After the tremendous success of the first Techcracker series in May introduced another seven global high-tech startups on October 9, 2014 at the iconic Lyceum Theatre. The half-day road show featured inspiring presentations by eight founders from seven technology start-ups around the world. Hailing from USA, Israel, UK, and Canada, the founders all captured the sense that in a technological revolution, the global economy and relationship between entities and people are changing; and while the idea of change is daunting to most, the ones who embrace it can liberate infinite possibilities.
Techcracker is jointly organized by the Science Research Information Technology Co., Ltd (“SRIT”), the Shanghai Development Research Center of the State Council (both subsidiaries of the Development Research Center of the State Council / DRC), China Economic Yearbook and the Li Ka Shing Foundation. It is also supported by the Sun Ye Fang Foundation and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and Horizons Ventures.
Han Jun, Deputy Director of the DRC emphasized, “Innovation has always been the cornerstone and the most efficient mean of national prosperity and growth. History shows that where there is innovation, economic growth follows. President Xi Jinping repeatedly urged the importance of implementing innovative strategies and encouraging personal growth. Over the years, Mr. Li Ka-shing and the LKSF have extended a helping hand across the world; his mission to improve education and healthcare in particular is unwavering over the years. We believe that the success of this event will greatly promote scientific and technological achievements and catalyze far-reaching influence at home and abroad.”
Extending the Spirit of Techcracker to Every Corner
Techcracker seeks to encourage and empower people to explore creative solutions to tackle existing problems and build a more sustainable and responsible future through adoption of disruptive technologies. Through the exchange with the local governments, government related entities, students, local startups and companies, the technologies and spirit of the Techcracker conference can extend through the Chinese community.
To expand the influence and reach of his philanthropy, Mr. Li Ka-shing formed his namesake foundation in 1980. Mr. Li considers the Foundation to be his “third son” and has pledged one-third of his assets to it. To date, LKSF has undertaken a great number of projects in the medical, education and cultural segments, pledging a total of over HKD$15 billion.
During the previous Techcracker event, Ms. Solina Chau, Director of LKSF, said that three problematic issues kept Mr. Li Ka-shing up at night: 1) the widening inequality in wealth and opportunities 2) scarcity of arable land to feed a growing population; Chinese people represent 20% of the global population with only 9% of global arable land to grow food; and 3) the lack of trust within the society.
Since 2006, Mr. Li’s strategy to tackle these key issues has been to find solutions through technologies, and advocate for robust governmental and societal support. In a special film produced for this event, Mr. Li said, “The heart and soul of innovation is more than knowing how to build a ship. We must be inspired to yearn for the sea.” In a continuing effort to inspire the youth, the Li Ka Shing Foundation also invited 40 students from Hong Kong to the Singapore leg of the conference, and over 200 students from China to the Shanghai event.
Regarding the Techcracker event and its mission to introduce cutting edge technology from abroad, Mr. Li Ming, Chairman of SRIT, explains the context: on an inspection tour to Israel, DRC Vice Chairman Han Jun visited Kaiima, an LKSF invested company, which boosts wheat productivity by 30% through non-GMO technology. Skeptical of such a feat, the Vice Chairman conducted deep due diligence under the hot sun and was finally convinced. Upon return to China, he hopes to bring that technology home. Since then, he has learnt more and more about LKSF invested technologies and has seen many synergies and applicability in China. A friendly productive relationship between DRC and LKSF was born.
The Seven Companies
Analyzing and Predicting the Movement of Infectious Disease through Big Data
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is not a local problem, but has also alerted the global community of the threat and impact of infectious diseases in a highly connected world. The virus has a fatality rate of 50%, and on October 1, 2014, the World Health Organization reported 7,178 infections and 3,338 deaths from the virus disease.
BioDiaspora studies how infectious diseases are increasingly able to disperse worldwide through the movements of international travelers. As a major conduit for the spread of infectious diseases, BioDiaspora is dedicated to understanding the global airline transportation network and leveraging knowledge of this complex “living” system to better prepare for and respond to global infectious disease threats.
Dr. Kamran Khan, Founder of BioDiaspora, is an infectious disease clinician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital Toronto, and an Associate Professor of Medicine with the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Toronto. BioDiaspora can generate and communicate customized, actionable intelligence about global infectious diseases in real-time. The application is capable of providing end-users with valuable insights into where dangerous infectious disease threats are emerging in the world and where they are most likely to spread.
Another challenge to health is the rise of antibiotic misuse and immunity. Eran Eden is the Founder and CEO of MeMed, an innovative medical company from Israel that developed ImmonXpertTM – a solutions that decodes the body’s immune response and aids physicians to make better-informed treatment decisions by reducing antibiotic misuse. This addresses one of the most critical global health concerns today – the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. ImmunoXpertTM is also useful for avoiding potentially harmful over-diagnosis, lowering healthcare costs and most importantly, improving patient safety.
Intelligent Technologies to Change Our Lifestyles
Wearable technology has been the talk of the tech world in the past few years. Meta brings a new dimension to the wearable space with its Augmented Reality glasses. Meron Gribetz, CEO & co-Founder of the Company, described the possibility with Holographic interface akin to what is seen on the silver screen – Ironman, minority report, Ender’s Game.
Another wearable company is Interaxon / MUSE from Canada. Ariel Garten, co-Founder & CEO, brings with her the latest brainwave detection headband – seven finely calibrated sensors detect and measure one’s brain’s activity. It provides one with feedback on how one’s brain is performing in real time. With this data, anyone has the potential to understand and improve how their brain works. Ariel says that MUSE can track and show brainwave activity on any handset and table – with some training, one can learn to control one’s emotions to remain calm and relax.
Reimagining traditional acoustic instruments like the piano and guitar, Roli created “The Seaboard”, a radically new musical instrument that re-engineers the piano keyboard as a soft continuous surface. Roland Lamb, the founder of the Company, did a live demonstration of The Seaboard and also explain the origin behind this new instrument that combines the acoustic to the digital. The Seaboard’s polyphonic pitch bend, vibrato and per-note dynamic changes are all available at one’s fingertips, marrying the intuitiveness of a traditional instrument with the versatility of digital technology.
Cost-Efficient and Environmentally Healthy Foods Solutions
The unsustainable nature of the current food production system has frustrated many environmentalist – how does one sustainably make leather, one of the most damaging process to the environment, without contributing to this global problem? Modern Meadow from USA has the answer. The Company applies the latest advances in tissue engineering to develop novel biomaterials to address some of our most pressing global challenges. Andras Forgacs, CEO and co-Founder of Modern Meadows, says this proprietary technology can create animal products like leather and meat without hurting animals and / or damage our environment.
Impossible Food is leading the way to a sustainable global food system. Patrick Brown, co-founder and CEO, developed transformative new technologies to produce plant-based foods that outperform existing meat and dairy products in taste and nutrition, at a lower cost and with a much lower impact on the global environment. Before founding Impossible Food, Pat was a Professor of Biochemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
After the event, business meetings took place between the seven tech startups and local investors and enterprises with the hope to establish long term working partnerships.
■ Related Background Information
On May 19 this year, “Techcracker – China Innovation Day”, co-organized by SRIT (a subsidiary of DRC) China Economic Year book and LKSF, kicked off in Beijing. The group then travelled through China over four days to Xi’an, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Zengzhou, and Jinan on a successful tour. The companies presented their respective technologies ranged from plant-based egg, big data cancer screening, non-GMO efficient crops, the most energy efficient light bulb in the world, biodegradable plastic, biologic water waste treatment and a company that sought to find a solution to build online reputation economy. All these companies received much attention and approval by local governments, R&D centers, enterprises and investors.