Posts Tagged ‘world economic forum’

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The World Economic Forum has picked out 36 start-ups which it sees as technology pioneers. The companies and their offerings are indeed impressive, and lend more support to the idea often suggested here that we are in the midst of the greatest industrial/technological revolution to date. There is one problem with the list however: none of the companies is British. It is not practical to describe every one of the 36 companies here. For the full list go to: Technology Pioneers 2014

But here is some of the companies picked out by ‘Investment and Business News’ which seem especially interesting.

A number on the list are working on cures – or at least treatments – in the medical sector. Amongst them are three firms based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Aghios Pharmaceuticals says: “Cancer cells not only consume more nutrients than other cells, they also process them differently.” Agios believes there could be 50 to 100 metabolic enzymes on which various cancers depend for their survival, from which a new wave of cancer therapies could emerge. Another company, BIND, is working on specifically-designed nanoparticles called Accurins, which are programmed to pass through openings in blood vessels at disease sites and bind to specific types of cells and tissues, such as cancer cells, while avoiding detection and attacks by the immune system. And finally there is Bluebird Bio, which is pioneering a way to correct aberrant sections of DNA that cause disease and are passed from generation to generation. The company has identified a way to harness the natural ability of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – a lentivirus – to insert a modified gene into a patient’s own cells. Bluebird uses its lentiviral vectors to transfer functional genes into a patient’s own stem cells, which are capable of changing into multiple cell types, providing the company with the opportunity of treating a wide range of genetic diseases. Er… so that is using the science behind AIDS to manipulate DNA.

Alphabet Energy (California) has developed technology that generates electricity from heat, in the same way that solar panels generate electricity from light. That is wow(ish) idea, but so is this: Cyberdyne Inc (Japan) has developed a robot suit it calls HAL, which is strapped to one or both legs and is designed to support disabled people, who are learning to walk again.

EcoNation from Belgium produces the LightCatcher, which is a solar-powered sensor system that tracks the lightest point in the sky and controls a mirror that optimizes the amount of daylight coming in. The LightCatcher also diffuses light and reflects heat. It claims energy and cost savings typically range from 50 to 70 per cent.

Then there is one that could be straight out of ‘Star Trek’. Second Sight (based in California) has developed an implant which is surgically inserted onto the retina. The patient wears glasses containing a camera; a small computer, worn on a belt, processes signals from the camera, and an antenna on the side of the glasses transmits them wirelessly to the implant. The implant sends electrical impulses to the brain, causing the patient to perceive patterns of light.

Finally, unPartner, from Aix-en-Provence, France, has developed an ultra-thin, 90 per cent transparent photovoltaic cell. It is designed to enable telephones, tablets, building and vehicle windows, billboards and greenhouses to generate electricity from any natural or artificial light source.

It is an impressive line-up., Maybe it is unfair to point at the lack of UK companies; there is no shortage of innovation in UK, including the discovery of graphene. But unfair or not, let’s ask the question: where, oh where, are the Brits on the list? Let’s hope for better things next year.

© Investment & Business News 2013

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According to the latest global information technology report from the World Economic Forum, Finland leads the world in terms of networked readiness.

Singapore is in second slot, then Sweden, then Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, followed by little old Blighty.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say big old Blighty. After all, it is the first country on the networked readiness index with a population in excess of 20 million. In fact a quick back of an envelope calculation (or is that front of an iPhone calculation?) reveals that the entire population of all the countries combined which feature higher up the list than the UK is less than the population of England.

In short, the UK has a greater degree of IT readiness than any other member of the G8.

For what it’s worth, behind the UK on the index is Denmark, then the US, then Taiwan. China is in 58th spot.

But this leaves some questions. According g to Bilbao-Osorio, Senior Economist, Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Network, World Economic Forum, and co-editor of the report: “ICT’s role in supporting economic growth and the creation of high-quality jobs has never come under such scrutiny. Despite initial concerns that ICT would hasten the deployment of resources towards developing countries, the benefits of ICT are now widely recognized as an important way for companies and economies to optimize productivity, free up resources and boost innovation and job creation.” But if that is so, why is it that the UK, despite its lofty position in the index, lags so far behind its most G7 countries for productivity?

“This analysis shows how matching investments in ICT with investment in skills and innovation can help economies cross a ‘magic threshold’, beyond which return on investment increases significantly,” said Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director e-Lab INSEAD. If that is so, why is the UK’s economic performance so dire?

“Digitization created 6 million jobs and added US$ 193 billion to the global economy in 2011. Although in aggregate positive, the impact of digitization is not uniform across sectors and economies – it creates and destroys jobs,” said Bahjat El-Darwiche, Partner at Booz & Company and sponsors of the Report. He added that: “Policymakers wishing to accentuate the positive impact of digitization need to understand these different effects if they wish to act as digital market makers in their economies.” Well maybe he is right. Digitisation does create jobs, but it destroys them too.

That is not to say that digitisation is a bad thing – of course it isn’t – but it is dangerous, and it is uncertain how the global economy will react to the effect of digitisation. But let’s say digitisation will lead to a rise in productivity and productive capacity. A way has to be found for ensuring the profits trickle down into the pockets of consumers, or demand will lag behind capacity. Ways have to be found to get demand to rise, or all that potential may create economic depression.

©2013 Investment and Business News.

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This is no wind up. The last week or so has seen hints. The green shoots may not be big, peeking above the surface like scared mice, but they have been there all the same. So is this for real? Has the recovery begun?

Yesterday on the Andrew Marr Show former Prime Minister John Major said: “Recovery begins from the darkest moment. I’m not certain, but I think we have passed the darkest moment.”

So what’s the evidence?

Earlier this month, data from the ONS revealed another rise in employment – this time up 236,000 in the three months to July. Elsewhere, data on July’s industrial production indicated the biggest jump in this sector for 25 years. The OECD took a look at the G7 and the four big emerging economies (BRICs) and saved its most bullish words for the UK and Brazil, which were the only countries that it said were due to see a pick-up next year.

The round of good news was completed by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which has forecast that 2013 will see the first rise in real incomes for UK households since 2009.

Looking beyond the UK’s borders, markets were c*ck-a-whoop. Both the US Fed and the Euro regions’ central bank – the ECB – have announced QE (or in the case of the ECB QE ish), and at last they are saying central bankers are taking decisive action. A report from ‘Financial Times Deutschland’ suggested that unit labour costs have fallen by 15 per cent in Greece since 2010, with significant falls also seen in Spain and Ireland. Greece saw its current account deficit fall by 54 per cent between 2007 and 2011.

Finally maybe policy makers are learning lessons. Vince Cable is agreeing to relax labour laws in the UK. David Cameron wants to cut down on red tape, and make it easier to gain planning permission. He wants to see an end to dithering.

Then there is the funding for lending scheme.  This is an idea that really seems to have struck a chord across the world, so much so that some economists in the US are now urging the Fed to announce a similar idea.

And finally, the World Economic Forum has released its latest league table showing the world’s most competitive countries. And guess which country moved from number ten on the chart to number eight? Yes, that’s right the UK. The usual suspects did better: Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. But of the G7 only Germany in sixth spot and the US in seventh scored higher.

Recessions are bad, of course they are, but they can have a cleansing effect. They can correct bad habits, get rid of bad ideas, and create economies that are more focused on ideas that work. The UK has had a torrid few years, but maybe it is now set to benefit from the correction.

Well is it? Read on…