Through our day to day work we are in constant contact with innovative products and processes. Innovation plays a major role in the progression of a business and society, in 2018 this was no different. With the new year upon us we look back at the innovation highlights of 2018 from the perspective of industry leading publications and our expert analysts.
100% Solar Powered Car
In the last 12 months we have witnessed a major increase in innovations driven by environmental concerns and the need for a more sustainable future. So it comes as no surprise that The Manufacturer, a publication providing manufacturing news and insights, chose Dutch manufacturer Lightyear’s 100% solar powered car as its top innovation story of 2018. Their car, Lightyear One, is capable of being driven for months without charging and according to the company, the battery is such that the vehicle can be driven at any time, even at night. Currently, only 3% of the world has access to the infrastructure to comfortably use an electric car, such as charging points, which is why a car capable of charging itself is such a significant breakthrough. To marry efficiency, performance, and aesthetics, the curved solar panels Lightyear uses can absorb sunlight from multiple directions, and the company reported that the car can be driven between 400km and 800km (250–500 miles) on a full charge, depending on the configuration you choose.
A Revolutionary Robotic Arm
Every year, TIME highlights the best inventions that are making the world better, smarter and even a bit more fun. We’re living in the middle of a robotics revolution, but the most capable machines are generally available only to wealthy corporations. The German-based robotics firm Franka Emika is changing that with Panda, an easy to programme robotic arm designed for small businesses. Able to move in seven axes and designed with a smart sense of “touch,” the Panda system can help conduct science experiments, build circuit boards or pre-test equipment. Two Panda system arms can even work together! While the Panda system isn’t designed for personal use, something similar could eventually offer a helping hand at home, preparing food in the kitchen or assisting the elderly with difficult tasks.
MIT Technology Review are all about emerging technologies, many from the arXiv, the pre-publication academic paper database. They picked out artificial synapses as their invention of 2018. We all have millions of synapses in our bodies, this is junction between two nerve cells, consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass. These artificial synapses will be able to fire millions of times faster than those found in the human brain and could be used to build low powered artificial intelligence. The significance of this is that they could potentially be an alternative to transistors in regular processors. They can be assembled to create so-called neuromorphic chips that work more like a brain. Such devices can run artificial neural networks, which underpin modern AI more efficiently than regular chips. This new synapse could also make the chips more energy-efficient.
MPA Group Technical Analyst Jason Banks’ top innovation was the Airbus Zephyr, a record breaking solar powered plane. Airbus’s Zephyr S HAPS set a flight duration record on August 5, 2018, staying aloft for 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes.
Despite its 82-foot wingspan, the solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) weighs just 165 pounds, which—along with a power-management system that focuses on maintaining battery temperatures to ensure optimal charge and discharge rates—helped it consume less overall energy. It maintained its elevation all through the night, a feat that other solar-powered planes still can’t achieve.
Through the development of the solar power panels and lithium-ion batteries with silicon nanowire anodes, extended flight times were achieved that are far more advanced than what had previously been accomplished. There is an opportunity now for these developments to be applied to the commercial aircraft sector with a view to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel along with noise pollution levels. Aviation currently accounts for between 1% – 2% of the worlds CO2 output, and with air travel numbers expected to continue to rise over coming years, that proportion could quickly climb if no steps are taken to improve the fuel efficiency of aircraft.
Last year we helped hundreds of companies fund their innovation. While not all innovation necessarily makes the headlines, the activity is vital to helping companies attract new customers and grow. Below are some examples of companies we helped benefit from the R&D Tax Credit scheme and Patent Box relief in 2018.
Haberdashery had a vision to push boundaries and challenge what is possible with light. To support this, it’s vital it received the maximum benefit from innovation funding schemes. See how using a specialist made the difference.
Patents protect innovations, can drive a competitive advantage and help build a leading market position. Additionally, they enabled Morgana Systems to benefit from the Patent Box scheme.
Reminova are an ambitious business founded by a group of dentists developing a new remineralisation treatment to fight tooth decay. Our expertise was needed to guide an R&D Tax Credit claim which fell under both the RDEC and SME scheme at different points, alongside their grant funding.
Clayton Equipment’s success is down to its ability to adapt to a changing market through continued development of innovative solutions. Development made possible by their R&D Tax Credit claims.