Last week, in a French speaking podcast, I was invited to talk about innovative Chinese companies in the aerospace industry.
Among a number of companies, I spoke aboutOrigin Space, China’s first and only asteroid mining company. The company develops technologies to mine resources such as rare-earth metals from near-earth asteroids.
Artist view of mining in space (image credit: Dassault System)
Start-ups in the aerospace sector in China don’t get much coverage, and the idea of mining in space raised many questions around what role it might play in our future, such as:
"How will we bring mined resources back to earth?"
"Would these resources impact the price of resources on earth"
As I was framing my answers to these questions, I realised I was applying the past to the future.
Why would we even bring mined resources back to earth? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep them on site to build space stations and reinforce our ability to live and travel in space?
In 2022, the Psyche mission from NASA will be the first mission to investigate metal, exploring a unique metal asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter (image credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
I believe so, and I think the key question around our future in space is what we need the most to make life in space sustainable.
I would say fuel, and amongst the options available, water mining on the moon with a process to convert water into hydrogen fuel and facilitate space travel is the one I would bet on.
What does all this have to do with start-ups? A lot because:
- Space-based innovation is becoming increasingly the domain of start-ups, rather than public institution or corporates. US$8Bn per year in China is going into this sector.
- With lower barriers to entry, use-cases are growing rapidly. Take video-sharing company Bilibili and their acquisition of a satellite to produce content from space
- Technologies, such as Origin Space, which are developed to mine in space will become available to mining companies on earth
Mining is an industry which is often perceived as old and boring but it hides a wide range of innovations.
This week for example, China's largest hard coal producer, together with China Mobile, has built the country's first 5G mine under a coal mine shaft.
Speedtest to measure the efficiency of 5G in a mine in China
The symbiotic relationship between mining in space and mining on earth is only going to grow.
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- Didi, a ride-hailing platform, appears ready to enter the grocery e-commerce business competing with giants ranging from Meituan-dianping to JD Daojia
- Bytedance, owner of TikTok and numerous online content platforms, is taking down its video-sharing app Vigo in India and focussing on its flagship TikTok
- Bytedance, owner of TikTok and numerous online content platforms, has reportedly bid for a digital banking licence in Singapore, seeking to expand into the banking industry
- Revenue of Bytedance, owner of TikTok and numerous online content platforms, in the first quarter of 2020 has reportedly increased by 130% year-on-year to 40 billion RMB. The annual revenue target is 200 billion RMB
- In order to meet shopping needs on TikTok, short video app owned by Bytedance, Bytedance is moving into e-commerce and has set up a TikTok e-commerce department
- Wangfujing Group, one of China's largest department store groups, and Bytedance, owner of TikTok and numerous online content platforms, have signed a cloud contract with the aim of working together on live streaming
- ByteDance is planning a renewed attack on Tencent’s gaming empire, following deals with CMGE, a mobile game developer, Yaoji Network, a mobile games developer, and Kaiser, a leading culture and entertainment enterprise
- Li Hui has resigned as the legal representative of an affiliated company to Renrenche, a second-hand car e-commerce platform. Li Yichun has taken over
- Alipay, Ant Financial's mobile payment platform, upgraded its search capability which means that users can search stock and financial information query, simulation trading, stock analysis, research and information exchange, fund exchange, fund purchase and other financial services directly
- Edmodo, an online K12 education tool & platform under NetDragon, has established a partnership with the Vermont Department of education
- JD, an online retail platform, and Gree, an electronic home appliances manufacturer, have jointly launched an AI customized refrigerator which has a variable frequency air-cooling system
- OFilm, an optical optoelectronic and smart car application hardware provider, its central research center has developed the thinnest periscope continuous zoom module
- Hai Robotics, a warehouse automation solution provider, has released two storage robots
- An AI imaging product which assists in the diagnosis of intracranial tumors has been approved, developed by Biomind AI, an AI diagnosis product provider
- Pcitech, an AI technology & products provider, won 3rd place globally in the WebVision 2020 image classification competition
- The world's first 5G notebook manufactured by Lenovo, a personal computer maker, Flex 5G, has been launched with a retail price of 9,900 RMB
- Oppo, a smart phone maker, won two first prizes in CVPR 2020. The company won first place for its "extreme super-resolution perception" technology which can "calculate" blurred image clearly. The company also won first place for its technology of "visual positioning of handheld device"
- Tencent Games has expanded application of its facial recognition to make it more difficult for children to use their parents identity information
- SMIC, a leading semiconductor foundry, its first 14 nanometer chip production line is now in mass production
- The China Banking Regulatory Commission has approved 360 Finance's 30% equity acqusition of KCBE Bank, which will make 360 Finance, a financial service platform under Qihoo 360 group, the largest shareholder and gain a bank license via KCBE Bank
- Global smart watch shipments rose 12% in the first quarter. Apple ranked first and Huawei second
- Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman of Gree, an electronic home appliances manufacturer, said that Gree's dream is that all furniture and home appliances can be controlled by voice and Gree will soon launch its first 5G phones
- Huawei, a telecom equipment manufacturer, mobile phone Mate40 is reportedly seeing production postponed and reducing purchase of associated parts
- Hongqi Chain, a supermarket chain, said it plans to open no less than 200 new stores every year in the next three years
- In the first hour of the morning of shopping festival, 618, the turnover of Tmall, e-commerce platform under Alibaba group, increased by 100% year-on-year
- Tongdun, a big data risk control solution provider, its AI technology "meta knowledge technology for behavior analysis" has received a national patent
- Baidu, China's largest search engine, has released a portable EM-BOX edge computing box, which can connect with mainstream cameras and visually display alarm events
- JD, an online retail platform, released a report stating that during the June sales festival, 618, turnover of Apple products exceeded 500Mn RMB in only 5 minutes
- The China Development Research Foundation launched together with Baidu, China's largest search engine, a white paper on China's Intelligent Economic Development
- JPMorgan has received approval to operate the first fully foreign-owned futures business in China
- Nearly 6,000 live-streaming related enterprises have been created in China this year, a year-on-year increase of 258%
Newly set-up companies
- BYD, an electric vehicle manufacturer, has established a new company in Shenzhen with business scope including UAV and VR glasses
Senior management shifts
- Liu Weijian will become the president of Visteon China
- Zhang Yaodong, President of Afu, an essential oil skincare company, has resigned from Afu
- Wu Wenhui has resigned as the legal representative of Yueting Information Technology, an affiliated company to China Literature, a publishing company. Cheng Wu, CEO of China Literature has taken over
- Qian Zhiya, founder of Luckin Coffee, a new retail coffee chain, has resigned as the legal representative
- Kering SA, the parent company of French luxury giant, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and other brands, officially announced the appointment of Liu Qing - President of Didi, a ride-hailing platform, Tidjane Thiam - former CEO of Credit Suisse Group and British actress Emma Watson as its new board members
- Xu Huilin has resigned as the legal representative of Xunlei Game Development Co., Ltd under Xunlei, a software service & blockchain technology company
- Unity, a real-time development platform, and Tencent Cloud have announced a cooperation to build an online game development platform
- HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate of businesses including aviation, real estate, financial services, tourism and logistics, Tencent, a tech conglomerate, and Donica, a leading InFlight Entertainment & Connectivity R&D and manufacturer, have signed a cooperation to build smart aviation
- Huawei, a telecom equipment manufacturer, and BYD have signed a cooperation. The Huawei Hisilicon Kirin chip will be used to explore the application of an automobile digital cockpit
- China's State Grid, state-owned electricity monopoly in China, plans to invest 24.7 billion RMB in digital infrastructure to bolster Beijing’s efforts to kick start economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus. The world’s largest utility has signed strategic cooperation agreements with Huawei, Alibaba Group, Tencent and Baidu
- 24Tidy, a 24-hour online laundry service platform, has signed a cooperation with Bonnych, the largest laundry service brand in Southwest China, to create digital integration in the laundry industry in Southwest China
- Ab&b Bio-Tech, a vaccine maker, and the Institut Pasteur Shanghai under the Chinese Academy of Sciences are cooperating to develop a gene-based Covid-19 inoculation
- Netease Cloud Music, music streaming platform, has announced a strategic cooperation with Indie Works, an independent music consortium
- Tencent Music, a digital music service provider, and Sony / ATV have a "polar start international creative camp plan" to connect Chinese musicians with producers and songwriters in China and abroad
Investment & Investor-related developments
- Wumart, a supermarket chain, plans to launch an IPO of US $1 billion to US $2 billion in Hong Kong in 2021
- Tencent, a tech conglomerate, is reportedly trying to become the biggest shareholder in video streaming rivaliQiyi. Tencent has approached iQiyi’s 56.2 per cent owner Baidu, to buy a stake of as-yet undetermined amount
- Autobio, an in vitro diagnostic reagents and instruments developer, is planning to raise 3.28 billion RMB to expand production capacity of in vitro diagnostic products
- LGBTQ dating app Blued parent company Blue City plans to go public on the Nasdaq and to raise $50Mn
- Kangji Medical, a minimally invasive surgical equipment maker, will list in Hong Kong on June 29
- Nintendo memory supplier Macronix, a leading integrated device manufacturer in the Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) market, will invest NT$ 8.5 billion in Taiwan
- Geely Holdings, a prominent automobile company and owner of Volvo, plans to return to the A-share market with a listing on the Science and Technology Innovation Board
- Geely Holdings, a prominent automobile company and owner of Volvo, may reportedly take part in a bid for Ssangyong Motor Company, a South Korean subsidiary of Indian carmaker Mahindra
Technology Advancement and Research and Development
Important milestone event
- China launched a new Earth observation satellite which will be mainly used for land survey, city planning, land right confirmation, road network design, crop yield estimation and disaster prevention and mitigation
- China Mobile, a major Chinese telco, has built the first 5G smart coal mine in Shanxi province in collaboration with Yangquan Coal Group and Huawei, a telecom equipment manufacturer
- The two papers to win the top awards at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) were led by Chinese AI researchers. The Best Paper looked at recovering the three-dimensional (3D) shape of an object from a single-view image. The Best Student Paper proposed a network to facilitate 3D computer learning
Newly proven technologies
- Chinese scientists have developed an intelligent, autonomous air-ground vehicle, which can be used for deliveries and rescue missions. Developed by a team from Tsinghua University, the unmanned electric vehicle can switch between ground working mode and flying mode
- China's first polar-observing satellite has started its Arctic observation mission after orbiting Earth for nine months
- A team of Chinese researchers has demonstrated secure quantum communication between two ground stations. The distance was a record, 1,120 km, and there was no intermediate security relays. This is seen as a new step forward toward the practical application of quantum communication
- The world's first Beidou satellite system-based high-precision positioning intelligent car has gone on the market. A cooperation involving Qianxun SI, a high precision location service provider, and GAC Group, an automobile company
Important R&D investment
- BYD Semiconductor has raised 800 Mn RMB to increase research and development of IGBT, the core component of electric vehicles
National Innovation Developments
National & regional plan
- Shanghai plans to build 100 unmanned factories by 2022
- China's central bank is promoting the application of blockchain and other technologies in the field of supervising financial technological innovation and risk prevention
- China's first industry standard governing livestreaming e-commerce will be released in July
- The Ministry of Finance has announced anti-epidemic national bonds totalling 100 billion RMB
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