to the general public is the lack of a regulatory framework for flying cars.

The company intends to collaborate with governments in designing a physical regulatory infrastructure for flying cars in cities, and predicts that flying cars will be used in just five years, at least in limited, regulated spaces. Along the same line, the Chinese government has announced plans to launch flying taxis by 2025.

Worldwide, a number of other companies are currently working on developing flying cars. These include “BlackFly”, developed by the Canadian firm Opener; “SD-03”, developed by SkyDrive Inc; and “AirCar” from Klein Vision, some of which have already completed their first flights.

The main challenges in launching such vehicles on the market are related to governmental regulations on self-driving cars (or the lack of such legal frameworks), as well as public safety concerns and reluctance on the part of consumers to use them.

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Sustainable city planning, digital twins, GIS

The Future of Sustainable City Planning: Combining Digital Twins and GIS

The world population is projected to increase from 8 billion in 2022 to 9.7 billion in 2050. At the same time, inefficient use of land and urban sprawl are among the leading causes of housing affordability problems, transportation and infrastructure challenges, and unsustainable use of resources.

Projects conducted in Uppsala (Sweden), Incheon (South Korea), Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (The Netherlands), and Gwinnett County (Georgia, US) showed that using geographic information systems (GIS) and other data sources in combination with digital twins allows city planners to identify and foresee necessary upgrades to services, as well as test various scenarios and plans to meet the city’s efficiency and sustainability goals. 

As real-time virtual representations of a real-world physical system or process, digital twins used for construction purposes allow architects and specialists in this area to develop digital versions of buildings, cities, networks, and even lands. This technology gives them the possibility to simulate and test various construction options, enrich the data with historical information, weather patterns, topography, demographics, etc., and finally identify the best and most sustainable output in terms of architectural layout, materials, and operations.

Besides these advantages, digital twins based on GIS allow for sustainable city planning and iterating while monitoring real-time the impact of infrastructure work. In an interview with WhereNext Magazine, Marc Goldman, director of industry solutions for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professions at Esri, the global market leader in GIS software, location intelligence, and mapping, lists the benefits of GIS-enabled systems for the AEC industry:

“Understanding the context at that great scale is really important for figuring out where your roadways are going to go and where your bridges are going to be impacting potential neighborhoods. And then there’s the more detailed levels, zooming all the way into an individual building, wayfinding on campuses and within buildings themselves. You enter a building at the front, and you want to know how to get to where you’re going. That building has been designed by an architect who hopefully kept in mind the location intelligence, the complexity or the ease of getting from point A to point B, and GIS is great for that.”

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Retrofitted Hybrid Diesel Engine - hydrogen

A New Retrofitted Hybrid Diesel Engine Runs On 90% Hydrogen

A direct injection dual-fuel system developed at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia allows diesel engines to be converted to run on 90 percent hydrogen. By retrofitting the polluting diesel engines with the hybrid alternative drive, it is possible to operate heavy vehicles and machinery on green hydrogen, a clean energy source generated from renewable power, and reduce their carbon emissions by over 85 percent to 90 g/kWh.

According to Shawn Kook, a professor at the UNSW School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, the hybrid engine could be quickly retrofitted to existing heavy-duty equipment and help bring down their carbon footprint. This is particularly relevant in Australia, where diesel-powered vehicles are a mainstay of the mining industry that accounts for over 10 percent of GDP. 

“We have shown that we can take those existing diesel engines and convert them into cleaner engines that burn hydrogen fuel,” Kook said. “Being able to retrofit diesel engines that are already out there is much quicker than waiting for the development of completely new fuel cell systems that might not be commercially available at a larger scale for at least a decade. With the problem of carbon emissions and climate change, we need some more immediate solutions to deal with the issue of these many diesel engines currently in use.”

In the hybrid solution presented by the Australian researchers, diesel is still used in the engine, but hydrogen fuel is additionally injected directly into the cylinder at just the right moment to resolve harmful nitrogen oxide emissions that have been a major hurdle for commercialization of hydrogen engines. 

Kook explained the advantage of tweaking the combustion process: “If you just put hydrogen into the engine and let it all mix together you will get a lot of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which is a significant cause of air pollution and acid rain. But […] if you make it stratified – that is, in some areas there is more hydrogen and in others there is less hydrogen – then we can reduce the NOx emissions below that of a purely diesel engine.”

The new system, which also improves efficiency by more than 26 percent compared to conventional diesel engines, could be commercialized within 12 to 24 months, according to the UNSW team. Once it is on the market, equipment could be retrofitted with the hybrid solution within months. At that point, the challenge would be to provide an appropriate infrastructure for hydrogen supply and storage. 

“At mining sites, where hydrogen is piped in, we can convert the existing diesel engines that are used to generate power,” Kook said. “In terms of applications where the hydrogen fuel would need to be stored and moved around, for example in a truck engine that currently runs purely on diesel, then we would also need to implement a hydrogen storage system to be integrated into our injection system.”

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Mining, Electrification of heavy-duty vehicles

RWTH Project to Foster Electrification of Heavy-Duty Mining Vehicles

The mining and resource extraction industry plays a vital role in the modern world as a source of raw materials for various sectors of the global economy. However, its ecological footprint often leaves something to be desired – not just in terms of local ecosystems affected by strip mining and pollution, but also based on the greenhouse gas emissions of its heavy-duty vehicles and machinery. A new initiative at RWTH Aachen, one of Germany’s leading technical universities, aims to promote the electrification of this industry and help it become more sustainable while also remaining competitive.

The ELMAR project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economics, is conducted by two RWTH departments, the Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies (AMT) and the Institute for Power Electronics and Electrical Drives (ISEA), with the aim of replacing diesel-powered heavy-duty vehicles in Germany’s domestic extractive industry with battery-operated alternatives. The project began in August 2022 and is scheduled to run until the summer of 2025. The government grant will cover about €6 million out of ELMAR’s overall budget of €11 million.

The project is also backed by a consortium of corporate partners including Volvo Group Trucks Central Europe GmbH, Volvo Construction Equipment Germany GmbH, and Volvo Autonomous Solutions AB (commissioned by VCE Germany GmbH), which will provide electric machinery and vehicles as well as automation solutions. Other consortium members include mining companies operating gypsum, sandstone, and sand quarries and other mineral extraction operations, as well as providers of software, cloud services, and autonomous monitoring systems.

Decarbonizing the extractive industries will require more than just replacing diesel-powered equipment with electric substitutes. The project will consider the challenge holistically, also taking into account how the support infrastructure needs to be adapted, as well as changes to operational processes in an industry that, in Germany, includes around 1,600 companies with 2,700 plants and 23,500 employees in gravel, sand, and natural stone production alone.

Dr. Tobias Hartmann of the Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies at RWTH Aachen explained: “Maintaining process reliability in extraction while ensuring security of electrical supply, as well as coupling it to renewable energy sources, we want to demonstrate in representative application scenarios that electrical transport is possible in domestic resource extraction. The holistic approach taking production, energy demand and energy supply aspects into account makes it possible to optimize existing and upcoming operating concepts.”

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Medtech regulation

Medtech – Reconciling Regulation and Innovation Efforts

Medtech is one of the fastest-growing technology fields, and also one of the most regulated. In the past two years alone, it has grown by 235 percent, developing a broad range of innovations and technologies – in the areas of personalized medicine, algorithm-aided diagnostics, augmented reality, and self-driven healthcare – aimed at improving health and ensuring more equitable, easy, and distributed access to patient care. This proliferation of medical technology has been accompanied by regulatory measures, standards, requirements, and processes to ensure that patients’ safety always remains at the forefront.

According to AND Technology Research CEO Nicole Thorn, the tension between agile technology development and stringent regulation will continue to grow in the future unless a new approach is developed. On the one hand, iterative and dynamic approaches to development are proven to result in better technology. On the other hand, however, a lack of strict regulation in medtech can open the door for under-tested and under-managed systems, devices, and products that can be dangerous and harm patients.

Thorn suggests that regulatory compliance geared toward patient safety could be better aligned with the aim of agile medical innovation by focusing on three areas. The first is to ensure that auditing bodies and regulatory consultants are given better guidance to enable engineering teams to easily combine compliance standards and agile development processes. This would help reduce innovators’ confusion when faced with a cascade of regulations and long lists of product requirements, and allow them to proceed smoothly through all stages of development.

The second suggested area of focus is to leverage technologies to help innovators better understand the requirements. To this end, electronic quality management systems can be employed, although they can be expensive and require special expertise. Decision support algorithms, classification algorithms, natural processing language, and visualization tools are some of the technologies that can support companies in generating documentation, tracking testing, and assembling evidence of compliance.

Finally, Thorn suggests consolidating information sources in one place, as far as possible, to help innovators find information such as relevant contacts of bodies and authorities, submission requirements, ethical approvals, and so on more quickly.

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