Tesla's PowerWall is the first mass-produced individual electric storage solution to hit the market. But does it offer any true ecological benefit? Is it cost-effective enough to be sustainable? Two specialists discuss these issues.
China has joined the race. The rapid development of civil uses, such as monitoring pollution and transportation flow, has allowed new players to emerge, aside from large military programs. Applications will drive the growth of this industry, along with technology advances and falling prices. It is still too early to say whether UAVs can be applied on a large scale and overhaul the traditional industries. But some companies are already valued at US$10 billion. Shall we expect consolidation? What is going to be the killer application?
It is a paradox: despite huge oil reserves supporting their wealth, Norwegians have become, in a few years, the first users of electric vehicles. These represent 18% of new registrations since the beginning of 2015! The key to this unprecedented growth, nowhere else to be found, is their convincing policy of incentives... so convincing, in fact, that its designers have been overwhelmed by its success: the model is bound to evolve.
As crowdfunding becomes more accepted, it's moving into new areas. One with a lot of promise: commercial real estate, where deals under $10 million are not worth the efforts of big investors, says Dan Miller, co-founder of Fundrise. These large investors do not want to have a lot of $1 million investments, they won't be able to manage it. That has left an opening for crowdfunding firms like his.
In February Elon Musk boldly predicted Tesla motors would go where no car company has ever gone before, to a $700 billion market valuation by 2025. To put that in perspective, Apple became the most valuable company in history when it reached a $700 billion market valuation in November 2014. Compared to the automobile industry, $700 billion dwarfs the market value of the five biggest public automobile companies. Together, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford and Honda have a market cap of just $522 billion. Is Elon Musk crazy? Or is he planning something only he can see?
Wind turbine and solar power sources now represent a significant fraction in the electricity generation mix of industrialized countries. How did they achieve such a breakthrough successfully? European countries use differing models, which all show their limits, for transition from a subsidy-intensive economy to a market-driven logic is complex. The question remains: will renewable energy sources soon be proven profitable?
Today, manufacturers operate in a harsh competitive environment. How can they maintain and develop their competitive edges? What kind of industrial policy can help them when facing this challenge?
A slew of new product introductions indicate virtual reality technology is coming into its own - but it's a sector that is still waiting for a breakthrough product to win over consumers.
In an industrial facility, the key-concept is reliability. It is all the more true in utilities such as electric power companies, since one must be able to trust the electricity provider 24/7, year in, year out. It is even crucial when it comes to nuclear power production, where one should expect high sustainability and total safety. In this industry, rigorous mastering of the production tool is thus a necessary condition for the technical and economic performance. The heart of this industrial model is engineering.
New digital upstarts are threatening the bottom lines, growth prospects, and even business models of traditional service providers. It’s time for incumbents to innovate... or be left behind.
Compared to the evolution of the Maker Movement in Western countries, China has already formed a much larger bottom-up ecosystem, manifesting the ultimate goal of the Maker Movement - democratizing innovation. We call it the New Shanzhai, after the Chinese word for copycat. The question is, what will happen when these two worlds meet together?
3D printer manufacturing technologies are not new, but what is new is increasing accessibility that follows suit to marketing of small printers at affordable prices. This democratization both fascinates and worries creators and designers as well as decision makers. Often described as the vector for a 3rd industrial revolution, 3D printing, however, does raise questions when it comes to intellectual property rights that the technology may undermine. Certain already existing technical and legal solutions could accompany more extensive use. Nonetheless, there will necessarily be a change in paradigm.
Delocalization and automation are now impacting the service sector, with noteworthy consequences on employment in developed countries. Even in the case of highly intellectual activities, a number of inherent tasks can be codified and pre-programmed; some of the processes involved can be automated just like similar industrial applications. The tasks can be automated or executed remotely. Notwithstanding, not all services can be delocalised. It is in the interest of any territorial entity (conurbation, region, city…) seeking to define its strategy for future development or reconversion, to identify and indeed reinforce those services that offer clear competitive edges.
Electronic devices have become pervasive in our household equipment, our cars, our communication tools and indeed in almost every object that surrounds us in our private and professional spheres. Not only do they multiply, but they continue to decrease in size, to use less energy and cost less. To assemble such devices, the semi-conductor industries have perfected silicon-based technologies. However, they will soon be approaching the physical limits of solid state physics. To go beyond this barrier, they are already working on new approaches for nanometric level electronics.
In recent years, the massive and controversial use of drones in U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has fueled an intense debate. But this controversy is only the tip of the iceberg: the development of standalone and remote-controlled machines is but the prelude to the rise of military robotics, a field that involves all industries. It is already used in logistics, communications and training, with expected effects on number of staff and productivity. The gradual integration of robotics will affect the safety of operational troops and combat on the battlefield. It will also raise many ethical questions.
The next automobile revolution will be the driverless car. Ever since the automobile industry was born, it has continuously represented a clear-cut vector for technological progress and societal transformation. Driverless cars, with general roadworthy models running by 2030, promise to bring sizeable changes to the way we live, to the environment, to our health, the economy and industry at large. Market potential is already visible but many questions still remain to be answered.
The electricity transmission network is the backbone of the electrical system, a key asset in the energy transition. It must both adapt to new means of production and meet changing consumption needs. Today, the rise of renewable electricity and solidarity between territories are the main drivers of the evolution of this electricity network. The stakes are high.
Automobile manufacturers face a difficult equation: in a globalised market where they can produce, buy and sell virtually anywhere, how can they make the right choice concerning localisation? In other words, how can they get closer to customers while remaining connected to resources, specifically to intellectual resources? The answer might well be found in a new industrial grammar that consists in globalised sourcing, disintegration of value chains and maximisation of comparative advantages. The rise of mega-platforms is at the heart of this redeployment and conveys a redefinition of the competitiveness equation.
Spain is one of the world's leading nations in biotechnology research, but it lags behind in technology transfer and the creation of new companies. The Spanish government is hoping to bring about a radical change in these statistics. To do so, it is focusing on the Israeli biotech sector, a world leader in creating start-ups, as the inspiration for designing an entrepreneurial and business model based on innovation. Not a bad strategy, but it should not remain unchallenged. Let's have a look.
The resurgence of global oil prices in the early 2000's has created the conditions for the rapid deployment of a number of new energy technologies. In the last few years radical changes affected supply, competition, demand and social license. North America is now entering a new era in which economic, environmental and energy policy will not be defined by insecurity in energy supply, but by insecurity in market access.