Eulogy Logo The Spark: Innovation Inspiration for Leaders 
23rd March 2017  
  lab-grown chicken 

A lab grown meat maker is flexing its muscles with the launch of the first animal-free, lab-grown pieces of chicken and duck.


Made by culturing animal cells, Memphis Meats announced the alt-flesh with an environmentally friendly message: it could overcome animal welfare and CO2 emissions concerns related to eating meat. Said to be almost as tasty as the real thing but spongier in texture, unfortunately it will set you back more than a bucket of KFC; a kilo of the stuff currently costs or about £3,300. However, the price is likely to fall in the future.

California-based Memphis Meats isn’t the only start-up aiming to cut down on our reliance on traditional meat. Mosa Meats, created by Dr. Mark Post, a researcher in Maastricht, Netherlands, hit the headlines in 2013 when it made a lab-grown burger.


It too had a beefy price tag of £250,000 originally, but that reduced dramatically to £10 in two years. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat also sell plant-based beef and chicken that taste eerily similar to the real deal.


The start-ups all hope to disrupt the global £598 billion global meat industry, by offering meat alternatives that taste as good as the original. It’s no wonder that all of the firms use the ecological sell, as meat farming is harsh on the environment. Lab-grown meat is more green, using only 55% of the energy, 1% of the land and emitting only 4% of the greenhouse gases that farm-grown meat does.  


Unless consumers are ready to eat worms – insects are touted as one of the ways to solve a looming protein crisis – perhaps we could see the rise of a McDonalds or KFC rival that offers a clean conscience spin on one of our favourite guilty eats.

   Surfaces into 

The display market is projected to top £125 billion in 2020, so what will happen when augmented reality and holography turn every surface into a “screen”?

Sony might be trying to answer that question with the upcoming launch of its Xperia Touch projector in Europe this spring. It will turn any flat surface, such as walls, tables or even kitchen counters, into an interactive 58-cm touchscreen. By combining infrared light with a built-in camera, the projector is designed to be fast and fluid, allowing users to interact with the projection as they would with any other touchscreen.

While the Xperia currently supports gaming, streaming video and Skype calls, Sony is pushing for more unique use cases, allowing designers and developers to create unforeseen applications at the intersection of display and architecture, just as Microsoft has mooted with its Hololens. While that technology is 3D but requires a clunky headset, the Xperia display is 2D but doesn’t require a headset or glasses.

At SXSW last week, Sony programmed its prototype to recognise a copy of Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland. When the company's representative opened the book, it sprung to life with animations that can be dragged off the page and then used to interact with nearby physical objects like a teacup or deck of playing cards.

It's not hard to imagine Sony's device as an educational tool to turn novels or history books into animated interactive lessons — or just as a fun way to play games in any environment.

   Need a hug?  
   Try a smart jacket 

A smart denim jacket, unveiled at the 2017 SXSW conference by Dutch fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, strokes the wearer's back in response to touch. She weaved conductive fibres into the fabric of the Issho jacket, connecting a series of sensors with motorised parts. When the sensors register touch on various parts of the garment, an integrated component reacts to give the wearer a "gentle stroke" on their upper back.


Pauline explains that the jacket registers social interactions like “meeting people” or “being hugged.” If the user is constantly removing their smartphone from their pocket, the jacket counts that as well.


The unisex jacket is designed to wrap around the wearer like a cocoon, with a high collar to enhance the feeling of security and a zip on the lower back that opens to create more room.


Issho works without a smartphone, which "was done deliberately to move away from utilising gadgets as interface". Instead it features its own microcontroller that turns on when it senses the jacket is being worn.


Previously, van Dongen has created smart clothing that corrects your posture, detects how well a senior is moving, and that uses solar power to charge your phone.


As we see more Internet-of-Things smart devices which work independently of smart phones, we need to understand that the smart phone interface doesn’t always translate to things, nor should we be trapped in that thinking.

   Denmark just ran  
   on wind energy 

We’re experiencing a global energy shift, and we hit the latest powerful innovation milestone just a few weeks ago, with Denmark successfully powering the entire nation from wind power.


The nation was able to generate 97 gigawatt-hours of energy solely from wind turbines. The total combined power generated within this 24-hour period is enough to power 10 million average homes in the EU. With this achievement, Denmark officially broke the record for the most energy generated by a single turbine in a 24-hour period.


Many European countries have been sharing similar accomplishments. Scotland has been investing heavily in renewable energy with wind turbines that could power every household for an entire month. Last year, the country also launched the world’s first large-scale tidal power farm that has the potential to power 175,000 homes.


Wind Europe spokesman Oliver Joy said: “In 2016 we saw the UK was powered without coal for 12 and a half hours, Germany went some days on renewable, and Portugal went four straight days on renewable. It shows energy transition is underway in Europe and arguably further ahead than anywhere else in the world.”


Outside of Europe, Costa Rica is one of the most impressive countries to look at in terms of renewable energy.


It is able to run entirely on renewable energy for months at a time. In fact, in 2015 the country met 99 per cent of its total energy need from renewable sources alone.


With coal currently in freefall, innovation in the energy sector has a sizeable opportunity.




   Can Alexa now  
   replace your GP? 

Alexa, and self-diagnosis website, Web MD, have teamed up to offer Amazon’s virtual home assistant medical diagnosis capabilities. Now Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Fire TV users can ask Alexa basic health queries, such as "Alexa, ask WebMD how to treat a sore throat.”

It’s not the first Alexa app to let you actually simulate a doctor visit right from your couch. In the US, start-up, HealthTap, uses the combined knowledge of the company’s 107,000 doctor network to offer health assistance via video, text or voice. The proprietary triaging system funnels patients first into a searchable knowledge database, then through to text chats with doctors, followed by video chats and eventually referrals to the right doctor for the patient’s issue. Though US-based, HealthTap has recruited UK doctors for local patients, and uses an algorithm to address culture and terminology differences.   


This seems to be the beginning of a surge of disruptive innovators trying to create an opportunity from the problem of wasted annual healthcare spend: £2bn a year in the UK; $20bn (AUD) in Australia; and $1 trillion in the US.


There are many areas of healthcare ripe for innovation. Doctor visits for commonly treated or chronic conditions still require patients to come to the office and wait, often for hours, to be seen.

In the UK, we have tried to use “physician extenders,” such as nurse practitioners, to lighten doctors’ workloads. However, enabling patients to access validated and shared healthcare data and information, followed by convenient interaction with a network of available doctors through online platforms or video conferencing could be more effective.

With increasing patient access to smart devices – both mobile and in the home – there’s a massive opportunity for virtual healthcare to treat those patients from home.


"Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day…" – Jeff Bezos



According to X-Prize Founder, Peter Diamandis, in the early days at Amazon they created a standard experimental platform that was available to almost everyone – meaning, if somebody wanted to test a new button or new feature on the website, they could. The problem was that many of these experiments were useless.

Uber’s Chief Product Officer (and ex-Amazon), Jeff Holden, said of these experiments: "They had no chance of yielding any value. There wasn't any point to them. We were just kind of curious. We were just running a lot of experiments – which have a cost, by the way – and were taking up experimental slots [so others couldn't experiment], and things started colliding with each other."


Amazon’s solution, says Diamandis, was to create an 'Experiments Group' – if you wanted to do an experiment, you had to run it through this group. The first question the group would ask was: What's your hypothesis? The second question: What's the value proposition to our company?

Almost all of the innovations featured in this week’s The Spark exhibit the same spirit of experimentation but with the commercial focus the Experiments Group demanded. The collisions of sensors and fabrics, projectors and doctors, of stem cells and chicken restaurants, and turbines and wind are all strange, yet they have a clearly thought-through commercial application in markets that are ripe for disruption.

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