Category Archives: business

Hype, hype, hype: Vancouver’s Frontier Collective represents local tech community at SxWS (South by Southwest®) 2024 + an aside

I wonder if Vancouver’s Mayor Ken Sim will be joining the folks at the giant culture/tech event known as South by Southwest® (SxSW) later in 2024. Our peripatetic mayor seems to enjoy traveling to sports events (FIFA 2023 in Qatar), to Los Angeles to convince producers of a hit television series, “The Last of Us,” that they film the second season in Vancouver, and, to Austin, Texas for SxSW 2023. Note: FIFA is Fédération internationale de football association or ‘International Association Football Federation’.

It’s not entirely clear why Mayor Sim’s presence was necessary at any of these events. In October 2023, he finished his first year in office; a business owner and accountant, Sim is best known for his home care business, “Nurse Next Door” and his bagel business, “Rosemary Rocksalt,” meaning he wouldn’t seem to have much relevant experience with sports and film events.

I gather Mayor Sim’s presence was part of the 2023 hype (for those who don’t know, it’s from ‘hyperbole’) where SxSW was concerned, from the Vancouver Day at SxSW 2023 event page,

Vancouver Day

Past(03/12/2023) 12:00PM – 6:00PM

FREE W/ RSVP | ALL AGES

Swan Dive

The momentum and vibrancy of Vancouver’s innovation industry can’t be stopped!

The full day event will see the Canadian city’s premier technology innovators, creative tech industries, and musical artists show why Vancouver is consistently voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

We will have talks/panels with the biggest names in VR/AR/Metaverse, AI, Web3, premier technology innovators, top startups, investors and global thought-leaders. We will keep Canada House buzzing throughout the day with activations/demos from top companies from Vancouver and based on our unique culture of wellness and adventure will keep guests entertained, and giveaways will take place across the afternoon.

The Canadian city is showing why Vancouver has become the second largest AR/VR/Metaverse ecosystem globally (with the highest concentration of 3D talent than anywhere in the world), a leader in Web3 with companies like Dapper Labs leading the way and becoming a hotbed in technology like artificial intelligence.

The Frontier Collective’s Vancouver’s Takeover of SXSW is a signature event that will enhance Vancouver as the Innovation and Creative Tech leader on the world stage.It is an opportunity for the global community to encounter cutting-edge ideas, network with other professionals who share a similar appetite for a forward focused experience and define their next steps.

Some of our special guests include City of Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine], Innovation Commissioner of the Government of BC- Gerri Sinclair, Amy Peck of Endeavor XR, Tony Parisi of Lamina1 and many more.

In the evening, guests can expect a special VIP event with first-class musical acts, installations, wellness activations and drinks, and the chance to mingle with investors, top brands, and top business leaders from around the world.

To round out the event, a hand-picked roster of Vancouver musicians will keep guests dancing late into the night.

This is from Mayor Sim’s Twitter (now X) feed, Note: The photographs have not been included,

Mayor Ken Sim@KenSimCity Another successful day at #SXSW2023 showcasing Vancouver and British Columbia while connecting with creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs from around the world! #vanpoli#SXSW

Last edited from Austin, TX·13.3K Views

Did he really need to be there?

2024 hype at SxSW and Vancouver’s Frontier Collective

New year and same hype but no Mayor Sim? From a January 22, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive, Note: A link has been removed,

Frontier Collective, a coalition of Vancouver business leaders, culture entrepreneurs, and community builders, is returning to the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference next month to showcase the city’s tech innovation on the global stage.

The first organization to formally represent and promote the region’s fastest-growing tech industries, Frontier Collective is hosting the Vancouver Takeover: Frontiers of Innovation from March 8 to 12 [2024].

According to Dan Burgar, CEO and co-founder of Frontier Collective, the showcase is not just about presenting new advancements but is also an invitation to the world to be part of a boundary-transcending journey.

“This year’s Vancouver Takeover is more than an event; it’s a beacon for the brightest minds and a celebration of the limitless possibilities that emerge when we dare to innovate together.”

Speakers lined up for the SXSW Vancouver Takeover in Austin, Texas, include executives from Google, Warner Bros, Amazon, JP Morgan, Amazon, LG, NTT, Newlab, and the Wall Street Journal.

“The Frontier Collective is excited to showcase a new era of technological innovation at SXSW 2024, building on the success of last year’s Takeover,” added Natasha Jaswal, VP of operations and events of Frontier Collective, in a statement. “Beyond creating a captivating event; its intentional and curated programming provides a great opportunity for local companies to gain exposure on an international stage, positioning Vancouver as a global powerhouse in frontier tech innovation.

Here’s the registration page if you want to attend the Frontiers of Innovation Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024,

Join us for a curated experience of music, art, frontier technologies and provocative panel discussions. We are organizing three major events, designed to ignite conversation and turn ideas into action.

We’re excited to bring together leaders from Vancouver and around the world to generate creative thinking at the biggest tech festival.

Let’s create the future together!

You have a choice of two parties and a day long event. Enjoy!

Who is the Frontier Collective?

The group announced itself in 2022, from a February 17, 2022 article in techcouver, Note: Links have been removed,

The Frontier Collective is the first organization to formally represent and advance the interests of the region’s fastest-growing industries, including Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality], AI [artificial intelligence], climate tech, and creative industries such as eSports [electronic sports], NFTs [non-fungible tokens], VFX [visual effects], and animation.

Did you know the Vancouver area currently boasts the world’s second largest virtual and augmented reality sector and hosts the globe’s biggest cluster of top VFX, video games and animation studios, as well as the highest concentration of 3D talent?

Did you know NFT technology was created in Vancouver and the city remains a top destination for blockchain and Web3 development?

Frontier Collective’s coalition of young entrepreneurs and business leaders wants to raise awareness of Vancouver’s greatness by promoting the region’s innovative tech industry on the world stage, growing investment and infrastructure for early-stage companies, and attracting diverse talent to Vancouver.

“These technologies move at an exponential pace. With the right investment and support, Vancouver has an immense opportunity to lead the world in frontier tech, ushering in a new wave of transformation, economic prosperity and high-paying jobs. Without backing from governments and leaders, these companies may look elsewhere for more welcoming environments.” said Dan Burgar, Co-founder and Head of the Frontier Collective. Burgar heads the local chapter of the VR/AR Association.

Their plan includes the creation of a 100,000-square-foot innovation hub in Vancouver to help incubate startups in Web3, VR/AR, and AI, and to establish the region as a centre for metaverse technology.

Frontier Collective’s team includes industry leaders at the Vancouver Economic Commission [emphasis mine; Under Mayor Sim and his majority City Council, the commission has been dissolved; see September 21, 2023 Vancouver Sun article “Vancouver scraps economic commission” by Tiffany Crawford], Collision Conference, Canadian incubator Launch, Invest Vancouver, and the BDC Deep Tech Fund.  These leaders continue to develop and support frontier technology in their own organizations and as part of the Collective.

Interestingly, a February 7, 2023 article by the editors of BC Business magazine seems to presage the Vancouver Economic Commission’s demise. Note: Links have been removed,

Last year, tech coalition Frontier Collective announced plans to position Vancouver as Canada’s tech capital by 2030. Specializing in subjects like Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR, AI and animation, it seems to be following through on its ambition, as the group is about to place Vancouver in front of a global audience at SXSW 2023, a major conference and festival celebrating tech, innovation and entertainment.  

Taking place in Austin, Texas from March 10-14 [2023], Vancouver Takeover is going to feature speakers, stories and activations, as well as opportunities for companies to connect with industry leaders and investors. Supported by local businesses like YVR Airport, Destination Vancouver, Low Tide Properties and others, Frontier is also working with partners from Trade and Invest BC, Telefilm and the Canadian Consulate. Attendees will spot familiar faces onstage, including the likes of Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey, Vancouver mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine] and B.C. Innovation Commissioner Gerri Sinclair. 

That’s right, no mention of the Vancouver Economic Commission.

As for the Frontier Collective Team (accessed January 29, 2024), the list of ‘industry leaders’ (18 people with a gender breakdown that appears to be 10 male and 8 female) and staff members (a Senior VP who appears to be male and the other seven staff members who appear to be female) can be found here. (Should there be a more correct way to do the gender breakdown, please let me know in the Comments.)

i find the group’s name a bit odd, ‘frontier’ is something I associate with the US. Americans talk about frontiers, Canadians not so much.

If you are interested in attending the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event on March 10, 2024, just click here.

Aside: swagger at Vancouver City Hall, economic prosperity, & more?

What follows is not germane to the VR/AR community, SxSW of any year, or the Frontier Collective but it may help to understand why the City of Vancouver’s current mayor is going to events where he would seem to have no useful role to play.

Matt O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article for Vancouver Magazine offers an eyeopening review of Mayor Ken Sim’s first year in office.

Ken Sim swept to power a year ago promising to reduce waste, make our streets safer and bring Vancouver’s “swagger” back. But can his open-book style win over the critics?

I’m sitting on a couch in the mayor’s third-floor offices, and Ken Sim is walking over to his turntable to put on another record. “How about the Police? I love this album.”

With the opening strains of  “Every Breath You Take” crackling to life, Sim is explaining his approach to conflict resolution, and how he takes inspiration from the classic management tome Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

Odd choice for a song to set the tone for an interview. Here’s more about the song and its origins according to the song’s Wikipedia entry,

To escape the public eye, Sting retreated to the Caribbean. He started writing the song at Ian Fleming’s writing desk on the Goldeneye estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica.[14] The lyrics are the words of a possessive lover who is watching “every breath you take; every move you make”. Sting recalled:

“I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realise at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”[15][emphasis mine]

The interview gets odder, from O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article,

Suddenly, the office door swings open and Sim’s chief of staff, Trevor Ford, pokes his head in (for the third time in the past 10 minutes). “We have to go. Now.”

“Okay, okay,” says Sim, turning back to address me. “Do you mind if I change while we’re talking?” And so the door closes again—and, without further ado, the Mayor of Vancouver drops trou [emphasis mine] and goes in search of a pair of shorts, continuing with a story about how some of his west-side friends are vocally against the massive Jericho Lands development promising to reshape their 4th and Alma neighbourhood.

“And I’m like, ‘Let me be very clear: I 100-percent support it, this is why—and we’ll have to agree to disagree,’” he says, trading his baby-blue polo for a fitted charcoal grey T-shirt. Meanwhile, as Sim does his wardrobe change, I’m doing everything I can to keep my eyes on my keyboard—and hoping the mayor finds his missing shorts.

It’s fair to assume that previous mayors weren’t in the habit of getting naked in front of journalists. At least, I can’t quite picture Kennedy Stewart doing so, or Larry or Gordon Campbell either. 

But it also fits a pattern that’s developing with Ken Sim as a leader entirely comfortable in his own skin. He’s in a hurry to accomplish big things—no matter who’s watching and what they might say (or write). And he eagerly embraces the idea of bringing Vancouver’s “swagger” back—outlined in his inaugural State of the City address, and underlined when he shotgunned a beer at July’s [2023] Khatsahlano Street Party.

O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article goes on to mention some of the more practical initiatives undertaken by Mayor Sim and his supermajority of ABC (Sim’s party, A Better City) city councillors in their efforts to deal with some of the city’s longstanding and intractable problems,

For a reminder of Sim’s key priorities, you need only look at the whiteboard in the mayor’s office. At the top, there’s a row labelled “Daily Focus (Top 4)”—which are, in order, 3-3-3-1 (ABC’s housing program); Chinatown; Business Advocacy; and Mental Health/Safety.

On some files, like Chinatown, there have been clear advances: council unanimously approved the Uplifting Chinatown Action Plan in January, which devotes more resources to cleaning and sanitation services, graffiti removal, beautification and other community supports. The plan also includes a new flat rate of $2 per hour for parking meters throughout Chinatown (to encourage more people to visit and shop in the area) and a new satellite City Hall office, to improve representation. And on mental health and public safety, the ABC council moved quickly in November to take action on its promise to fund 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health professionals [emphasis mine]—though the actual hiring will take time.

O’Grady likely wrote his article a few months before its October 2023 publication date (a standard practice for magazine articles), which may explain why he didn’t mention this, from an October 10, 2023 article by Michelle Gamage and Jen St. Denis for The Tyee,

100 Cops, Not Even 10 Nurses

One year after Mayor Ken Sim and the ABC party swept into power on a promise to hire 100 cops and 100 mental health nurses to address fears about crime and safety in Vancouver, only part of that campaign pledge has been fulfilled.

At a police board meeting in September, Chief Adam Palmer announced that 100 new police officers have now joined the Vancouver Police Department.

But just 9.5 full-time equivalent positions have been filled to support the mental health [emphasis mine] side of the promise.

In fact, Vancouver Coastal Health says it’s no longer aiming [emphasis mine] to hire 100 nurses. Instead, it’s aiming for 58 staff and specialists [emphasis mine], including social workers, community liaison workers and peers, as well as other disciplines alongside nurses to deliver care.

At the police board meeting on Sept. 21 [2023], Palmer said the VPD has had no trouble recruiting new police officers and has now hired 70 new recruits who are first-time officers, as well as at least 24 experienced officers from other police services.

In contrast, it’s been a struggle for VCH to recruit nurses specializing in mental health.

BC Nurses’ Union president Adriane Gear said she remembers wondering where Sim was planning on finding 100 nurses [emphasis mine] when he first made the campaign pledge. In B.C. there are around 5,000 full-time nursing vacancies, she said. Specialized nurses are an even more “finite resource,” she added.

I haven’t seen any information as to why the number was reduced from 100 mental health positions to 58. I’m also curious as to how Mayor Ken Sim whose business is called ‘Nurse Next Door’ doesn’t seem to know there’s a shortage of nurses in the province and elsewhere.

Last year, the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Quartz published a January 28, 2022 article by Aurora Almendral about the worldwide nursing shortage and the effects of COVID pandemic,

The report’s [from the International Council of Nurses (ICN)] survey of nurse associations around the world painted a grim picture of strained workforce. In Spain, nurses reported a chronic lack of PPE, and 30% caught covid. In Canada, 52% of nurses reported inadequate staffing, and 47% met the diagnostic cut-off for potential PTSD [emphasis mine].

Burnout plagued nurses around the world: 40% in Uganda, 60% in Belgium, and 63% in the US. In Oman, 38% nurses said they were depressed, and 73% had trouble sleeping. Fifty-seven percent of UK nurses planned to leave their jobs in 2021, up from 36% in 2020. Thirty-eight percent of nurses in Lebanon did not want to be nurses anymore, but stayed in their jobs because their families needed the money.

In Australia, 17% of nurses had sought mental health support. In China, 6.5% of nurses reported suicidal thoughts.

Moving on from Mayor Sim’s odd display of ignorance (or was it cynical calculation from a candidate determined to win over a more centrist voting population?), O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article ends on this note,

When Sim runs for reelection in 2026, as he promises to do, he’ll have a great backdrop for his campaign—the city having just hosted several games for the FIFA World Cup, which is expected to bring in $1 billion and 900,000 visitors over five years.

The renewed swagger of Sim’s city will be on full display for the world to see. So too—if left unresolved—will some of Vancouver’s most glaring and intractable social problems.

I was born in Vancouver and don’t recall the city as having swagger, at any time. As for the economic prosperity that’s always promised with big events like the FIFA world cup, I’d like to see how much the 2010 Olympic Games held in Vancouver cost taxpayers and whether or not there were long lasting economic benefits. From a July 9, 2022 posting on Bob Mackin’s thebreaker.news,

The all-in cost to build and operate the Vancouver 2010 Games was as much as $8 billion, but the B.C. Auditor General never conducted a final report. The organizing committee, VANOC, was not covered by the freedom of information law and its records were transferred to the Vancouver Archives after the Games with restrictions not to open the board minutes and financial ledgers before fall 2025.

Mayor Sim will have two more big opportunities to show off his swagger in 2025 . (1) The Invictus Games come to Vancouver and Whistler in February 2025 and will likely bring Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle to the area (see the April 22, 2022 Associated Press article by Gemma Karstens-Smith on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website) and (2) The 2025 Junos (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys) from March 26 – 30, 2025 with the awards show being held on March 30, 2025 (see the January 25, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive website).

While he waits, Sim may have a ‘swagger’ opportunity later this month (February 2024) when Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle) visit the Vancouver and Whistler for a “a three-day Invictus Games’ One Year to Go event in Vancouver and Whistler,” see Daniel Chai’s February 2, 2024 article for more details.

Don’t forget, should you be in Austin, Texas for the 2024 SxSW, the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event is on March 10, 2024, just click here to register. Who knows? You might get to meet Vancouver’s, Mayor Ken Sim. Or, if you can’t make it to Austin, Texas, O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article offer an unusual political profile.

General Fusion: update to October 10, 2023

It seems that Canadian nuclear energy company General Fusion has finally moved from Burnaby to Richmond (both are part of the Metro Vancouver Region). The move first announced in 2021 (see my November 3, 2021 posting for the news and a description of fusion energy; Note: fission is a different form of nuclear energy, fusion is considered clean/green).

I found confirmation of the move in an August 9, 2023 article by Kenneth Chan for the dailyhive.com

If all goes as planned, a major hurdle in fusion-based, zero-emission clean energy innovation could be produced on Sea Island in Richmond in just three years from now.

BC-based General Fusion announced today it has plans to build a new magnetized target fusion (MTF) machine at the company’s global headquarters at 6020-6082 Russ Baker Way [emphasis mine] near the South Terminal of Vancouver International Airport (YVR). [Note: YVR is located in Richmond, BC]

Chan goes on to note (from his August 9, 2023 article), Note: A link has been removed,

This machine will be designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100,000,000°C by 2025, with “scientific breakeven” conditions by 2026. This will “fast-track” the company’s technical progress.

More specifically, this further proof-of-concept will show General Fusion’s ability to “symmetrically compress magnetized plasmas in a repeatable manner and achieve fusion conditions at scale.”

General Fusion’s technology is designed to be lower cost by avoiding other approaches that require expensive superconducting magnets or high-powered lasers.

The YVR machine is intended to support further work and investment and reduce the risk of General Fusion’s commercial-scale demonstration test plan in Culham Campus of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) — located just outside of Oxford, west of London. The UK plant has effectively been delayed, [emphasis mine] with the goal now to provide electricity to the grid with commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.

“Our updated three-year Fusion Demonstration Program puts us on the best path forward to commercialize our technology by the 2030s,” said Greg Twinney, CEO of General Fusion, in a statement. “We’re harnessing our team’s existing strengths right here in Canada and delivering high-value, industry-leading technical milestones in the near term.”

Canada, always a colony

I wonder what happened to the UKAEA deal. In my October 28, 2022 posting (Overview of fusion energy scene) General Fusion was downright effusive in its enthusiasm about the joint path to commercialization with a demonstration machine to be built in the UK. Scroll down to my ‘Fusion energy explanation (2)’ subhead for more details.

It now looks as if the first demonstration will be build and tested in Canada, from an August 9, 2023 General Fusion news release,

General Fusion announced a new Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) machine that will fast-track the company’s technical progress. To be built at the company’s new Richmond headquarters, this ground-breaking machine is designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025, [emphasis mine] and progress toward scientific breakeven by 2026. In addition, the company completed the first close of its Series F raise for a combined $25 million USD (approximately $33.5 million CAD) of funding. The round was anchored by existing investors, BDC Capital and GIC. It also included new grant funding from the Government of British Columbia, which builds upon the Canadian government’s ongoing support through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). 

This machine represents a significant new pillar to accelerate and de-risk [emphasis mine] General Fusion’s Demonstration Program, designed to leverage the company’s recent technological advancements and provide electricity to the grid with commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.  

Over the next two to three years, General Fusion will work closely with the UK Atomic Energy Authority [UKAEA] to validate the data gathered from [Lawson Machine 26] LM26 and incorporate it into the design of the company’s planned commercial scale demonstration in the UK.

So, the machine is being ‘de-risked’ in Canada first, eh?

September 2023

There was an interesting UK addition to General Fusion’s board of directors according to a September 6, 2023 news release,

Today [September 6, 2023], General Fusion announced the appointment of Norman Harrison to its Board of Directors. Norman is a world-class executive in the energy sector, with 40 years of unique experience providing leadership to both the fusion energy and nuclear fission communities.

His experience includes serving as the CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) from 2006 to 2010 [emphasis mine], when he oversaw the groundbreaking research being conducted by the Joint European Torus (JET), the world’s largest fusion experiment and the only one operating using deuterium-tritium fuel, as it pushed the frontiers of fusion science. Norman’s expertise will support General Fusion as the company completes its Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) demonstration, LM26 [scroll up to August 9, 2023 news release in the above for details] , at its Canadian headquarters. LM26 is targeting fusion conditions of 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025 and is charting a path to scientific breakeven equivalent by 2026. The results achieved by LM26 will be validated by the UKAEA and incorporated into the design of the company’s near-commercial machine, which is planned to be built at the UKAEA’s Culham Campus. 

Norman’s background also includes leading the construction and operations of large-scale power plants. As a result, his guidance will benefit General Fusion as it progresses to commercializing its MTF technology by the early to mid-2030s.

“I’ve been a part of the fusion energy industry for many years now. General Fusion’s unique technology stands out and has exciting promise to put fusion energy onto the electricity grid,” said Norman Harrison. “I am thrilled to join the General Fusion team and be a part of the company’s progress.”

“Norman’s wealth of expertise in advancing fusion technology and operating large electricity infrastructure provides us with meaningful insight into what is required to effectively bring Magnetized Target Fusion to the energy grid in a cost-effective, practical way,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion. “We look forward to working with him as General Fusion transforms the commercial power industry with reliable fusion power.”

About General Fusion

General Fusion is pursuing a fast and practical approach to commercial fusion energy and is headquartered in Richmond, B.C. The company was established in 2002 and is funded by a global syndicate of leading energy venture capital firms, industry leaders and technology pioneers. …

So, after postponing plans to build a build a demonstration plant with UKAEA and deciding to build it in Canada where it can be ‘de-risked’ here first, General Fusion adds a former UKAEA CEO to their company board. This seems a little strategic to me.

October 2023

Here’s the latest from an October 10, 2023 news release,

Today [October 11, 2023], General Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to accelerate the commercialization of General Fusion’s proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, aiming for grid integration in the early to mid-2030s. The companies will collaborate to advance critical systems for MTF commercialization, including the tritium fuel cycle, liquid metal balance of plant, and power conversion cycle.

Tritium, a hydrogen isotope and key fusion fuel, does not occur naturally and must be produced or “bred” in the fusion process. General Fusion’s game-changing commercial power plant design features a proprietary liquid metal wall that compresses plasma to fusion conditions, protects the fusion machine’s vessel components, and breeds tritium upon interacting with the fusion products. This design allows the machine to be self-sustaining, generating fuel for the life of the power plant while facilitating efficient energy extraction from the fusion reaction through a liquid metal loop to a heat exchanger.

Kyoto Fusioneering specializes in fusion power plant systems that complement the plasma confinement core, are applicable to various fusion confinement concepts, such as MTF, and are on the critical path for fusion commercialization. The complementary capabilities of both organizations will enable parallel development of key systems supporting MTF commercialization. Initial collaboration under this MOU will focus on liquid metal experimentation and fuel cycle system development at both the General Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering facilities, such as establishment of balance of plant and power conversion test facilities, liquid metal loops, and vacuum systems.

Quotes:

“Currently, our new machine, LM26, is on-track to achieve fusion conditions by 2025, and progress towards scientific breakeven by 2026,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion. “Harnessing the unique technological and engineering expertise of Kyoto Fusioneering will be instrumental as we translate LM26’s groundbreaking results into the world’s first Magnetized Target Fusion power plant.”

“We’re thrilled to join forces with General Fusion. Our combined expertise will accelerate the path to commercial fusion energy, a critical step toward a sustainable, decarbonized future,” said Satoshi Konishi, Co-founder and Chief Fusioneer, Kyoto Fusioneering.

Quick Facts:

Magnetized Target Fusion [prepare yourself for 1 min. 21 secs. of an enthusiastic Michel Laberge, company founder and chief science officer] uniquely sidesteps challenges to commercialization that other technologies face. The proprietary liquid metal liner in the commercial fusion machine is mechanically compressed by high-powered pistons. This enables fusion conditions to be created in short pulses rather than creating a sustained reaction. General Fusion’s design does not require large superconducting magnets or an expensive array of lasers.

General Fusion’s design will use deuterium-tritium fuel for its commercial power plant. Both are isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium occurs naturally and can be derived from seawater. Tritium needs to be produced, which is why General Fusion’s unique and proprietary technology that breeds tritium as a byproduct of the fusion reaction is a game-changer.

Kyoto Fusioneering was spun out of Kyoto University. It is home to world-class R&D facilities, and its team has a combined total of approximately 800 years of experience [emphasis mine].

About Kyoto Fusioneering

Kyoto Fusioneering, established in 2019 [emphasis mine], is a privately funded technology startup with facilities in Tokyo and Kyoto (Japan), Reading (UK), and Seattle (USA). The company specialises in developing advanced technologies for commercial fusion power plants, such as gyrotron systems, tritium fuel cycle technologies, and breeding blankets for tritium production and power generation. Working collaboratively with public and private fusion developers around the world, Kyoto Fusioneering’s mission is to make fusion energy the ultimate sustainable solution for humanity’s energy needs.

800 years of experience seems to be a bit of a stretch for a company established four years ago with 96 employees as of July 1, 2023 (see Kyoto Fusioneering’s Company Profile webpage) but hat’s off for the sheer gutsiness of it.

Symposium on “Enabling the Nanotechnology Revolution” on October 10, 2023, in-person in Washington, DC or virtual

It’s the 20th anniversary of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and, now, scientists and policymakers will be celebrating and analyzing the results on October 10, 2023 according to a September 18, 2023 post on the JD Supra Nano and Other Emerging Chemical Technologies blog, Note: A link has been removed,

On October 10, 2023, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) will host a symposium entitled “Enabling the Nanotechnology Revolution: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act” at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Experts will address the importance of nanotechnology in microelectronics, optics, advanced polymers, quantum engineering, medicine, education, manufacturing, and more. Discussions will also focus on the environmental, health, and safety implications of nanomaterials, as well as the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) community’s efforts around inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.

You can register and find more information on the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) anniversary symposium webpage, Note: A link has been removed,

Scientists and engineers across many fields and disciplines are united by their work at the nanoscale. Their diverse efforts have helped produce everything from faster microchips to powerful mRNA vaccines. The transformative impact of this work has been spurred by the coordination and focus on U.S. nanotechnology established by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act in 2003. Celebrating such a broad impact and envisioning the future can be quite challenging, but this event will bring together voices from across the emerging technology landscape. There will be experts who can speak on the importance of nanotechnology in quantum engineering, optics, EHS, plastics, DEIA, microelectronics, medicine, education, manufacturing, and more. We can’t predict what will emerge from this lively discussion between researchers, policymakers, members of industry, educators, and the public, but the conversation can only benefit from including more diverse perspectives – especially yours.

You have the option of registering in-person attendance or for virtual attendance.

Here’s the:

AGENDA

9:00-9:05   Welcome and Introduction

9:05-9:30   Opening Remarks on the NNI

9:30-10:15  Morning Keynote

10:15-10:30  Coffee Break

10:30-11:15  Panel: Responsible Development

11:15-12:00  Panel: Fundamental Research

12:00-1:00  Lunch and Networking

1:00-1:45  Keynote Panel: The Future of Nanotechnology

1:45-2:30  Panel: Workforce Development

2:30-2:45  Break

2:45-3:30  Panel: Infrastructure

3:30-4:15  Panel: Commercialization

4:15-5:00  Closing Keynote

Reception to follow

If you’re curious about the panelists and speakers, you will find a list with pictures and links to profile pages on the NNI’s anniversary symposium webpage.

Sign up for Nano4EARTH’s Roundtable Discussion (Batteries and Energy Storage): September 26, 2023 (online or in person)

Given that Nano4Earth was first announced by the US government in October 2022 (see my November 28, 2022 posting), the initiative has been quite active (see my February 27, 2023 posting, “Nano4EARTH workshop recordings available online“).

Now for the latest, from the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) webpage for the batteries and storage roundtable discussion,

Nano4EARTH Roundtable Discussion on Batteries and Energy Storage

September 26, 2023
9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET
Online and L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C.

The Nano4EARTH roundtable discussion on batteries and energy storage aims to identify fundamental knowledge gaps, needs, and opportunities to advance current electrification goals. By convening stakeholders from different sectors, backgrounds, and expertise the goal of this roundtable is to identify applicable lessons across the spectrum of technologies, discuss system-specific needs, scalability and commercialization challenges, and potential paths forward. These needs could have a near-term impact on energy efficiency, sustainable development, and climate change. The moderated discussion will tackle all aspects of the topic – ranging from exciting R&D opportunities to commercialization challenges – by featuring a small group of experts from different sectors and backgrounds.

This roundtable is a critical part of the Nano4EARTH National Nanotechnology Challenge, which aims to leverage recent investments in understanding and controlling matter at the nanoscale to develop technologies and industries that address climate change. Nano4EARTH focuses on facilitating opportunities for members of the nanotechnology community to convene, collaborate, and share resources. Nano4EARTH also strives to provide mechanisms that support technology development and commercialization of nanotechnology-enabled climate solutions.

The topic of this roundtable was identified at the Nano4EARTH kick-off workshop (summary readout and video archive) as a particularly promising area that could have an impact in a short time frame (four years or less). This roundtable is the second of four.

MEETING LOCATION:

Online and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office: Suite 8001, 470 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024. Directions are available here.

Registration is now open and you can find the links to online or in person registration on the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) webpage for the batteries and storage roundtable discussion

h/t JD Supra blog’s August 23, 2023 posting

Canadian Science Policy Centre panel on Sept. 6, 2023 [date changed to October 4, 2023]: Science, technology and innovation (STI) between Brazil and Canada plus a quantum panel on Sept. 13, 2023

In an August 17, 2023 Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) newsletter (received via email), they’ve announced a panel about science and technology opportunities with a country we don’t usually talk about much in that context (nice to see a broader, not the US and not a European or Commonwealth country, approach being taken),

Canada-Brazil Cooperation and Collaboration in STI [Science, Technology, and Innovation]

This virtual panel aims to discuss the ongoing Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) cooperation between Brazil and Canada, along with the potential for furthering this relationship. The focus will encompass strategic areas of contact, ongoing projects, and scholarship opportunities. It is pertinent to reflect on the science diplomacy efforts of each country and their reciprocal influence. Additionally, the panel aims to explore how Canada engages with developing countries in terms of STI.

Click the button below to register for the upcoming virtual panel!

Register Here

Date: Sept. 6 [2023] October 4, 2023
Time: 1:00 pm EDT

Here are the speakers (from the CSPC’s Canada-Brazil Cooperation and Collaboration in STI event page),

Fernanda de Negri
Moderator
Director of Studies and Sectoral Policies of Innovation, Regulation and Infrastructure at the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), Brazil
See Bio

Alejandro Adem
President of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – NSERC
See Bio

Ambassador Emmanuel Kamarianakis
Canadian Embassy in Canada
See Bio

Ambassador Ademar Seabra da Cruz Jr.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brazil
See Bio

If you haven’t gotten your fill of virtual science policy panels yet, there’s this one on quantum technologies, from the August 17, 2023 Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) newsletter,

Canada’s Quantum Strategy and International Collaboration

Countries are investing heavily in quantum computing and other quantum technologies. As Canada has recently released its Quantum Strategy [Note: There is also report on Quantum Technologies expected from the Canadian Council of Academies, no release date yet], this is an opportunity to foster further international collaborations. Panelists will discuss the opportunities and challenges Canada will be facing and what this could mean for Canada’s leadership in quantum research and the development of quantum technologies.

Click the button below to register for the upcoming virtual panel!

Register Here

Date: Sep 13 [2023]
Time: 1:00 pm EDT

Here’s some information about the panel participants, from the CSPC’s Canada’s Quantum Strategy and International Collaboration event page,

Dr. Sarah Burke
Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
See Bio

Dr. Aimee K. Gunther
Deputy Director, Quantum Sensors Challenge Program, National Research Council Canada
See Bio

Prof. Andrea Damascelli
Scientific Director, Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute | Professor, Physics and Astronomy | Canada Research Chair in the Electronic Structure of Quantum Materials
See Bio

Nick Werstiuk
CEO, Quantum Valley Ideas Lab
See Bio

Eric Miller
Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute
See Bio

Ms. Alexandra Daoud
Moderator
Vice President, Intellectual Property at Anyon Systems
See Bio

Interestingly, the moderator, Alexandra Daoud, is a patent agent.

As for the Council of Canadian Academies, you can find out about the proposed report on Quantum Technologies here.

D-Wave Systems demonstrates quantum advantage on optimization problems with a 5,000-qubit programmable spin glass

This May 17, 2023 article by Ingrid Fadelli for phys.org describes quantum research performed by D-Wave Systems (a company in Vancouver, Canada) and Boston University (Massachusetts, US), Note: Links have been removed,

Over the past decades, researchers and companies worldwide have been trying to develop increasingly advanced quantum computers. The key objective of their efforts is to create systems that will outperform classical computers on specific tasks, which is also known as realizing “quantum advantage.”

A research team at D-Wave Inc., a quantum computing company, recently created a new quantum computing system that outperforms classical computing systems on optimization problems. This system, introduced in a paper in Nature, is based on a programmable spin glass with 5,000 qubits (the quantum equivalents of bits in classical computing).

“This work validates the original hypothesis behind quantum annealing, coming full circle from some seminal experiments conducted in the 1990s,” Andrew D. King, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told Phys.org.

“These original experiments took chunks of spin-glass alloy and subjected them to varying magnetic fields, and the observations suggested that if we made a programmable quantum spin glass, it could drive down to low-energy states of optimization problems faster than analogous classical algorithms. A Science paper published in 2014 tried to verify this on a D-Wave Two processor, but no speedup was found.”

“This is a ‘full circle’ moment, in the sense that we have verified and extended the hypothesis of the UChicago [University of Chicago] and NEC [Nippon Electric Company] researchers; quantum annealing shows a scaling advantage over simulated thermal annealing,” King said. “Ours is the largest programmable quantum simulation ever performed; reproducing it classically is way beyond the reach of known methods.”

“We have a clear view of quantum effects and very clear evidence, both theoretical and experimental, that the quantum effects are conferring a computational scaling advantage over classical methods,” King said. “We want to highlight the difference between this original definition of quantum advantage and the fact that it is sometimes used as a stand-in term for quantum supremacy, which we have not demonstrated. [emphases mine] Gate-model quantum computers have not shown any capabilities approaching this for optimization, and I personally don’t believe they ever will.”

“For a long time, it was subject for debate whether or not coherent quantum dynamics were playing any role at all in quantum annealing,” King said. “While this controversy has been rebuked by previous works, this new research is the clearest demonstration yet, by far.”

An April 19, 2023 D-Wave Systems news release, which seems to have been the basis for Fadelli’s article, provides more detail in a release that functions as a research announcement and a sales tool, Note: Links have been removed,

D-Wave Quantum Inc. (NYSE: QBTS), a leader in quantum computing systems, software, and services—and the only provider building both annealing and gate-model quantum computers, today published a peer-reviewed milestone paper showing the performance of its 5,000 qubit Advantage™ quantum computer is significantly faster than classical compute on 3D spin glass optimization problems, an intractable class of optimization problems. This paper also represents the largest programmable quantum simulation reported to date.

The paper—a collaboration between scientists from D-Wave and Boston University—entitled “Quantum critical dynamics in a 5,000-qubit programmable spin glass,” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature today and is available here. Building upon research conducted on up to 2,000 qubits last September, the study shows that the D-Wave quantum processor can compute coherent quantum dynamics in large-scale optimization problems. This work was done using D-Wave’s commercial-grade annealing-based quantum computer, which is accessible for customers to use today.

With immediate implications to optimization, the findings show that coherent quantum annealing can improve solution quality faster than classical algorithms. The observed speedup matches the theory of coherent quantum annealing and shows​ a direct connection between coherence and the core computational power of quantum annealing.

“This research marks a significant achievement for quantum technology, as it demonstrates a computational advantage over classical approaches for an intractable class of optimization problems,” said Dr. Alan Baratz, CEO of D-Wave. “For those seeking evidence of quantum annealing’s unrivaled performance, this work offers definitive proof.

This work supports D-Wave’s ongoing commitment to relentless scientific innovation and product delivery, as the company continues development on its future annealing and gate model quantum computers. To date, D-Wave has brought to market five generations of quantum computers and launched an experimental prototype of its sixth-generation machine, the Advantage2™ system, in June 2022. The full Advantage2 system is expected to feature 7,000+ qubits, 20-way connectivity and higher coherence to solve even larger and more complex problems. Read more about the research in our Medium post here.

Paper’s Authors and Leading Industry Voices Echo Support

“This is an important advance in the study of quantum phase transitions on quantum annealers. It heralds a revolution in experimental many-body physics and bodes well for practical applications of quantum computing,” said Wojciech Zurek, theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and leading authority on quantum theory. Dr. Zurek is widely renowned for his groundbreaking contribution to our understanding of the early universe as well as condensed matter systems through the discovery of the celebrated Kibble-Zurek mechanism. This mechanism underpins the physics behind the experiment reported in this paper. “The same hardware that has already provided useful experimental proving ground for quantum critical dynamics can be also employed to seek low-energy states that assist in finding solutions to optimization problems.”

“Disordered magnets, such as spin glasses, have long functioned as model systems for testing solvers of complex optimization problems,” said Gabriel Aeppli, professor of physics at ETH Zürich and EPF Lausanne, and head of the Photon Science Division of the Paul Scherrer Institut. Professor Aeppli coauthored the first experimental paper demonstrating advantage of quantum annealing over thermal annealing in reaching ground state of disordered magnets. “This paper gives evidence that the quantum dynamics of a dedicated hardware platform are faster than for known classical algorithms to find the preferred, lowest energy state of a spin glass, and so promises to continue to fuel the further development of quantum annealers for dealing with practical problems.”

“As a physicist who has built my career on computer simulations of quantum systems, it has been amazing to experience first-hand the transformative capabilities of quantum annealing devices,” said Anders Sandvik, professor of physics at Boston University and a coauthor of the paper. “This paper already demonstrates complex quantum dynamics on a scale beyond any classical simulation method, and I’m very excited about the expected enhanced performance of future devices. I believe we are now entering an era when quantum annealing becomes an essential tool for research on complex systems.”

“This work marks a major step towards large-scale quantum simulations of complex materials,” said Hidetoshi Nishimori, Professor, Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology and one of the original inventors of quantum annealing. “We can now expect novel physical phenomena to be revealed by quantum simulations using quantum annealing, ultimately leading to the design of materials of significant societal value.”

“This represents some of the most important experimental work ever performed in quantum optimization,” said Dr. Andrew King, director of performance research at D-Wave. “We’ve demonstrated a speedup over simulated annealing, in strong agreement with theory, providing high-quality solutions for large-scale problems. This work shows clear evidence of quantum dynamics in optimization, which we believe paves the way for even more complex problem-solving using quantum annealing in the future. The work exhibits a programmable realization of lab experiments that originally motivated quantum annealing 25 years ago.”

“Not only is this the largest demonstration of quantum simulation to date, but it also provides the first experimental evidence, backed by theory, that coherent quantum dynamics can accelerate the attainment of better solutions in quantum annealing,” said Mohammad Amin, fellow, quantum algorithms and systems, at D-Wave. “The observed speedup can be attributed to complex critical dynamics during quantum phase transition, which cannot be replicated by classical annealing algorithms, and the agreement between theory and experiment is remarkable. We believe these findings have significant implications for quantum optimization, with practical applications in addressing real-world problems.”

About D-Wave Quantum Inc.

D-Wave is a leader in the development and delivery of quantum computing systems, software, and services, and is the world’s first commercial supplier of quantum computers—and the only company building both annealing quantum computers and gate-model quantum computers. Our mission is to unlock the power of quantum computing today to benefit business and society. We do this by delivering customer value with practical quantum applications for problems as diverse as logistics, artificial intelligence, materials sciences, drug discovery, scheduling, cybersecurity, fault detection, and financial modeling. D-Wave’s technology is being used by some of the world’s most advanced organizations, including Volkswagen, Mastercard, Deloitte, Davidson Technologies, ArcelorMittal, Siemens Healthineers, Unisys, NEC Corporation, Pattison Food Group Ltd., DENSO, Lockheed Martin, Forschungszentrum Jülich, University of Southern California, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which statements are based on beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the following words: “may,” “will,” “could,” “would,” “should,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “project,” “potential,” “continue,” “ongoing,” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology, although not all forward-looking statements contain these words. These statements involve risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to be materially different from the information expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. We caution you that these statements are based on a combination of facts and factors currently known by us and our projections of the future, which are subject to a number of risks. Forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the impact of the results of this study; the company’s Advantage2™ experimental prototype; and the potential for future problem-solving using quantum annealing. We cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this press release will prove to be accurate. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including, among others, various factors beyond management’s control, including general economic conditions and other risks, our ability to expand our customer base and the customer adoption of our solutions, and the uncertainties and factors set forth in the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” in D-Wave Quantum Inc.’s Form S-4 Registration Statement, as amended, previously filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as factors associated with companies, such as D-Wave, that are engaged in the business of quantum computing, including anticipated trends, growth rates, and challenges in those businesses and in the markets in which they operate; the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against us; risks related to the performance of our business and the timing of expected business or financial milestones; unanticipated technological or project development challenges, including with respect to the cost and or timing thereof; the performance of the our products; the effects of competition on our business; the risk that we will need to raise additional capital to execute our business plan, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all; the risk that we may never achieve or sustain profitability; the risk that we are unable to secure or protect our intellectual property; volatility in the price of our securities; and the risk that our securities will not maintain the listing on the NYSE. Furthermore, if the forward-looking statements contained in this press release prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In addition, you are cautioned that past performance may not be indicative of future results. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not place undue reliance on these statements in making an investment decision or regard these statements as a representation or warranty by any person we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame, or at all. The forward-looking statements in this press release represent our views as of the date of this press release. We anticipate that subsequent events and developments will cause our views to change. However, while we may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we have no current intention of doing so except to the extent required by applicable law. You should, therefore, not rely on these forward-looking statements as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this press release.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Quantum critical dynamics in a 5,000-qubit programmable spin glass by Andrew D. King, Jack Raymond, Trevor Lanting, Richard Harris, Alex Zucca, Fabio Altomare, Andrew J. Berkley, Kelly Boothby, Sara Ejtemaee, Colin Enderud, Emile Hoskinson, Shuiyuan Huang, Eric Ladizinsky, Allison J. R. MacDonald, Gaelen Marsden, Reza Molavi, Travis Oh, Gabriel Poulin-Lamarre, Mauricio Reis, Chris Rich, Yuki Sato, Nicholas Tsai, Mark Volkmann, Jed D. Whittaker, Jason Yao, Anders W. Sandvik & Mohammad H. Amin. Nature volume 617, pages 61–66 (2023) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05867-2 Published: 19 April 2023 Issue Date: 04 May 2023

This paper is behind a paywall but there is an open access version on the arxiv website which means that it has had some peer review but may differ from the version in Nature.

Discussing Nano-Yield’s fertilizer delivery systems on the Ag Tech Talk podcast

I was hoping for some technical information in the Ag Tech Talk podcast (which is produced by AgriBusiness Global [AGB]) or on the interview subject’s Nano-Yield website but—no. The Ag Tech Talk host, Daniel Jacobs, provides a little information about size when discussing the nanoscale; offering a blade of grass as an example, Unfortunately, Jacobs is unable to get more technical information from Clark Bell, the company’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) but there is ample discussion of the company’s business.

An excerpt from the transcript below the May 19, 2023 Ag tech Talk podcast should give you a sense of how the discussion went,

With fertilizer (and other input costs) rising, getting the most for your money has never been more critical. Nano-Yield offers a nanotechnology solution to deliver product at the molecular level. We talked with Clark Bell, CEO for Nano-Yield, to learn more about this technology, what innovations are on the horizon, how biologicals fit into the picture, and much more.

ABG [AgribBusiness Globa]: How many different countries are you in right now?

CB [Clark Bell]: We are in 10. We actually just inked a deal with Bangladesh, which we should talk about.

ABG: You wouldn’t define it as something that would cure citrus greening. You had a solution that helped that process. What else is it that your products, your solutions, offer folks?

CB: I think the claims are first and foremost fertilizers, and chemistries have some inefficiencies, and they can be corrected by different compounds by adding 4 ounces of nanoliquid technology into a spray tank, we can improve the uptake, or the absorption of different fertilizer molecules, synthetic chemistry uptake or even biologicals. And so that’s where we fit into the industry. People are trying to get more out of their tank. And so, they add nanoliquid technology to improve with uptake and better absorption to improve quality yields.

There are opportunities where people can use less material applied due to nanoliquid technology. So, in some areas like Bangladesh, for instance, where supply is a major issue — they don’t manufacture any of it domestically. It’s all brought in. So, we’re answering a problem for them or other countries that have access to. We are addressing things like corn and soybeans on broad acres in the U.S. where the grains trading, it’s very profitable that if they can get more yield and more quality, they’ll spend $5 on nanoliquid technology an acre, and they can see a minimum of a four-times return on investment by throwing that in there. So, we kind of essentially just make it so that we improve the performance of whatever they’ve already been using on their farm to get better output.

ABG: We’ve been hearing a lot about the fertilizer prices just shooting through the roof. And obviously anything that would increase yield, and not cost them an arm and a leg, or better use what they already have on their field would certainly be appreciated.

CB: Yes, certainly. We’ve been doing this for nine years, but essentially, since the pandemic. That’s really where things took off. It just takes some of the marketplace to prove your science, right? And they have a lot of data. And so that was kind of an inflection point for us. We’re up to like 800 trials now that we can showcase ROI and efficiency now.

But second to that is also the timing of the market, which is oftentimes the number one iteration of how technology is adopted is if you time the market right. And when we first came up with this concept in 2014, urea hadn’t increased by three times year over year. And so, when we go into 2021 and 2022, when those issues with MAP (Monoammonium phosphate) and DAP (Diammonium phosphate) and urea and essentially all the commodity fertilizers are just so darn expensive, we’ve been able to answer that problem for people. And again, one of one of the benefits. What we do is we can either improve the performance of what you’re already using, or in some instances there can be reductions and less material applied by using Nano-Liquid technology.

ABG: Can you give me the elevator speech version of exactly what your technology does for someone for a layman who doesn’t really, understand the technical points of the of how it works.

CB: Yeah, we were at a start of a board this last weekend. And so, I was talking to a group of tech and software people that don’t understand ag. And so, in simple terms Nano-Yield sells a sustainable fertilizer technology that improves the absorption of fertilizers and chemicals from what apply into crops.

ABG: How does it do that?

CB: The way that takes place is by adding nano particles into a tank that helps the different molecules and chemicals that are in that tank where oftentimes they don’t have a good delivery system to be delivered to those tissues, or leaves, or into the root systems. And by using the Nanoliquid technology, those nano particles now encapsulate and deliver those chemicals and fertilizers, so that there’s a better uptake. And there’s an efficiency the way that all comes into place.

The May 19, 2023 Ag tech Talk podcast runs for about 30 mins. and the transcript is included after the audio file. You can find the Nano-Yield website here.

Unveiling the Neurotechnology Landscape: Scientific Advancements, Innovations and Major Trends—a UNESCO report

Launched on Thursday, July 13, 2023 during UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) “Global dialogue on the ethics of neurotechnology,” is a report tying together the usual measures of national scientific supremacy (number of papers published and number of patents filed) with information on corporate investment in the field. Consequently, “Unveiling the Neurotechnology Landscape: Scientific Advancements, Innovations and Major Trends” by Daniel S. Hain, Roman Jurowetzki, Mariagrazia Squicciarini, and Lihui Xu provides better insight into the international neurotechnology scene than is sometimes found in these kinds of reports. By the way, the report is open access.

Here’s what I mean, from the report‘s short summary,

Since 2013, government investments in this field have exceeded $6 billion. Private investment has also seen significant growth, with annual funding experiencing a 22-fold increase from 2010 to 2020, reaching $7.3 billion and totaling $33.2 billion.

This investment has translated into a 35-fold growth in neuroscience publications between 2000-2021 and 20-fold growth in innovations between 2022-2020, as proxied by patents. However, not all are poised to benefit from such developments, as big divides emerge.

Over 80% of high-impact neuroscience publications are produced by only ten countries, while 70% of countries contributed fewer than 10 such papers over the period considered. Similarly, five countries only hold 87% of IP5 neurotech patents.

This report sheds light on the neurotechnology ecosystem, that is, what is being developed, where and by whom, and informs about how neurotechnology interacts with other technological trajectories, especially Artificial Intelligence [emphasis mine]. [p. 2]

The money aspect is eye-opening even when you already have your suspicions. Also, it’s not entirely unexpected to learn that only ten countries produce over 80% of the high impact neurotech papers and that only five countries hold 87% of the IP5 neurotech patents but it is stunning to see it in context. (If you’re not familiar with the term ‘IP5 patents’, scroll down in this post to the relevant subhead. Hint: It means the patent was filed in one of the top five jurisdictions; I’ll leave you to guess which ones those might be.)

“Since 2013 …” isn’t quite as informative as the authors may have hoped. I wish they had given a time frame for government investments similar to what they did for corporate investments (e.g., 2010 – 2020). Also, is the $6B (likely in USD) government investment cumulative or an estimated annual number? To sum up, I would have appreciated parallel structure and specificity.

Nitpicks aside, there’s some very good material intended for policy makers. On that note, some of the analysis is beyond me. I haven’t used anything even somewhat close to their analytical tools in years and years. This commentaries reflects my interests and a very rapid reading. One last thing, this is being written from a Canadian perspective. With those caveats in mind, here’s some of what I found.

A definition, social issues, country statistics, and more

There’s a definition for neurotechnology and a second mention of artificial intelligence being used in concert with neurotechnology. From the report‘s executive summary,

Neurotechnology consists of devices and procedures used to access, monitor, investigate, assess, manipulate, and/or emulate the structure and function of the neural systems of animals or human beings. It is poised to revolutionize our understanding of the brain and to unlock innovative solutions to treat a wide range of diseases and disorders.

Similarly to Artificial Intelligence (AI), and also due to its convergence with AI, neurotechnology may have profound societal and economic impact, beyond the medical realm. As neurotechnology directly relates to the brain, it triggers ethical considerations about fundamental aspects of human existence, including mental integrity, human dignity, personal identity, freedom of thought, autonomy, and privacy [emphases mine]. Its potential for enhancement purposes and its accessibility further amplifies its prospect social and societal implications.

The recent discussions held at UNESCO’s Executive Board further shows Member States’ desire to address the ethics and governance of neurotechnology through the elaboration of a new standard-setting instrument on the ethics of neurotechnology, to be adopted in 2025. To this end, it is important to explore the neurotechnology landscape, delineate its boundaries, key players, and trends, and shed light on neurotech’s scientific and technological developments. [p. 7]

Here’s how they sourced the data for the report,

The present report addresses such a need for evidence in support of policy making in
relation to neurotechnology by devising and implementing a novel methodology on data from scientific articles and patents:

● We detect topics over time and extract relevant keywords using a transformer-
based language models fine-tuned for scientific text. Publication data for the period
2000-2021 are sourced from the Scopus database and encompass journal articles
and conference proceedings in English. The 2,000 most cited publications per year
are further used in in-depth content analysis.
● Keywords are identified through Named Entity Recognition and used to generate
search queries for conducting a semantic search on patents’ titles and abstracts,
using another language model developed for patent text. This allows us to identify
patents associated with the identified neuroscience publications and their topics.
The patent data used in the present analysis are sourced from the European
Patent Office’s Worldwide Patent Statistical Database (PATSTAT). We consider
IP5 patents filed between 2000-2020 having an English language abstract and
exclude patents solely related to pharmaceuticals.

This approach allows mapping the advancements detailed in scientific literature to the technological applications contained in patent applications, allowing for an analysis of the linkages between science and technology. This almost fully automated novel approach allows repeating the analysis as neurotechnology evolves. [pp. 8-9[

Findings in bullet points,

Key stylized facts are:
● The field of neuroscience has witnessed a remarkable surge in the overall number
of publications since 2000, exhibiting a nearly 35-fold increase over the period
considered, reaching 1.2 million in 2021. The annual number of publications in
neuroscience has nearly tripled since 2000, exceeding 90,000 publications a year
in 2021. This increase became even more pronounced since 2019.
● The United States leads in terms of neuroscience publication output (40%),
followed by the United Kingdom (9%), Germany (7%), China (5%), Canada (4%),
Japan (4%), Italy (4%), France (4%), the Netherlands (3%), and Australia (3%).
These countries account for over 80% of neuroscience publications from 2000 to
2021.
● Big divides emerge, with 70% of countries in the world having less than 10 high-
impact neuroscience publications between 2000 to 2021.
● Specific neurotechnology-related research trends between 2000 and 2021 include:
○ An increase in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) research around 2010,
maintaining a consistent presence ever since.
○ A significant surge in Epilepsy Detection research in 2017 and 2018,
reflecting the increased use of AI and machine learning in healthcare.
○ Consistent interest in Neuroimaging Analysis, which peaks around 2004,
likely because of its importance in brain activity and language
comprehension studies.
○ While peaking in 2016 and 2017, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) remains a
persistent area of research, underlining its potential in treating conditions
like Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.
● Between 2000 and 2020, the total number of patent applications in this field
increased significantly, experiencing a 20-fold increase from less than 500 to over
12,000. In terms of annual figures, a consistent upward trend in neurotechnology-10
related patent applications emerges, with a notable doubling observed between
2015 and 2020.
• The United States account for nearly half of all worldwide patent applications (47%).
Other major contributors include South Korea (11%), China (10%), Japan (7%),
Germany (7%), and France (5%). These five countries together account for 87%
of IP5 neurotech patents applied between 2000 and 2020.
○ The United States has historically led the field, with a peak around 2010, a
decline towards 2015, and a recovery up to 2020.
○ South Korea emerged as a significant contributor after 1990, overtaking
Germany in the late 2000s to become the second-largest developer of
neurotechnology. By the late 2010s, South Korea’s annual neurotechnology
patent applications approximated those of the United States.
○ China exhibits a sharp increase in neurotechnology patent applications in
the mid-2010s, bringing it on par with the United States in terms of
application numbers.
● The United States ranks highest in both scientific publications and patents,
indicating their strong ability to transform knowledge into marketable inventions.
China, France, and Korea excel in leveraging knowledge to develop patented
innovations. Conversely, countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy,
Canada, Brazil, and Australia lag behind in effectively translating neurotech
knowledge into patentable innovations.
● In terms of patent quality measured by forward citations, the leading countries are
Germany, US, China, Japan, and Korea.
● A breakdown of patents by technology field reveals that Computer Technology is
the most important field in neurotechnology, exceeding Medical Technology,
Biotechnology, and Pharmaceuticals. The growing importance of algorithmic
applications, including neural computing techniques, also emerges by looking at
the increase in patent applications in these fields between 2015-2020. Compared
to the reference year, computer technologies-related patents in neurotech
increased by 355% and by 92% in medical technology.
● An analysis of the specialization patterns of the top-5 countries developing
neurotechnologies reveals that Germany has been specializing in chemistry-
related technology fields, whereas Asian countries, particularly South Korea and
China, focus on computer science and electrical engineering-related fields. The
United States exhibits a balanced configuration with specializations in both
chemistry and computer science-related fields.
● The entities – i.e. both companies and other institutions – leading worldwide
innovation in the neurotech space are: IBM (126 IP5 patents, US), Ping An
Technology (105 IP5 patents, CH), Fujitsu (78 IP5 patents, JP), Microsoft (76 IP511
patents, US)1, Samsung (72 IP5 patents, KR), Sony (69 IP5 patents JP) and Intel
(64 IP5 patents US)

This report further proposes a pioneering taxonomy of neurotechnologies based on International Patent Classification (IPC) codes.

• 67 distinct patent clusters in neurotechnology are identified, which mirror the diverse research and development landscape of the field. The 20 most prominent neurotechnology groups, particularly in areas like multimodal neuromodulation, seizure prediction, neuromorphic computing [emphasis mine], and brain-computer interfaces, point to potential strategic areas for research and commercialization.
• The variety of patent clusters identified mirrors the breadth of neurotechnology’s potential applications, from medical imaging and limb rehabilitation to sleep optimization and assistive exoskeletons.
• The development of a baseline IPC-based taxonomy for neurotechnology offers a structured framework that enriches our understanding of this technological space, and can facilitate research, development and analysis. The identified key groups mirror the interdisciplinary nature of neurotechnology and underscores the potential impact of neurotechnology, not only in healthcare but also in areas like information technology and biomaterials, with non-negligible effects over societies and economies.

1 If we consider Microsoft Technology Licensing LLM and Microsoft Corporation as being under the same umbrella, Microsoft leads worldwide developments with 127 IP5 patents. Similarly, if we were to consider that Siemens AG and Siemens Healthcare GmbH belong to the same conglomerate, Siemens would appear much higher in the ranking, in third position, with 84 IP5 patents. The distribution of intellectual property assets across companies belonging to the same conglomerate is frequent and mirrors strategic as well as operational needs and features, among others. [pp. 9-11]

Surprises and comments

Interesting and helpful to learn that “neurotechnology interacts with other technological trajectories, especially Artificial Intelligence;” this has changed and improved my understanding of neurotechnology.

It was unexpected to find Canada in the top ten countries producing neuroscience papers. However, finding out that the country lags in translating its ‘neuro’ knowledge into patentable innovation is not entirely a surprise.

It can’t be an accident that countries with major ‘electronics and computing’ companies lead in patents. These companies do have researchers but they also buy startups to acquire patents. They (and ‘patent trolls’) will also file patents preemptively. For the patent trolls, it’s a moneymaking proposition and for the large companies, it’s a way of protecting their own interests and/or (I imagine) forcing a sale.

The mention of neuromorphic (brainlike) computing in the taxonomy section was surprising and puzzling. Up to this point, I’ve thought of neuromorphic computing as a kind of alternative or addition to standard computing but the authors have blurred the lines as per UNESCO’s definition of neurotechnology (specifically, “… emulate the structure and function of the neural systems of animals or human beings”) . Again, this report is broadening my understanding of neurotechnology. Of course, it required two instances before I quite grasped it, the definition and the taxonomy.

What’s puzzling is that neuromorphic engineering, a broader term that includes neuromorphic computing, isn’t used or mentioned. (For an explanation of the terms neuromorphic computing and neuromorphic engineering, there’s my June 23, 2023 posting, “Neuromorphic engineering: an overview.” )

The report

I won’t have time for everything. Here are some of the highlights from my admittedly personal perspective.

It’s not only about curing disease

From the report,

Neurotechnology’s applications however extend well beyond medicine [emphasis mine], and span from research, to education, to the workplace, and even people’s everyday life. Neurotechnology-based solutions may enhance learning and skill acquisition and boost focus through brain stimulation techniques. For instance, early research finds that brain- zapping caps appear to boost memory for at least one month (Berkeley, 2022). This could one day be used at home to enhance memory functions [emphasis mine]. They can further enable new ways to interact with the many digital devices we use in everyday life, transforming the way we work, live and interact. One example is the Sound Awareness wristband developed by a Stanford team (Neosensory, 2022) which enables individuals to “hear” by converting sound into tactile feedback, so that sound impaired individuals can perceive spoken words through their skin. Takagi and Nishimoto (2023) analyzed the brain scans taken through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) as individuals were shown thousands of images. They then trained a generative AI tool called Stable Diffusion2 on the brain scan data of the study’s participants, thus creating images that roughly corresponded to the real images shown. While this does not correspond to reading the mind of people, at least not yet, and some limitations of the study have been highlighted (Parshall, 2023), it nevertheless represents an important step towards developing the capability to interface human thoughts with computers [emphasis mine], via brain data interpretation.

While the above examples may sound somewhat like science fiction, the recent uptake of generative Artificial Intelligence applications and of large language models such as ChatGPT or Bard, demonstrates that the seemingly impossible can quickly become an everyday reality. At present, anyone can purchase online electroencephalogram (EEG) devices for a few hundred dollars [emphasis mine], to measure the electrical activity of their brain for meditation, gaming, or other purposes. [pp. 14-15]

This is very impressive achievement. Some of the research cited was published earlier this year (2023). The extraordinary speed is a testament to the efforts by the authors and their teams. It’s also a testament to how quickly the field is moving.

I’m glad to see the mention of and focus on consumer neurotechnology. (While the authors don’t speculate, I am free to do so.) Consumer neurotechnology could be viewed as one of the steps toward normalizing a cyborg future for all of us. Yes, we have books, television programmes, movies, and video games, which all normalize the idea but the people depicted have been severely injured and require the augmentation. With consumer neurotechnology, you have easily accessible devices being used to enhance people who aren’t injured, they just want to be ‘better’.

This phrase seemed particularly striking “… an important step towards developing the capability to interface human thoughts with computers” in light of some claims made by the Australian military in my June 13, 2023 posting “Mind-controlled robots based on graphene: an Australian research story.” (My posting has an embedded video demonstrating the Brain Robotic Interface (BRI) in action. Also, see the paragraph below the video for my ‘measured’ response.)

There’s no mention of the military in the report which seems more like a deliberate rather than inadvertent omission given the importance of military innovation where technology is concerned.

This section gives a good overview of government initiatives (in the report it’s followed by a table of the programmes),

Thanks to the promises it holds, neurotechnology has garnered significant attention from both governments and the private sector and is considered by many as an investment priority. According to the International Brain Initiative (IBI), brain research funding has become increasingly important over the past ten years, leading to a rise in large-scale state-led programs aimed at advancing brain intervention technologies(International Brain Initiative, 2021). Since 2013, initiatives such as the United States’ Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the European Union’s Human Brain Project (HBP), as well as major national initiatives in China, Japan and South Korea have been launched with significant funding support from the respective governments. The Canadian Brain Research Strategy, initially operated as a multi- stakeholder coalition on brain research, is also actively seeking funding support from the government to transform itself into a national research initiative (Canadian Brain Research Strategy, 2022). A similar proposal is also seen in the case of the Australian Brain Alliance, calling for the establishment of an Australian Brain Initiative (Australian Academy of Science, n.d.). [pp. 15-16]

Privacy

There are some concerns such as these,

Beyond the medical realm, research suggests that emotional responses of consumers
related to preferences and risks can be concurrently tracked by neurotechnology, such
as neuroimaging and that neural data can better predict market-level outcomes than
traditional behavioral data (Karmarkar and Yoon, 2016). As such, neural data is
increasingly sought after in the consumer market for purposes such as digital
phenotyping4, neurogaming 5,and neuromarketing6 (UNESCO, 2021). This surge in demand gives rise to risks like hacking, unauthorized data reuse, extraction of privacy-sensitive information, digital surveillance, criminal exploitation of data, and other forms of abuse. These risks prompt the question of whether neural data needs distinct definition and safeguarding measures.

These issues are particularly relevant today as a wide range of electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets that can be used at home are now available in consumer markets for purposes that range from meditation assistance to controlling electronic devices through the mind. Imagine an individual is using one of these devices to play a neurofeedback game, which records the person’s brain waves during the game. Without the person being aware, the system can also identify the patterns associated with an undiagnosed mental health condition, such as anxiety. If the game company sells this data to third parties, e.g. health insurance providers, this may lead to an increase of insurance fees based on undisclosed information. This hypothetical situation would represent a clear violation of mental privacy and of unethical use of neural data.

Another example is in the field of advertising, where companies are increasingly interested in using neuroimaging to better understand consumers’ responses to their products or advertisements, a practice known as neuromarketing. For instance, a company might use neural data to determine which advertisements elicit the most positive emotional responses in consumers. While this can help companies improve their marketing strategies, it raises significant concerns about mental privacy. Questions arise in relation to consumers being aware or not that their neural data is being used, and in the extent to which this can lead to manipulative advertising practices that unfairly exploit unconscious preferences. Such potential abuses underscore the need for explicit consent and rigorous data protection measures in the use of neurotechnology for neuromarketing purposes. [pp. 21-22]

Legalities

Some countries already have laws and regulations regarding neurotechnology data,

At the national level, only a few countries have enacted laws and regulations to protect mental integrity or have included neuro-data in personal data protection laws (UNESCO, University of Milan-Bicocca (Italy) and State University of New York – Downstate Health Sciences University, 2023). Examples are the constitutional reform undertaken by Chile (Republic of Chile, 2021), the Charter for the responsible development of neurotechnologies of the Government of France (Government of France, 2022), and the Digital Rights Charter of the Government of Spain (Government of Spain, 2021). They propose different approaches to the regulation and protection of human rights in relation to neurotechnology. Countries such as the UK are also examining under which circumstances neural data may be considered as a special category of data under the general data protection framework (i.e. UK’s GDPR) (UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, 2023) [p. 24]

As you can see, these are recent laws. There doesn’t seem to be any attempt here in Canada even though there is an act being reviewed in Parliament that could conceivably include neural data. This is from my May 1, 2023 posting,

Bill C-27 (Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022) is what I believe is called an omnibus bill as it includes three different pieces of proposed legislation (the Consumer Privacy Protection Act [CPPA], the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act [AIDA], and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act [PIDPTA]). [emphasis added July 11, 2023] You can read the Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada summary here or a detailed series of descriptions of the act here on the ISED’s Canada’s Digital Charter webpage.

My focus at the time was artificial intelligence and, now, after reading this UNESCO report and briefly looking at the Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada summary and a detailed series of descriptions of the act on ISED’s Canada’s Digital Charter webpage, I don’t see anything that specifies neural data but it’s not excluded either.

IP5 patents

Here’s the explanation (the footnote is included at the end of the excerpt),

IP5 patents represent a subset of overall patents filed worldwide, which have the
characteristic of having been filed in at least one top intellectual property offices (IPO)
worldwide (the so called IP5, namely the Chinese National Intellectual Property
Administration, CNIPA (formerly SIPO); the European Patent Office, EPO; the Japan
Patent Office, JPO; the Korean Intellectual Property Office, KIPO; and the United States
Patent and Trademark Office, USPTO) as well as another country, which may or may not be an IP5. This signals their potential applicability worldwide, as their inventiveness and industrial viability have been validated by at least two leading IPOs. This gives these patents a sort of “quality” check, also since patenting inventions is costly and if applicants try to protect the same invention in several parts of the world, this normally mirrors that the applicant has expectations about their importance and expected value. If we were to conduct the same analysis using information about individually considered patent applied worldwide, i.e. without filtering for quality nor considering patent families, we would risk conducting a biased analysis based on duplicated data. Also, as patentability standards vary across countries and IPOs, and what matters for patentability is the existence (or not) of prior art in the IPO considered, we would risk mixing real innovations with patents related to catching up phenomena in countries that are not at the forefront of the technology considered.

9 The five IP offices (IP5) is a forum of the five largest intellectual property offices in the world that was set up to improve the efficiency of the examination process for patents worldwide. The IP5 Offices together handle about 80% of the world’s patent applications, and 95% of all work carried out under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), see http://www.fiveipoffices.org. (Dernis et al., 2015) [p. 31]

AI assistance on this report

As noted earlier I have next to no experience with the analytical tools having not attempted this kind of work in several years. Here’s an example of what they were doing,

We utilize a combination of text embeddings based on Bidirectional Encoder
Representations from Transformer (BERT), dimensionality reduction, and hierarchical
clustering inspired by the BERTopic methodology 12 to identify latent themes within
research literature. Latent themes or topics in the context of topic modeling represent
clusters of words that frequently appear together within a collection of documents (Blei, 2012). These groupings are not explicitly labeled but are inferred through computational analysis examining patterns in word usage. These themes are ‘hidden’ within the text, only to be revealed through this analysis. …

We further utilize OpenAI’s GPT-4 model to enrich our understanding of topics’ keywords and to generate topic labels (OpenAI, 2023), thus supplementing expert review of the broad interdisciplinary corpus. Recently, GPT-4 has shown impressive results in medical contexts across various evaluations (Nori et al., 2023), making it a useful tool to enhance the information obtained from prior analysis stages, and to complement them. The automated process enhances the evaluation workflow, effectively emphasizing neuroscience themes pertinent to potential neurotechnology patents. Notwithstanding existing concerns about hallucinations (Lee, Bubeck and Petro, 2023) and errors in generative AI models, this methodology employs the GPT-4 model for summarization and interpretation tasks, which significantly mitigates the likelihood of hallucinations. Since the model is constrained to the context provided by the keyword collections, it limits the potential for fabricating information outside of the specified boundaries, thereby enhancing the accuracy and reliability of the output. [pp. 33-34]

I couldn’t resist adding the ChatGPT paragraph given all of the recent hoopla about it.

Multimodal neuromodulation and neuromorphic computing patents

I think this gives a pretty good indication of the activity on the patent front,

The largest, coherent topic, termed “multimodal neuromodulation,” comprises 535
patents detailing methodologies for deep or superficial brain stimulation designed to
address neurological and psychiatric ailments. These patented technologies interact with various points in neural circuits to induce either Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) or Long-Term Depression (LTD), offering treatment for conditions such as obsession, compulsion, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and other movement disorders. The modalities encompass implanted deep-brain stimulators (DBS), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). Among the most representative documents for this cluster are patents with titles: Electrical stimulation of structures within the brain or Systems and methods for enhancing or optimizing neural stimulation therapy for treating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and or other movement disorders. [p.65]

Given my longstanding interest in memristors, which (I believe) have to a large extent helped to stimulate research into neuromorphic computing, this had to be included. Then, there was the brain-computer interfaces cluster,

A cluster identified as “Neuromorphic Computing” consists of 366 patents primarily
focused on devices designed to mimic human neural networks for efficient and adaptable computation. The principal elements of these inventions are resistive memory cells and artificial synapses. They exhibit properties similar to the neurons and synapses in biological brains, thus granting these devices the ability to learn and modulate responses based on rewards, akin to the adaptive cognitive capabilities of the human brain.

The primary technology classes associated with these patents fall under specific IPC
codes, representing the fields of neural network models, analog computers, and static
storage structures. Essentially, these classifications correspond to technologies that are key to the construction of computers and exhibit cognitive functions similar to human brain processes.

Examples for this cluster include neuromorphic processing devices that leverage
variations in resistance to store and process information, artificial synapses exhibiting
spike-timing dependent plasticity, and systems that allow event-driven learning and
reward modulation within neuromorphic computers.

In relation to neurotechnology as a whole, the “neuromorphic computing” cluster holds significant importance. It embodies the fusion of neuroscience and technology, thereby laying the basis for the development of adaptive and cognitive computational systems. Understanding this specific cluster provides a valuable insight into the progressing domain of neurotechnology, promising potential advancements across diverse fields, including artificial intelligence and healthcare.

The “Brain-Computer Interfaces” cluster, consisting of 146 patents, embodies a key aspect of neurotechnology that focuses on improving the interface between the brain and external devices. The technology classification codes associated with these patents primarily refer to methods or devices for treatment or protection of eyes and ears, devices for introducing media into, or onto, the body, and electric communication techniques, which are foundational elements of brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies.

Key patents within this cluster include a brain-computer interface apparatus adaptable to use environment and method of operating thereof, a double closed circuit brain-machine interface system, and an apparatus and method of brain-computer interface for device controlling based on brain signal. These inventions mainly revolve around the concept of using brain signals to control external devices, such as robotic arms, and improving the classification performance of these interfaces, even after long periods of non-use.

The inventions described in these patents improve the accuracy of device control, maintain performance over time, and accommodate multiple commands, thus significantly enhancing the functionality of BCIs.

Other identified technologies include systems for medical image analysis, limb rehabilitation, tinnitus treatment, sleep optimization, assistive exoskeletons, and advanced imaging techniques, among others. [pp. 66-67]

Having sections on neuromorphic computing and brain-computer interface patents in immediate proximity led to more speculation on my part. Imagine how much easier it would be to initiate a BCI connection if it’s powered with a neuromorphic (brainlike) computer/device. [ETA July 21, 2023: Following on from that thought, it might be more than just easier to initiate a BCI connection. Could a brainlike computer become part of your brain? Why not? it’s been successfully argued that a robotic wheelchair was part of someone’s body, see my January 30, 2013 posting and scroll down about 40% of the way.)]

Neurotech policy debates

The report concludes with this,

Neurotechnology is a complex and rapidly evolving technological paradigm whose
trajectories have the power to shape people’s identity, autonomy, privacy, sentiments,
behaviors and overall well-being, i.e. the very essence of what it means to be human.

Designing and implementing careful and effective norms and regulations ensuring that neurotechnology is developed and deployed in an ethical manner, for the good of
individuals and for society as a whole, call for a careful identification and characterization of the issues at stake. This entails shedding light on the whole neurotechnology ecosystem, that is what is being developed, where and by whom, and also understanding how neurotechnology interacts with other developments and technological trajectories, especially AI. Failing to do so may result in ineffective (at best) or distorted policies and policy decisions, which may harm human rights and human dignity.

Addressing the need for evidence in support of policy making, the present report offers first time robust data and analysis shedding light on the neurotechnology landscape worldwide. To this end, its proposes and implements an innovative approach that leverages artificial intelligence and deep learning on data from scientific publications and paten[t]s to identify scientific and technological developments in the neurotech space. The methodology proposed represents a scientific advance in itself, as it constitutes a quasi- automated replicable strategy for the detection and documentation of neurotechnology- related breakthroughs in science and innovation, to be repeated over time to account for the evolution of the sector. Leveraging this approach, the report further proposes an IPC-based taxonomy for neurotechnology which allows for a structured framework to the exploration of neurotechnology, to enable future research, development and analysis. The innovative methodology proposed is very flexible and can in fact be leveraged to investigate different emerging technologies, as they arise.

In terms of technological trajectories, we uncover a shift in the neurotechnology industry, with greater emphasis being put on computer and medical technologies in recent years, compared to traditionally dominant trajectories related to biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. This shift warrants close attention from policymakers, and calls for attention in relation to the latest (converging) developments in the field, especially AI and related methods and applications and neurotechnology.

This is all the more important and the observed growth and specialization patterns are unfolding in the context of regulatory environments that, generally, are either not existent or not fit for purpose. Given the sheer implications and impact of neurotechnology on the very essence of human beings, this lack of regulation poses key challenges related to the possible infringement of mental integrity, human dignity, personal identity, privacy, freedom of thought, and autonomy, among others. Furthermore, issues surrounding accessibility and the potential for neurotech enhancement applications triggers significant concerns, with far-reaching implications for individuals and societies. [pp. 72-73]

Last words about the report

Informative, readable, and thought-provoking. And, it helped broaden my understanding of neurotechnology.

Future endeavours?

I’m hopeful that one of these days one of these groups (UNESCO, Canadian Science Policy Centre, or ???) will tackle the issue of business bankruptcy in the neurotechnology sector. It has already occurred as noted in my ““Going blind when your neural implant company flirts with bankruptcy [long read]” April 5, 2022 posting. That story opens with a woman going blind in a New York subway when her neural implant fails. It’s how she found out the company, which supplied her implant was going out of business.

In my July 7, 2023 posting about the UNESCO July 2023 dialogue on neurotechnology, I’ve included information on Neuralink (one of Elon Musk’s companies) and its approval (despite some investigations) by the US Food and Drug Administration to start human clinical trials. Scroll down about 75% of the way to the “Food for thought” subhead where you will find stories about allegations made against Neuralink.

The end

If you want to know more about the field, the report offers a seven-page bibliography and there’s a lot of material here where you can start with this December 3, 2019 posting “Neural and technological inequalities” which features an article mentioning a discussion between two scientists. Surprisingly (to me), the source article is in Fast Company (a leading progressive business media brand), according to their tagline)..

I have two categories you may want to check: Human Enhancement and Neuromorphic Engineering. There are also a number of tags: neuromorphic computing, machine/flesh, brainlike computing, cyborgs, neural implants, neuroprosthetics, memristors, and more.

Should you have any observations or corrections, please feel free to leave them in the Comments section of this posting.

Virtual panel discussion: Canadian Strategies for Responsible Neurotechnology Innovation on May 16, 2023

The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) sent a May 11, 2023 notice (via email) about an upcoming event but first, congratulations (Bravo!) are in order,

The Science Meets Parliament [SMP] Program 2023 is now complete and was a huge success. 43 Delegates from across Canada met with 62 Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum on the Hill on May 1-2, 2023.

The SMP Program is championed by CSPC and Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer [through the Office of the Chief Science Advisor {OCSA}].

This Program would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors: The Royal Military College of Canada, The Stem Cell Network, and the University of British Columbia.

There are 443 seats in Canada’s Parliament with 338 in the House of Commons and 105 in the Senate and 2023 is the third time the SMP programme has been offered. (It was previously held in 2018 and 2022 according to the SMP program page.)

The Canadian programme is relatively new compared to Australia where they’ve had a Science Meets Parliament programme since 1999 (according to a March 20, 2017 essay by Ken Baldwin, Director of Energy Change Institute at Australian National University for The Conversation). The Scottish have had a Science and the Parliament programme since 2000 (according to this 2022 event notice on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s website).

By comparison to the other two, the Canadian programme is a toddler. (We tend not to recognize walking for the major achievement it is.) So, bravo to the CSPC and OCSA on getting 62 Parliamentarians to make time in their schedules to meet a scientist.

Responsible neurotechnology innovation?

From the Canadian Strategies for Responsible Neurotechnology Innovation event page on the CSPC website,

Advances in neurotechnology are redefining the possibilities of improving neurologic health and mental wellbeing, but related ethical, legal, and societal concerns such as privacy of brain data, manipulation of personal autonomy and agency, and non-medical and dual uses are increasingly pressing concerns [emphasis mine]. In this regard, neurotechnology presents challenges not only to Canada’s federal and provincial health care systems, but to existing laws and regulations that govern responsible innovation. In December 2019, just before the pandemic, the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] Council adopted a Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology. It is now urging that member states develop right-fit implementation strategies.

What should these strategies look like for Canada? We will propose and discuss opportunities that balance and leverage different professional and governance approaches towards the goal of achieving responsible innovation for the current state of the art, science, engineering, and policy, and in anticipation of the rapid and vast capabilities expected for neurotechnology in the future by and for this country.

Link to the full OECD Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology

Date: May 16 [2023]

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm EDT

Event Category: Virtual Session [on Zoom]

Registration Page: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-g8d1qubRhumPSCQi6WUtA

The panelists are:

Dr. Graeme Moffat
Neurotechnology entrepreneur & Senior Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy [University of Toronto]

Dr. Graeme Moffat is a co-founder and scientist with System2 Neurotechnology. He previously was Chief Scientist and VP of Regulatory Affairs at Interaxon, Chief Scientist with ScienceScape (later Chan-Zuckerberg Meta), and a research engineer at Neurelec (a division of Oticon Medical). He served as Managing Editor of Frontiers in Neuroscience, the largest open access scholarly journal series in the field of neuroscience. Dr. Moffat is a Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and an advisor to the OECD’s neurotechnology policy initiative.

Professor Jennifer Chandler
Professor of Law at the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, University of Ottawa

Jennifer Chandler is Professor of Law at the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, University of Ottawa. She leads the “Neuroethics Law and Society” Research Pillar for the Brain Mind Research Institute and sits on its Scientific Advisory Council. Her research focuses on the ethical, legal and policy issues in brain sciences and the law. She teaches mental health law and neuroethics, tort law, and medico-legal issues. She is a member of the advisory board for CIHR’s Institute for Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (IMNA) and serves on international editorial boards in the field of law, ethics and neuroscience, including Neuroethics, the Springer Book Series Advances in Neuroethics, and the Palgrave-MacMillan Book Series Law, Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She has published widely in legal, bioethical and health sciences journals and is the co-editor of the book Law and Mind: Mental Health Law and Policy in Canada (2016). Dr. Chandler brings a unique perspective to this panel as her research focuses on the ethical, legal and policy issues at the intersection of the brain sciences and the law. She is active in Canadian neuroscience research funding policy, and regularly contributes to Canadian governmental policy on contentious matters of biomedicine.

Ian Burkhart
Neurotech Advocate and Founder of BCI [brain-computer interface] Pioneers Coalition

Ian is a C5 tetraplegic [also known as quadriplegic] from a diving accident in 2010. He participated in a ground-breaking clinical trial using a brain-computer interface to control muscle stimulation. He is the founder of the BCI Pioneers Coalition, which works to establish ethics, guidelines and best practices for future patients, clinicians, and commercial entities engaging with BCI research. Ian serves as Vice President of the North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium and chairs their project review committee. He has also worked with Unite2Fight Paralysis to advocate for $9 million of SCI research in his home state of Ohio. Ian has been a Reeve peer mentor since 2015 and helps lead two local SCI networking groups. As the president of the Ian Burkhart Foundation, he raises funds for accessible equipment for the independence of others with SCI. Ian is also a full-time consultant working with multiple medical device companies.

Andrew Atkinson
Manager, Emerging Science Policy, Health Canada

Andrew Atkinson is the Manager of the Emerging Sciences Policy Unit under the Strategic Policy Branch of Health Canada. He oversees coordination of science policy issues across the various regulatory and research programs under the mandate of Health Canada. Prior to Health Canada, he was a manager under Environment Canada’s CEPA new chemicals program, where he oversaw chemical and nanomaterial risk assessments, and the development of risk assessment methodologies. In parallel to domestic work, he has been actively engaged in ISO [International Organization for Standardization and OECD nanotechnology efforts.

Andrew is currently a member of the Canadian delegation to the OECD Working Party on Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Converging Technologies (BNCT). BNCT aims to contribute original policy analysis on emerging science and technologies, such as gene editing and neurotechnology, including messaging to the global community, convening key stakeholders in the field, and making ground-breaking proposals to policy makers.

Professor Judy Illes
Professor, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, UBC [University of British Columbia]

Dr. Illes is Professor of Neurology and Distinguished Scholar in Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. She is the Director of Neuroethics Canada, and among her many leadership positions in Canada, she is Vice Chair of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Advisory Board of the Institute on Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA), and chair of the International Brain Initiative (www.internationalbraininitiative.org; www.canadianbrain.ca), Director at Large of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Council of Canadian Academies.

Dr. Illes is a world-renown expert whose research, teaching and outreach are devoted to ethical, legal, social and policy challenges at the intersection of the brain sciences and biomedical ethics. She has made ground breaking contributions to neuroethical thinking for neuroscience discovery and clinical translation across the life span, including in entrepreneurship and in the commercialization of health care. Dr. Illes has a unique and comprehensive overview of the field of neurotechnology and the relevant sectors in Canada.

One concern I don’t see mentioned is bankruptcy (in other words, what happens if the company that made your neural implant goes bankrupt?) either in the panel description or in the OECD recommendation. My April 5, 2022 posting “Going blind when your neural implant company flirts with bankruptcy (long read)” explored that topic and while many of the excerpted materials present a US perspective, it’s easy to see how it could also apply in Canada and elsewhere.

For those of us on the West Coast, this session starts at 9 am. Enjoy!

*June 20, 2023: This sentence changed (We tend not to recognize that walking for the major achievement it is.) to We tend not to recognize walking for the major achievement it is.

BSB Nanotechnology, silicon dioxide nanoparticles (SiO2), and Dow

Silicon dioxide (a form of silicon) is more commonly known as silica. There are problems with our use of *silica and so it was interesting to see this announcement (from a September 21, 2022 Dow news release on csiwire.com),

MIDLAND, Mich., September 21, 2022 /CSRwire/ – Dow (NYSE: Dow) announced a new engagement with BSB Nanotechnology Joint Stock Company, the world’s first producer of premium rice husk-based specialty silica. Rice husk, a renewable resource produced as a waste product of rice milling, is used for a plethora of diverse applications in the personal care market. This engagement helps accelerate Dow’s commitment towards a bio-based offering. The newly added ingredient – sold under the Dow trademark EcoSmooth™ Rice Husk Cosmetic Powder – delivers optical benefits and a unique sensorial experience for consumers in skin care, hair care and color cosmetic applications.

“Dow’s partnership with BSB Nanotechnology shines a light on how we continue to deliver on our commitment to transition towards a circular and low-carbon personal care offering while fostering valuable relationships with industry trailblazers,” said Isabel Almiro do Vale, global marketing and strategy director for Dow Personal Care. “This partnership is another significant milestone allowing Dow to expand its portfolio of products that enable eco-conscious claims, prioritizing solutions that deliver high-quality, benefits backed by science.”

The product of choice for the eco-conscious consumer, the EcoSmooth™ Rice Husk Cosmetic Powder is the exclusive ingredient to make its debut between the two parties. Compiled from non-GMO natural sources, this silica powder is upcycled from rice husk, a by-product from agriculture. It delivers a smooth feel combined with optical benefits like blurring imperfections and mattifying skin.

“This agreement signifies not only the first step towards a collaboration between Dow and BSB in the personal care sector but has also opened new pathways to other business sectors within Dow where BSB’s bio-based rice husk silica can offer sustainability and multifunctionality,” said Hung Nguyen, CEO of BSB. “BSB will continue to create more innovative and green solutions for the world and offer these additives through global partners like Dow.”

About Dow Personal Care Solutions

Dow Personal Care offers unique, innovative ingredients that empower customers around the world to create products with exceptional performance and exciting benefits that consumers can trust and believe in. Consumers that seek the confidence of a healthy appearance can see and feel the difference in our products through their lustrous hair or radiant and protected skin. We leverage our understanding of customer needs, deep market knowledge and technical expertise—combined with one of the broadest portfolios of technologies—to deliver personal care solutions with outstanding performance that are safe for people and the planet. We foster these innovations on global and local levels to meet the needs of diverse consumers through business centers, research and development (R&D), manufacturing plants and customer applications centers around the world. Please visit for more information.

About Dow

Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines global breadth; asset integration and scale; focused innovation and materials science expertise; leading business positions; and environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership to achieve profitable growth and deliver a sustainable future. The Company’s ambition is to become the most innovative, customer centric, inclusive and sustainable materials science company in the world. Dow’s portfolio of plastics, industrial intermediates, coatings and silicones businesses delivers a broad range of differentiated, science-based products and solutions for its customers in high-growth market segments, such as packaging, infrastructure, mobility and consumer applications. Dow operates 104 manufacturing sites in 31 countries and employs approximately 35,700 people. Dow delivered sales of approximately $55 billion in 2021. References to Dow or the Company mean Dow Inc. and its subsidiaries. For more information, please visit www.dow.com or follow @DowNewsroom on Twitter.

About BSB Nanotechnology

BSB Nanotechnology Joint Stock Company, an established multi-faceted business, forayed into the rice world through the formulation of rice-based milk, a widely popular beverage in Vietnam. Strategically located in the Mekong Delta, the rice basket of Vietnam, BSB Nanotech taps into the country’s position as the 5th largest rice producer to access the main ingredient to its healthy beverage product. While feeding this nutritious gift of nature to the people of Vietnam, BSB Nanotech was presented with large amounts of rice husk, a waste product of rice milling. Building upon the business principle of reducing waste by reuse, BSB Nanotech has embarked on a journey to discover and create the value that rice husk could offer through its range of premium rice husk silica under the brand Biosilico. For more information, visit www.biosilico.vn .

I’m quite taken with BSB Nanotechnology’s Biosilico About page,

THE JOURNEY FROM ASH TO CASH

BSB Nanotechnology Joint Stock Company, an established multi-faceted business, forayed into the rice world through the formulation of rice-based milk, a widely popular beverage in Vietnam. Strategically located in the Mekong Delta, the rice basket of Vietnam, BSB Nanotech taps into the country’s  position as the 5th largest rice producer to access the main ingredient to its healthy beverage product. While feeding this nutritious gift of nature to the people of Vietnam, BSB Nanotech was presented with large amounts of rice husk, a waste product of rice milling. Building upon the business principle of reducing waste by reuse, BSB Nanotech has embarked on a journey to discover the value that rice husk could offer.

In the attempt to derive by-products from rice husk, BSB Nanotech learns that the most significant value held within rice husk ash is the high content of naturally present silica. Currently, sand and quartz are the only other naturally occurring silica sources. However, extracting silica from sand and quartz not only causes health hazards, but sand mining by itself presents a huge ecological and sociological problem. The utilization of rice husk ash to produce nanoporous silica is a positive step towards both a bio-based and circular economy, as ultrafine silica/nanosilica can be manufactured from this renewable resource and agricultural waste.

After 4 years of extensive research and development, a highly dedicated team of researchers of BSB Nanotech has successfully harnessed amorphous silica in its highest purity and quality from this waste material using a unique and patented technology. A new bio-based nanoporous silica under the BIOSILICO brand is now commercially available and can be customized to suit an array of applications.

OUR PROMISE TODAY FOR A BETTER TOMORROW

Today, BSB Nanotech is recognized as the world’s first producer of rice husk based nanoporous silica on a commercial scale. We are currently working with several global partners to expand the range of BIOSILICO’s applications from the Paints and Coatings to Rubber additives and Cosmetics industries.

To ensure that our products are delivered with its promised quality and committed schedule, BSB Nanotech undertook rigorous training and auditing to refine its operation, and production process and documentation to achieve the ISO [International Standards Organisation] QMS certification in 2020.

The company has embarked on a roadmap to become a global producer and developer of rice husk based nanoporous silica in both production volume and diverse applications.

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Maybe one of these days we’ll see BSB Nanotechnology at the annual Zero Waste Conference held here in Vancouver (Canada) during the autumn.

*See my July 10, 2014 posting scroll down [about 10%] to the University of California at Riverside news release for difficulties of working with silicon at the nanoscale, then scroll down about 40% to the discussion of Sand Wars, a documentary about how our appetite for silica (silicon dioxide) is depleting our beaches of sand.*