News In Context

New Index Identifies Leaders in The Digital Transformation Of Manufacturing

A report launched this week by the World Economic Forum this week says the semiconductors, electronics and pharmaceuticals sectors are leading the way in the digital transformation of manufacturing. Not surprisingly, the industries lagging behind are populated by the greatest number of small and medium-sized businesses.

The rankings were made by the new Global Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) initiative,  which aims, with the help of the Singapore Economic Development Board, to build the world’s largest datasets and benchmarks on the state of manufacturing globally. The report draws on data from close to 600 manufacturing companies in 30 countries that underwent a two-day independent review of a factory or plant.

To support the international scale-up of SIRI, a new non-governmental, not-for-profit organization called the International Centre for Industrial Transformation (INCIT)  has also been established. As a neutral, independent entity INCIT will work with both public and private sector manufacturing-related organizations to support industrial transformation across geographies and industries. The goal is to catalyze the adoption of Industry 4.0 methodologies and technologies across the global manufacturing community and provide quantitative indicators for international benchmarking.

Through this report, we hope to revolutionize the way by which the global manufacturing community approaches digital transformation; from one that is anecdote-based to one that relies on a standardized methodology and is supported by quantitative insights,” Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, said in a prepared statement.

Key findings include:

1. Over the past two years, most manufacturers have taken first steps towards digitalization in response to pandemic-related challenges. Companies which have started earlier are now progressing to the next level of integrating their digitized processes: plant/ factory connectivity, underscoring the importance of this in helping firms to better leverage data to generate new insights and facilitate more real-time
decision-making. Many top companies have already established interoperable and secure networks within their production sites, where equipment, machinery and computer-based systems can interact and exchange information with few restrictions.

2. Exponential demand growth, changing consumer patterns and chronic supply-chain disruptions during the pandemic have prompted some groups of companies to shift their focus to flexibility and speed-related KPIs to strengthen adaptability and resiliency. These include efforts by manufacturers to reorganize their supply chains based on regional geographical markets, practizing dual/triple sourcing and adopting hybrid inventory management models that include elements of both “just-in-time” and “just-in-case” strategies, the report says.

3. The bottom five-ranked industries are dominated by small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the report shows SMEs continue to face intense short-term business pressures, limited expertise, and tight resources, all of which have hindered the adoption of new advanced manufacturing processes and technologies.

The report outlines the different state of industrial transformation across sectors, and presents detailed case studies on how manufacturers, industry associations and governments  are actively leveraging the SIRI program to accelerate their digital transformation journeys.

As part of the launch of the report, the Forum and EDB will be co-organizing a webinar on 24 February.



McDonald’s Files Trademarks For Metaverse Restaurants That Deliver

McDonald’s has submitted a trademark application, including plans for “a virtual restaurant featuring actual and virtual goods” and “operating a virtual restaurant featuring home delivery” in the metaverse.  Based on the application, the restaurant chain will be able to provide “downloadable multimedia files” for artwork, audio and video files, and nonfungible tokens (NFT). McDonald’s also included its McCafe brand in the metaverse trademark application. The brand would be ready to offer entertainment services “namely, providing on-line actual and virtual concerts and other virtual events.” Bakery and cafe chain Panera Brea submitted a similar trademark application on Feb. 3 for a virtual restaurant and cafe chain called Paneraverse.Its plans also include downloadable content, NFTs, virtual food and beverage items, and virtual facilities where users can congregate. A trademark attorney told Forbes “I think you’re going to see every brand that you can think of make these filings within the next 12 months.”


Salesforce told employees at a sales kickoff on February 9 that the company plans to release an NFT Cloud, according to people with knowledge of the matter.NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are unique digital assets stored using blockchain technology. They’ve taken off in the world of art and collectibles, and Salesforce sees an opportunity to bring the technology into enterprise software. In a blog post on 2022 predictions published in December, Mathew Sweezey, director of market strategy at Salesforce, said that in the coming year “pioneering brands will search for utility via NFTs“To unlock their full potential, brands are going to have to start creating utility via the token,” Sweezey wrote. “In 2022, you’re going to hear a lot more about NFTs, and there will be winners and losers.”


Israeli Scientists Engineer Human Spinal Cord Implants To Treat Paralysis

In a world first, Israeli scientists say they have engineered 3D human spinal cord tissues and implanted them in an animal lab model with long-term chronic paralysis.The scientists said the “highly encouraging” results showed that there was an 80% success rate in restoring walking abilities for patients with chronic paralysis. The research from Tel Aviv University was revealed on Monday after publication in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Advanced Materials.


AI Startup That Models Materials At Atomic Level Could Help Solve Global Challenges  

San Francisco-based startup Mat3ra raised $3 million in seed funding led by Draper Associates for an AI-based platform that helps companies model new materials at the atomic level. The platform lets users design new compounds using simulation tools that run physics-based and machine-learning models to predict behaviors and outcomes. It can model new compounds, starting from the interactions between individual atoms, and show how they perform together as a new material, according to the company. Through AI-based simulations, Mat3ra’s technology can accelerate materials research-and-development efforts that traditionally have required trial-and-error experimentation, says Timur Bazhirov, Mat3ra’s founder and chief executive,  benefitting fields like semiconductors, energy storage, space exploration and manufacturing.


Hermès-Backed Mushroom Leather Startup Ready To Scale

Hermès-backed startup Mycoworks says it is ready to scale its mushroom leather alternative after proving its efficacy at scale via production runs for Hermès and securing new funding. The San Francisco biotechnology firm has raised a $125 million Series C funding round led by Prime Movers Lab, alongside new investors SK Networks and Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact and Innovation Fund. The investment will be used to build its first full-scale manufacturing plant in South Carolina, giving it the capacity to produce several million square feet of its proprietary Fine Mycelium material, called Reishi, each year.


Major Breakthrough On Nuclear Fusion Energy

European scientists say they have made a major breakthrough in their quest to develop practical nuclear fusion.The UK-based JET laboratory has smashed its own world record for the amount of energy it can extract by squeezing together two forms of hydrogen.If nuclear fusion can be successfully recreated on Earth it holds out the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon, low-radiation energy.The experiments produced 59 megajoules of energy over five seconds (11 megawatts of power), more than double what was achieved in similar tests back in 1997.It’s not a massive energy output but the significance is that it validates design choices that have been made for an even bigger fusion reactor now being constructed in France.

ENGIE Announces Strategic Partnership To Create Ultra-Low Carbon Electrofuels At Scale

U.S. electrofuels company Infinium announced a strategic partnership with France’s ENGIE to develop a facility to produce ultra-low carbon electrofuels at scale for the local transportation industry. The new ‘Reuze’ project includes the development of one of Europe’s largest announced CO2 conversion hubs, located in France, which will enable the conversion of hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 emissions from steelmaker ArcelorMittal into clean electrofuels for the European market.  Infinium electrofuels technology converts renewable power into green hydrogen, then uses the green hydrogen and waste CO2 to produce ultra-low carbon fuels. This approach offers an integrated end-to-end process to produce fuels directly on-site. These fuels can serve as an instant replacement for traditional jet fuel and diesel and be directly used in planes, ships and truck fleets without changes in infrastructure or engine design. ergy hubs.


EU Commission To Legislate For Full EU-Wide Coverage Of Instant Payments

The European Commission is set to introduce legislation covering a digital euro and full EU-wide coverage of instant payments  early next year. The bill will serve as the legal foundation for the European Central Bank’s ongoing technical work on the creation of a central bank digital currency. On instant payments, the proposed legislative changes are intended to address the fragmented market for cross-border real-time payments and provide a spur to Open Banking initiatives across the Union. While details are scarce, EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness told a conference that the new rules are required to accelerate the roll-out of instant payments in the EU.

Apple’s iPhone Payment Push

Apple is introducing a new feature that will allow businesses to accept credit card and digital payments with just a tap on their iPhones, bypassing hardware systems such as Block’s  Square terminals.The feature, to be launched later this year, will use near field communications (NFC) technology for making all kinds of payments, including between iPhones, Apple said on February 8. The tech giant added that it would not know what was being purchased or who was buying it, stressing on the services privacy feature. Fintech services Stripe and Shopify Point will be the first to offer the “Tap to Pay” feature to business customers in the spring of 2022 in the United States, the company said in a statement.


EU Commission Proposes Chips Act To Confront Semiconductor Shortages And Strengthen Europe’s Technological Leadership

European Union lawmakers have unveiled plans to bolster regional sovereignty in semiconductor production and supply chain resilience through a package of targeted support for chip production inside the bloc, including in areas like R&D and via funding for startups and scale-ups working on cutting edge tech in the sector.The proposal also includes a loosening of strict EU state aid rules that will allow Member States to provide financial support to novel “first of a kind” chip fabs.The overarching goal for the regulation is to ensure continued access for the EU to the high-tech chips now needed to power all sorts of machines and devices.The Commission wants to more than double the bloc’s share of global chip production to 20% by 2030 — up from the 9% currently.


The U.S.  Arrests Two And Seizes $3.6 Billion In Cryptocurrency From Bitfinex Hack

The U.S. Department of Justice has arrested two people and confiscated more than $3.6 billion worth of cryptocurrency that it said was stolen during the high-profile 2016 hack of the Bitfinex exchange. New York-based Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, were arrested on February 8 and accused of conspiring to launder proceeds of 119,754 bitcoin. The cryptocurrency was allegedly taken when Hong Kong-based Bitfinex was breached. The justice department’s operation came as authorities have poured resources into cryptocurrency enforcement after vowing to crack down on the criminal use of digital tokens.

CryptoCurrency Exchange Binance Will Invest $200 Million In U.S. Media Firm Forbes

Major cryptocurrency exchange Binance will make a $200 million investment in Forbes, the media company said February 10, as it prepares to go public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The investment by Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volumes, will replace half of the $400 million in private placement commitments already announced by Forbes and SPAC company Magnum Opus Acquisition Limited. Binance will help advise Forbes on its digital asset and “Web3” strategy, they added, referring to a  version of the Internet where blockchain-based “decentralized” apps and cryptocurrencies are more widely used.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.