Category “Verdict”

FDI drivers in 2022: ESG

Wednesday, 10 August, 2022

Embracing environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria is rising in importance as a driver of foreign direct investment (FDI), with investors increasingly taking into account such criteria as part of their site selection decision.

However, when it comes to responsible investing, there is more to it than simply ticking off the ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’. Taking into consideration the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is becoming more prominent, while all companies have to be on their guard to avoid accusations of greenwashing.

ESG is a set of standards used by companies to measure how responsible their practices are, while the SDGs consist of 17 goals set out by the UN that it hopes to achieve globally by 2030.

GlobalData’s Company Filings Analytics Trends & Signals Q1 2022 report, which was based on earnings call transcripts in the first three months of 2022, reveals a 23% rise in ESG mentions when compared with the final quarter of 2021.

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The study also states that mentions of “various SDGs set by the UN have been steadily increasing in companies ESG reports since 2016”. In addition, the data shows that companies tend to refer to different SDGs in their earnings calls depending on the sector in which they operate.

What is the relationship between ESG and FDI?

A poor performance when it comes to ESG or the SDGs can have a negative effect on how attractive a company or a location is to investors. Conversely, however, the outside expertise that FDI can bring can help those struggling to meet sustainability standards.

If foreign investors back projects that promote ESG and the SDGs, then the host countries are going to benefit from industry-specific expertise, the transfer of technology and job creation in sectors that deliver environmental and social impact. 

There are specific areas where FDI flows can be particularly helpful when it comes to moving a company or country closer to meeting the SDG targets. They are:

  • renewables
  • affordable and eco-friendly housing
  • rehabilitation centres
  • affordable irrigation systems
  • affordable medical equipment and consumables
  • affordable micro credit and mortgages
  • affordable sanitation services
  • agricultural logistics services
  • construction of wastewater treatment plans
  • electronic waste recycling

The chart below shows where FDI into the renewables and alternative power sector has been most prominent and has grown the most over the past three years.

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According to data from Investment Monitor’s FDI Projects Database, Spain stands out in terms of renewables FDI projects growth, going from 46 in 2019, then 27 in a Covid-19-hit 2020, to a spike of 78 in 2021. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its market size, the US has consistently attracted the most renewables FDI projects in this period, going from 61 in 2019 to 72 in 2020 to 81 in 2021.

Some countries seemed to shrug off the FDI slump brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic when it comes to renewables FDI. Brazil experienced a large rise in this sector in 2020, going from 12 projects the year before to 55. The UK also enjoyed a strong 2020, going from 25 renewables projects in 2019 to 40, a figure that held firm in 2021 with 44 projects.

FDI, ESG and supply chains

Waterproofing supply chains from disruptive events is key for foreign investors with operations in several countries, and ESG can play a key role in this.

A survey by procurement and supply chain consultancy Proxima has found that companies without sustainable supply chains will attract less investment and see share prices drop over the next decade.

The survey, which was conducted among investment managers based in the UK and the US, revealed that 84% of the responders believe that issues with supply chain sustainability and a lack of ESG standards are a financial threat to their investments.  

Thus, committing to climate action, reducing gender inequalities and ensuring workplace safety within supply chains is rising on investors’ agendas as a way to build resilient supply chains, promote the achievement of the SDGs and generate sustainable economic growth.

How are countries faring when it comes to meeting ESG criteria?

While many countries have signed the Paris Agreement, which targets limiting global warming to below 2°C, and have, among other things, committed to bringing carbon emissions down to zero by 2050, some are further along this journey than others.

In 2021, China was the country that invested the most in energy transition with a total of $266bn. It was followed, by some distance, by the US with $144bn. An even more distant Germany was in third with $47bn.

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The data in the chart above is drawn from BloombergNEF’s Energy Transition Investment Trends 2022 report. Investment in energy transition as referred to in this report covers a wide scope of sectors including renewables, energy storage, electric vehicles and heating, hydrogen, nuclear, sustainable materials and carbon capture.

In 2021, global investment in the low-carbon energy transition totalled $755bn, up from $595bn in 2020 and just $264bn in 2011, according to the report.

“The largest sector in 2021 was renewable energy, which attracted $366bn for new projects and small-scale systems (up 6.5% from 2020), but the electrified transport sector grew the fastest and hit $273bn (up 77%),” the report said. “The next largest sectors of spending were electrified heat ($53bn) and nuclear energy ($31bn).”

The Asia-Pacific region attracted the most investment at $368bn, and recorded the highest growth at 38%, but investment rose to a new record in all regions.

“Still, investment must triple in the next few years to get on track for net zero by 2050,” the report notes.

Which countries are still attracting oil and gas FDI?

Comparing the proportion of oil and gas construction projects against those in alternative power infrastructure can give an indication of which countries have more work to do to meet the net-zero targets.

Data from the GlobalData Construction Intelligence Centre shows that in the period between 2009 and 2019, the United Arab Emirates attracted more projects in oil and gas (331) than in alternative power infrastructure (318).

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Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Canada have also attracted a high proportion of oil and gas construction projects in the period, with Brazil, Chile, Japan, Peru, Spain and the UK at the other end of the spectrum.

This article is part of a series focusing on FDI drivers that are rising in importance in the post-Covid environment. The full list comprises:

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TikTok has Big Tech on the defensive

Wednesday, 10 August, 2022

Meta is changing the DNA of its empire to catch up to ByteDance’s TikTok, to a largely negative reception. It is not alone, with Alphabet also noting the threat posed to YouTube, Google Search, and Google Maps.

Despite longstanding data privacy concerns, TikTok’s Midas touch appears to be long-lasting. Energy company Shell is hiring a TikTok manager to oversee its TikTok advertising campaign aimed at improving its public image, and influencer marketing spend on TikTok is forecast to overtake Facebook and YouTube by 2024, leaving it second to only Instagram.

“Make Instagram Instagram Again” 

In the latest attempt to emulate TikTok, Instagram has classed all videos under 15 minutes as ‘Reels’. Instagram launched Reels in 2020 after realizing that short-form vertical videos were now more likely to go viral than photos. Reels uploaded on a public account become part of the pool of content fed into users’ recommendation algorithms, enabling them to reach a far wider audience than just the uploader’s followers. Facebook, too, is borrowing features from TikTok, with the ‘Home’ tab recommending a constant feed of content to the user based on their viewing history.

Some businesses and content creators are supportive of Meta’s heavy Reels investment as videos are a better format than images for showcasing and demoing products and are more likely to reach a wider audience. However, many Instagram users, including ones as high profile as Kim Kardashian, are critical of the increase in public content that is now on their feed, rather than seeing posts exclusively from accounts that they follow. The criticism even spurred a petition to revert Instagram to its pre-TikTok functionality and has already prompted Meta to roll back and rethink some changes.

Zuckerberg’s logic is questionable. Users that want to browse short-form videos will go to TikTok to do so, meaning that there is little purpose for TikTok copycats. Instead of preserving its identity as the go-to photo-sharing app, Instagram is abandoning this to attempt to beat TikTok—and its highly informed and well-curated algorithm—at its own game.

Perhaps Meta should be focusing more on saving Facebook. Insider Intelligence has reported that TikTok is on track to overtake Facebook in influencer marketing spend by the end of 2022. It will then be behind YouTube and Instagram but is forecast to overtake YouTube by 2024. However, Instagram is far out in front and is on track to achieve nearly triple TikTok’s marketing spend in 2022. Zuckerberg should be doing more to salvage Facebook’s popularity and let Instagram continue on its successful course.

Google is in the TikTok line of fire

Alphabet, Google’s parent, is also facing a multi-pronged threat from TikTok. Alphabet’s Q2 2022 earnings were weaker than expected, with YouTube generating disappointingly low revenue growth. YouTube, whose bread and butter is video content, is facing strong competition from TikTok. The latter’s rise in popularity is due in large part to its short-form videos, as opposed to the lengthier content usually found on YouTube. At a time when companies’ advertising budgets are constrained by growing inflationary and supply chain pressures, there’s a risk that YouTube may lose revenue to TikTok unless it can master the short-form format. All hope is not lost, though. YouTube’s ‘Shorts’ have already proved popular and are watched by over 1.5 billion logged-in users monthly.

TikTok is also infringing on Google’s territory, particularly Google Search and Google Maps. Google’s own studies on US users aged 18 to 24 reveal that almost 40% of young people start their searches on TikTok or Instagram rather than on Google’s platform, for example when looking for a restaurant for dinner. This is because of a change in how users want to engage with information online. There is a desire to discover content—rather than knowledge—about a venue, experience, or location. Social media offers a more immersive and entertaining user journey for tasks such as deciding where to eat.

Many people still end up on Google Maps when it is time to navigate to a venue but use social media to find the right location in the first place. Indeed, Google recognizes this trend and has increasingly infused augmented reality into Maps for an added level of interactivity. The TikTok formula has a lot to offer social media users, content creators, businesses, and Big Tech. But companies should pick their battles wisely or risk critique and bad repute for blowing themselves up to contend with a competitor in another race.

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Industrial automation hiring levels in the tech industry fell to a year-low in July 2022

Wednesday, 10 August, 2022

The proportion of technology and communications companies hiring for industrial automation related positions kept relatively steady in July 2022 compared with the equivalent month last year, with 66.6% of the companies included in our analysis recruiting for at least one such position.

This latest figure was lower than the 67% of companies who were hiring for industrial automation related jobs a year ago and a decrease compared to the figure of 69.4% in June 2022.

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When it came to the rate of all job openings that were linked to industrial automation, related job postings kept steady in July 2022 from June 2022, with 14.1% of newly posted job advertisements being linked to the topic.

This latest figure was an increase compared to the 13.4% of newly advertised jobs that were linked to industrial automation in the equivalent month a year ago.

Industrial automation is one of the topics that GlobalData, from whom our data for this article is taken, have identified as being a key disruptive force facing companies in the coming years. Companies that excel and invest in these areas now are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

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Our analysis of the data shows that technology and communications companies are currently hiring for industrial automation jobs at a rate higher than the average for all companies within GlobalData’s job analytics database. The average among all companies stood at 5.8% in July 2022.

GlobalData’s job analytics database tracks the daily hiring patterns of thousands of companies across the world, drawing in jobs as they’re posted and tagging them with additional layers of data on everything from the seniority of each position to whether a job is linked to wider industry trends.

You can keep track of the latest data from this database as it emerges by visiting our live dashboard here.

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CTO Talk: Q&A with Rutul Davé of Maxwell

Wednesday, 10 August, 2022
MAxwell CTO

Rutul Davé is the CTO and co-founder of Maxwell, the mortgage technology provider. Like most innovators in the fintech space, he launched his startup after growing frustrated with the current state of affairs. In particular, the Maxwell CTO was fed up with the sluggish paper-based admin people applying for a mortgage are forced to go through.

The company is set up to make it easier for lenders to deliver “a state-of-the-art experience to their borrowers,” as Davé says in this interview. Essentially, it supposedly automates the process.

The Maxwell CTO and his CEO John Paasonen launched the startup in 2016. Since then it has raised $79.5m in total, according to Crunchbase. The company most recently raised a $16.3m Series B funding round in March 2021.

In this latest Q&A in our CTO Talk series, the Maxwell co-founder reveals why he believes the US mortgage industry is in dire need of a revolution.

Eric Johansson: Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in your current role?

Rutul Davé: Ever since I graduated from University of Southern California with a MS in computer science, I have always found myself working at the intersection of technology, startups and finance. I like to joke that I nerd out on finance – not complex financial engineering, but the psychology of finance.

At Maxwell, as [CTO], I get to play a role in finding solutions and opportunities to help lenders serving America’s communities stay ahead by consistently delivering a state-of-the-art experience for their borrowers, while improving their workflow and margins.

Before Maxwell, I founded Bright Funds in 2012 with a mission to design experiences that unlock passion and capital from a new generation of donors focused on impact. Previous to Bright Funds, I worked in marketing, product design, and software engineering at various successful Bay-area startups and venture-backed private companies.

Where did the idea for the company come from?

The desire to work on something in the mortgage industry came from personal experiences that my co-founders and I had as homebuyers and borrowers. As we reflected on our experiences with home loans and refinances, all we could remember was anxiety, confusion and overall dissatisfaction. The mortgage industry transacts over $1tn per year, yet lacks the innovation and modern web technology to create a positive experience for people embarking on one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives.

From there, we spent several months interviewing hundreds of real estate professionals, lenders and homebuyers, and realised there were obvious opportunities to use technology to significantly improve the borrower experience while providing efficiencies and cost savings to the lenders originating the loans. So, in essence, not unlike many entrepreneurs, this desire to “scratch our own itch” was the genesis for Maxwell.

What’s wrong with the US mortgage industry?

The US mortgage industry today is held back by paper-heavy processes, lengthy timelines, and cumbersome borrower requirements. Ask most of the American public how they feel about taking out a home loan and they’ll likely report frustration, unease and confusion. On the other side of the transaction, many lending professionals mirror that dissatisfaction, with much of their time derailed by inefficient processes.

But automating everything doesn’t solve the issue. Most homebuyers don’t want a robotic, impersonal mortgage process. Instead, they want digital convenience paired with personalised support. That’s why mortgage technology should first and foremost empower lending professionals to offer better borrower service.

By reducing inefficiency and adding humanity back into the process, technology has the opportunity to open access to more homeownership and associate home buying with excitement and joy rather than confusion and stress.

Why has it been sluggish to innovate?

The mortgage industry is a huge one, it’s one of the last industries in finance that the technology revolution, especially the Web 2.0, reached in terms of influence. With a lot of cumbersome processes, like we’ve seen for credit cards or trading accounts, it’s harder to build a shiny new fintech stack on top of it.

A mortgage is one of the largest financial transactions of most people’s lives. That makes mortgage lending an industry where trust and security play a huge role in every stage of the process.

Since regulation and compliance are critical considerations for operators in this industry, the popular adage of “move fast and break things” is not a sensible approach to innovation and disruption.

How do you separate hype from genuine innovation?

When working on genuine innovation, you have to do the hard things, solve the complex problems on the back end so that you can provide the simple, sleek solution to the user on the front end. Simple is not easy. There is no “get rich quick” for genuine innovation.

Having spent over 22 years in technology and product development, I am grateful that I learned early on that it’s impossible to build anything meaningful if you chase the latest shiny object, whether that’s new technology or a new web framework.

A piece of advice I got, and I still follow is “choose the boring technology.”

What one piece of advice would you offer to other CTOs?

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.”

Not sure who said that first, but in the context of technology and product development, it underlines the importance of the team and the people you work with. If you want to create innovative and valuable solutions for the long term, you will first want to build a great team that enjoys working together.

My advice to other CTOs is to over invest in your culture and team. People are your first product.

People. Process. Product. People first. Then process. Good products will follow.

What’s the most surprising thing about your job?

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As technologists, it’s often tempting to try and solve everything by using more technology and building more software. However, sometimes the most elegant and effective solutions are quite simple.

It’s surprising that no matter which industry or technology domain you work in, it doesn’t matter which new and innovative technology you’re using, how fast and efficient the code is, or how beautiful and user-friendly the user experience is. The only thing that matters is: Are you solving the most important problems for our customers?

What’s the biggest technological challenge facing humanity?

Technology is the conduit through which we experience the majority of our life, including, but not limited to, social connections and how we consume information.

Our biggest challenge is ensuring that rather than creating inequality and division, technology, as it permeates in every aspect of human life, brings us together as equals.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for fun?

My idea of fun is when I can balance feeling relaxed with feeling creative and productive. I lived on a houseboat on a lake in Seattle for a few months back when Maxwell was just getting started.

It was early days and I was looking for an environment where I could feel like I was on vacation every day, while also being productive and creative. A houseboat was a strange choice, but ended up being perfect.

What’s the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?

The most popular mortgage product, the 30-year mortgage, is over 50 years old, and was designed for a very different generation of homebuyers than we have today. To support innovation in mortgage products and provide opportunities for home financing to this new generation of homebuyers, lenders and the entire mortgage industry have a pressing need to evolve.

With rising interest rates and historically low inventory, the housing market poses no shortage of challenges today. That being said, the industry is evolving like never before. Technology is working to reduce the cost of home loans, and data is helping us understand the barriers to entry that keep underserved borrowers sidelined.

As millennials continue to flood the market – and Gen Zs gain interest in homebuying – there will be huge opportunities in paving a path to homeownership for these demographics despite challenges.

In another life you’d be?

Without a doubt, I’d be coaching a professional soccer team, specifically Manchester United. Growing up, I played soccer and have been a fan of Manchester United for as long as I can remember.

Actually, product development teams are similar to professional sports teams, and I find a lot of parallels between what it takes to be successful as a sports team and what it takes to be a high-performing product development team.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.

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Artificial intelligence innovation among tech industry companies has dropped off in the last three months

Tuesday, 9 August, 2022

Research and innovation in artificial intelligence in the technology and communications sector has declined in the last year, according to research firm GlobalData.

The most recent figures show that the number of AI related patent applications in the industry stood at 6449 in the three months ending June – down from 7831 over the same period in 2021.

Figures for patent grants related to AI followed a different pattern to filings – growing from 3229 in the three months ending June 2021 to 3430 in the same period in 2022.

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The figures are compiled by GlobalData, who track patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Using textual analysis, as well as official patent classifications, these patents are grouped into key thematic areas, and linked to key companies across various industries.

AI is one of the key areas tracked by GlobalData. It has been identified as being a key disruptive force facing companies in the coming years, and is one of the areas that companies investing resources in now are expected to reap rewards from.

The figures also provide an insight into the largest innovators in the sector.

International Business Machines Corp was the top AI innovator in the technology and communications sector in the latest quarter. The company, which has its headquarters in the United States, filed 840 AI related patents in the three months ending June. That was up from 714 over the same period in 2021.

It was followed by the United States based Alphabet Inc with 550 AI patent applications, the United States based Intel Corp (315 applications), and China based Huawei Investment & Holding Co Ltd (308 applications).

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OneTrust LLC has recently ramped up R&D in AI. It saw growth of 81.8% in related patent applications in the three months ending June compared to the same period in 2021 – the highest percentage growth out of all companies tracked with more than 10 quarterly patents in the technology and communications sector.

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As India’s education firms hit turbulence, where is Edtech headed?

Tuesday, 9 August, 2022

In September 2021, in the wake of regulatory action by the Chinese government on Edtech companies, a headline in The Diplomat magazine asked, “After government crackdown, what’s next for China’s Edtech firms?”

At the time, the beneficiaries of China’s education problems were India’s own Edtech players. But 11 months later, amid layoffs and the Indian government’s concern about alleged unfair trade practices, it is India’s Edtech sector facing the question of what’s next.

Troubled education times in the Indian sub-continent

The first sign that all was not well in India’s Edtech sector came towards the end of June 2022, when Byju’s, India’s most recognized Edtech company and a sponsor of the forthcoming FIFA football World Cup in Qatar, laid off workers at one of its subsidiaries. The layoffs, 300 from Toppr, came the day after 300 more employees were made redundant at Byju’s code-teaching unit WhiteHat Jr.

There have been some grumbles that Byju’s focus is now too global. In March 2022, Byju’s announced a partnership with QIA, the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, to launch a new edtech business and state-of-the-art research center in Doha. It is not yet clear what effect a tightening economy will have on Byju’s plans for an IPO, which is expected sometime in 2022 or early 2023.

As well as Byju’s, other Indian Edtech companies that have made redundancies include Unacademy, Vedantu, and Lido Learning. One start-up, Udayy, shut down completely, saying the business no longer made sense in the offline world and the cost of acquiring customers was too expensive.

Meanwhile, the Indian Government has warned the Indian education technology sector to stop unfair trade practices and false advertising or face new, stringent guidelines.

Although the economic picture worldwide is hardly rosy, in Europe, the Edtech ecosystem has shown some funding resilience in challenging times. An Edtech funding report in July 2022 from Brighteye Ventures 2022 showed that the sector has secured $1.4 billion in funding so far in 2022, 40% more than a year earlier.

Is Edtech losing its shine?

In July 2022, an opinion posted on the World Economic Forum website warned that Edtech and its companies have become bigger, but not necessarily more “educational.” It argued that if Edtech is going to work for children, rich and poor, Edtech needs a culture change.

Natalia Kucirkova, professor of Children’s Reading and Development at the UK’s Open University and the University of Stavanger, suggested that Edtech exploited two key educational myths to perfection. Firstly, advocates for one-to-one initiatives confused learning engagement with learning gains. That saw sponsors of whole-school deployments of iPads or Chromebooks holding up examples of children’s use enjoyment as examples of learning. But Kucirkova said that teachers know that genuine learning is collaborative and challenging. Although motivation precedes learning, it does not make the learning stick.

Secondly, she ventured, that although a driver of the global Edtech market is the idea that everyone should have access to education, the reality is that not all Edtech platforms are truly educational. In fact, she said, very few actually are.

Impact of the metaverse on Edtech

Meanwhile, on the horizon is the impact of the metaverse, especially in higher education. According to Professor Esteve Almirall from the Esade Business School in Barcelona, speaking at Mobile World Congress in February, people train four times faster in the metaverse than in the classroom; they are 275% more confident to apply skills learned after training, and four times more focused than their e-learning peers.

The Brooking Institution makes an additional point. When education lags behind, the digital leaps, and technology rather than educators defines what counts as an educational opportunity. This is largely what happened with the introduction of ‘educational’ apps designed to be used on smartphones and tablets meant for adults.

Today, with metaverse infrastructure still under construction, researchers, educators, policymakers, and digital designers have a chance to lead the way rather than get caught in the undertow. They should grab the opportunity, while they can.

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The geopolitics behind semiconductor shortages

Tuesday, 9 August, 2022
semiconductor manufacture

For over a year now the news has been covering semiconductor shortages, which negatively impact the supply of products that rely on these small components, from gaming consoles, smartphones, and computers to cars and industrial equipment. First impressions suggested that shortages were due to Covid-19 disruptions, both on the supply and demand side. However, there seems to be a lot more beneath the surface.

What drove the current semiconductor shortages?

The global semiconductor supply chain is large and complex, and many moving pieces are affecting its operation. Therefore, Covid-19 is not solely to blame for its current predicament.

That is not to say that Covid-19 has not been an important factor. The pandemic not only reduced demand from consumers and enterprises in 2020 but also reduced supply by shutting down manufacturing plants in Asia, from Taiwan and China to Korea and Japan. And there was also some self-inflicted pain as a result of knee-jerk reactions of clients who arguably went too far canceling orders, as it seems was the case for the automotive industry. From this perspective, it could be said that in 2022 the industry is still working through the backlog of orders and needs more time to stabilize.

With that said, we should not forget the structural demand for more chips on many fronts, such as cloud computing and data centers, smartphones, the adoption of artificial intelligence, and the emergence of autonomous vehicles (as well as more infotainment and automation features in electric and traditional vehicles). At some point in the future, metaverse‑driven demand will kick in too.

There is also a simmering US/China trade dispute, which is leading to a rearranging of the global semiconductor supply chain, as a result of bans on the use of key Western semiconductor manufacturing technology, particularly extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. EUV lithography is the technology that is currently used to manufacture the most advanced chips, by printing the desired circuit design on a disc of silicon or wafer.

Finally, the Russian invasion of Ukraine will drive further shortages if the conflict lasts for too long. This is mainly because these two countries are key suppliers of various minerals used in semiconductor manufacturing, such as neon, xenon, and krypton gases, as well as palladium. But there are also geopolitical implications for the Taiwan/China situation.

The bigger picture: economic and military competition

Therefore, beyond the pandemic-induced disruption, it is more likely that the industry’s disruption is part of a bigger picture. The US is increasingly concerned about China’s economic emergence from different perspectives, ranging from intellectual property protection to national security and technological leadership in key areas such as artificial intelligence (AI). And the importance of AI technology to the military should not be underestimated.

Already in 2019, under the Trump administration, the US Department of Commerce placed telecom equipment vendor Huawei on its Entity List, which meant that US companies that wanted to continue to sell to Huawei had to apply for licenses. It also banned the use of its products in US infrastructure on national security grounds. Later that same year, an additional 28 companies involved in AI and surveillance and security—including Megvii Technology, SenseTime, and Hikvision—were added to the banned list. In 2020, the leading Chinese semiconductor foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), was also added.

By banning technology exports to China and limiting access to key semiconductor capital equipment technology (from companies such as Applied Materials, Lam Research, KLA, and indirectly even ASML) the global leader in EUV lithography, the US, is effectively preventing China from either importing or manufacturing the most advanced semiconductors.

Just a few days ago, the US gave one more turn of the screw, as it emerged that as part of the $52 billion US CHIPS for America Act just passed by the US Senate, companies who intend to benefit from its subsidies will be prohibited for 10 years from building manufacturing capacity in China for advanced semiconductors. But with that said, US subsidies are dwarfed by the $150 billion China included a few years ago in its National Integrated Circuit Plan, which was expanded in 2019—with a particular focus on achieving lithography self-sufficiency.

Credit: Net Vector Shutterstock

Historical perspective

This is clearly a commercial battle, but it is certainly not the first time technology has been leveraged as a source of competitive advantage between civilizations. China is no stranger to this. Almost two thousand years ago when China dominated the global trade of silk and spices through the Silk Road, technology was already used strategically.

The Chinese managed to keep silk a secret for over 1,000 years and initially led Europeans to believe it grew in trees. And, once the secret was out, carefully guarded their silkworms and their process of harvesting the silk. It was not until 550 AD that the secret of silk became known to other countries when two monks from the Byzantine Empire managed to smuggle some silkworm eggs out of the country, possibly one of the first cases of industrial espionage and intellectual property theft.

China originally called its Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy adopted in 2013, the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ strategy.

Casualties and unintended consequences of semiconductor shortages

In this commercial dispute between the US and China, there will be consequences. It is likely that in the long run there will be a de-coupling of the global semiconductor supply chain, as countries look for supply chain security and national self-sufficiency, and there will most likely be overinvestment. Excess manufacturing capacity could drive prices down and make the overall industry less profitable, possibly impacting levels of research and development investment.

In addition, regions with no strong semiconductor sectors, from Africa to Europe and South America, may find themselves in uncomfortable positions if forced to take sides. An unintended consequence of the US/China trade dispute will be an acceleration in the development of a domestic Chinese semiconductor industry. For a detailed analysis of China’s potential to lead the world into the Fourth Industrial Revolution by 2030 take a look at our thematic report on ‘China Tech’.

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Deals relating to digital media decreased significantly in the tech industry in H1 2022

Tuesday, 9 August, 2022

In the first half of 2022 the number of deals relating to digital media decreased significantly by 50.5% from the same period in 2021, according to GlobalData.

This marks a deceleration in growth from the 15.2% decrease in deals that occurred in H2 2021 relative to the same period a year earlier.

GlobalData’s deals database looks at mergers, acquisitions and venture capital and private equity investments taking place daily between thousands of companies across the world.

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During first half of 2022, deals relating to digital media accounted for 12.1% of all deals taking place in the sector. This represents a decrease from the figure of 17.1% in the first half of 2021.

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GlobalData’s thematic approach to sector activity seeks to group key company information on investments to see which industries are best placed to deal with any issues they may encounter.

These themes, of which digital media is one, are best thought of as “any issue that keeps a CEO awake at night”, and by tracking them, it becomes possible to ascertain which companies are leading the way on specific issues and which ones have some work to do.

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Elon Musk VS Twitter: A timeline of billionaire beef

Tuesday, 9 August, 2022
Elon Musk Vs Twitter

Elon Musk might just be the most chaotic Twitter user ever. So it’s unsurprising that his plan to buy the social media platform would be equally tumultuous. The twists and turns of the story are enough to give anybody whiplash.

First the PayPal Mafia member was angry at Jack Dorsey’s platform, then he loved it. Then he wanted to buy it before backing out of the $44bn deal, claiming that Twitter lied about the number of bots on the platform.

Twitter has responded by suing the errant buyer.

Right now, the two are set on a collision course, seemingly destined to duke it out in the courts this Autumn. Musk and Twitter are due to meet in court on 17th October.

Why do we need a timeline over the feud between Elon Musk and Twitter?

Two powerhouses clashing on an epic scale elicits the question of how did it ever come to this?

To answer that question, you must understand that Musk has a long and messy history with Twitter, starting in 2009 when he first set up his account.

There is no shortage of examples of his use of the social media platform has landed him in hot water.

Over the years, he has referred to a British caver who rescued children trapped children in a cave as “pedo guy” and joked that he’d take Tesla private at $420 – a reference to the weed-smoking culture.

The later stunt landed him an US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation and a $40m fine, $20m each from him and Tesla. He later tweeted that the fine was “worth it.”

This history has left some market watchers, journalists and regular pundits wondering if Musk is actually serious about buying Twitter in the first place.

Whatever you think about that, it’s fair to say the SpaceX billionaire is definitely on his way to earning a spot on Twitter’s wall of fame – or wall of shame.

This constantly evolving saga has ranged from unbelievable to exhausting, with new twists in the tale seemingly coming out every day.

Verdict has travelled back to the beginning of the story to round up the key moments in this messy feud of broken deals, sassy tweets and Elon Musk being Elon Musk.

Elon Musk VS Twitter: The timeline

31 January, 2022

Our timeline kicks off in January when the Musk begins to purchase shares in Twitter, according to filings made to the SEC in April.

14 March, 2022

SEC filings made on March 14 reveal that Musk now owns over 9.2% of the common stock of Twitter.

As a side note, he challenged Vladimir Putin “to single combat” of the faith of Ukraine on that day too.

Musk had previously strengthened Ukraine’s digital defence capabilities by providing the country with access to his Starlink network of internet satellites. As such, he was part of a wave of Western tech companies rushing to the aid of Ukrainians and their own tech workers in the invaded country.

24 March, 2022 

Musk begins to publicly slam Twitter through a series of tweets to his 100 million followers.

“Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” he fumed in a tweet.   

He then puts up a poll where over two million Twitter users vote on whether or not Twitter adheres to the principle of free speech.

Musk then adds: “The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”

Of the people voting, 70.4% voted no and 29.6% voted yes.

4 April, 2022

Several news platforms report that Musk now owns almost a tenth of Twitter.

Several right-wing mouthpieces welcome the news that the irreverent billionaire now partly owns one of the most influential social media platforms in the world.

They argue that Musk now owning part of Twitter could mean that conservative voices that have been deplatformed, such as former President Donald Trump, could return to the site.

Liberal pundits are concerned for the very same reason.

At the end, though, no one knows what the news really means.

“Prolific shitposter now owns 9.2% of Twitter,” Vice sums up the news.

5 April, 2022

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal offers Musk a place on Twitter’s board the same day as he becomes an active investor. A few days later he declines the company’s offer to join its board.

14 April, 2022

Musk reveals in a tweet that he made an offer to the board to purchase the company at $54.20 a share, totalling the company at a whopping $44bn.

15 April, 2022

Twitter hastily installs a poison pill defence to prevent a hostile takeover attempt from Musk.

Meanwhile, Musk is tweeting a February 2022 report published by Goldman Sachs which valued the company at $30 per share.

26 April, 2022

Twitter shockingly announces that Musk will buy Twitter.

Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal says: “Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world. Deeply proud of our teams and inspired by the work that has never been more important.”

The news set off a new tidal wave of speculation about what the deal would mean for the company and for freedom of speech.

May 4, 2022

Musk spitballs about ways to make Twitter profitable – he suggests introducing a “slight cost” to government and commercial users, while stressing that the platform will remain totally free for “casual” users.

13 May, 2022

Musk tweets that the Twitter deal has been put on a temporary hold. He does this by quote tweeting a Reuters report where Twitter claims less than 5% of its active users are spam or fake.

15 May, 2022

Musk claims users are being manipulated “by the algorithm”.

In a Twitter thread, the SpaceX CEO writes: “You are being manipulated by the algorithm in ways you don’t realize.”

“I’m not suggesting malice in the algorithm, but rather that it’s trying to guess what you might want to read and, in doing so, inadvertently manipulate/amplify your viewpoints without you realizing this is happening,” Musk writes in a follow-up tweet.

On the same day, Musk gets into a feud with Agrawal regarding the number of spam accounts on the micro-blogging platform.

The Twitter CEO shares a detailed thread explaining how spams work on the platform and what it’s doing to prevent them.

17 May, 2022 

Musk explosively claims the deal will not be moving forward unless Twitter can prove that less than 5% of active accounts are bots and spam.

26 May, 2022

Twitter’s investors sue Musk, claiming he tried to manipulate Twitter’s stocks downwards while attempting to buy the company, BBC reports.

The lawsuit alleges Musk saved himself up to $156m.

 6 June, 2022

Reuters reports that Musk sent a letter to Twitter claiming they “transparently refused to comply with its obligations under the merger agreement, which is causing further suspicion that the company is withholding the requested data.”

9 June, 2022

Twitter hands Musk access to its firehose API, which allows the SpaceX founder to view the entirety of the company’s data in real-time. This causes a lot of users to question their data’s privacy on the platform.

21 June, 2022

Musk says he is still waiting to find out the exact number of bots on the platform during an address to the Qatar Economic Forum.

The Tesla CEO says there are still “unresolved matters” with Twitter before the $44bn takeover deal proceeds.

22 June, 2022

Twitter’s board urges shareholders to approve the $44bn deal.

A SEC filing says the board “unanimously recommends that you vote [for] the adoption of the merger agreement.”

8 July, 2022

Here’s where the timeline turns into a story of antagonism for real: Musk reveals on July 8 that he intends to back out of the multi-billion dollar Twitter deal,

An SEC filing reads: “For nearly two months, Mr Musk has sought the data and information necessary to ‘make an independent assessment of the prevalence of fake or spam accounts on Twitter’s platform…Twitter has failed or refused to provide this information.”

Twitter chairman Bret Taylor claims at the same time that the board is focused on completing the transaction and says they are suing the SpaceX founder for leaving the deal.

11 July, 2022

On July 11, Twitter makes another mark on the timeline by hiring Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to sue Musk.

Musk later responds by hiring Quinn Emanuel Urqhart & Sullivan to defend his case in court. The firm has worked with the CEO twice in the past.

That day, he also tweets a meme, suggesting that he has forced Twitter to disclose their bot info in court.

28 July, 2022

Musk tweets: “Much harder to make friends than enemies. My skill at the latter is improving.”

It is unclear whether this was in response to his struggles with the Twitter case, the rumours of him ending his friendship with Google co-founder Sergey Brin after the Tesla billionaire slept with his wife or another one of the many scandals that Musk has been involved in.

Musk has denied having an affair with his long-term friend’s wife.

5 August, 2022

The Washington Post reports Musk has filed a countersuit accusing Twitter of fraud over the $44bn deal. Musk alleges Twitter misled his team and held back necessary information about its true user base.

The following day, Musk posted another Twitter poll. This time the poll says “Less than 5% of Twitter daily users are fake/spam”.

Musk then gives users two options. The first option is the word “Yes” followed by three robot emojis.

The second option was “Lmaooo no”.

LMAO is internet parlance for “laughing my ass off.”

Anyway, 822,766 people vote in the poll. Of those, 35.1% believe Twitter and 64.9% believe Musk.

August 7, 2022

Following the poll on August 6, Musk adds the next event on the timeline by tweeting: “Twitter has spoken…”

The reluctant social media platform buyer then ramps it up a notch.

Musk goes full Musk and challenges Twitter CEO to a public debate about the percentage of bots on the platform.

“Let him prove to the public that Twitter has <5% fake or spam daily users!” Musk tweets.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.

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Internet of Things (IoT): Top trending companies on Twitter Q2 2022

Tuesday, 9 August, 2022
Top companies

Verdict has listed five of the companies that trended the most in Twitter discussions related to IoT, using research from GlobalData’s Technology Influencer platform.

The top companies are the most mentioned companies among Twitter discussions of more than 478 IoT experts tracked by GlobalData’s Technology Influencer platform during the second quarter (Q2) of 2022.

1. SAS Institute Inc – 358 mentions

The North Carolina Collaboratory and SAS collaboration to minimise wastage and improve vaccine delivery, Iveco Group using SAS Viya on e-commerce company Amazon’s cloud service arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS), to improve vehicle design and remote diagnostics for its trucks, and Georgia-Pacific using SAS Analytics for IoT and event stream processing on AWS, were some of the popular discussions in Q2.

Jane Howell, product marketing expert at the software development company SAS, shared an article on the North Carolina Collaboratory and SAS Software using the internet of things (IoT) analytics and sensor data from vaccine storage freezers to bolster cold chain integrity and improve dosage delivery, especially to underserved and rural communities. The US Centers for Disease Control claims that both vaccine storage and transport issues accounted for about 10% of the 65 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine doses that were wasted in the US in the past two years, the article detailed

The NC Collaboratory, a research and policy organisation, uses the expertise and resources of all the 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina System. Among these institutions are many minority-serving institutions and campuses that host ultra-low temperature freezers to support equal distribution of vaccines to underserved communities. The NC Collaboratory, as a result, provided 63 freezers across the state, with a capacity of 9.3 million vaccine doses, the article further noted.

The NC Collaboratory used SAS Analytics for IoT and Microsoft Azure or Azure, the cloud service operated by the technology company Microsoft, to choose, transform, and operationalise data from sensors across ten freezer locations at universities, along with third-party public health data. The project assessed the impact of factors, such as temperature, humidity, vibration during transit, opening and closing, duration in storage and freezer capacity, while using predictive insights and intelligent alerting capabilities to identify and address potential dosage loss and regional vaccine shortages.

SAS Institute Inc (SAS) is a business intelligence and data management company headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, the US. The company offers advanced analytics solutions, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud, data management, fraud and security intelligence, IoT, marketing analytics, operationalising analytics, and risk management.

2. Alphabet Inc – 189 mentions

American multinational technology conglomerate Alphabet’s subsidiary and technology company Google designing an advanced hand gesture recognition sensor, and the company’s launch of its instant translation glasses, were some of the popular discussions in the second quarter.

Sean Gardner, a digital marketer and AI specialist, shared a video on Google developing the interaction sensor, a small chip that can change the way gesture recognition is perceived. Soli, an interactive sensor works using a tiny radar, which all takes place via virtual tool gestures. The virtual interactions detect button, dial, or slider motions with the thumb and index finger, the video demonstrated. The project is part of the company’s advanced technology and projects group. Researchers claim that this could be used in the future of phones, wearables, and even IoT devices.  

Alphabet Inc is a global technology company headquartered in Mountain View, California, the US. It provides a wide range of platforms and products, including search, maps, calendar, advertisements, Gmail, Google Play, Android, Google Cloud, Chrome, and YouTube. It also offers hardware products such as Pixel phones, smartwatches, Google Nest home products, and other related products, and online advertising services through its AdSense, internet, TV services, licensing and research and development services. Alphabet is also involved in investing in infrastructure, data management, analytics, and AI.

3. Inc – 136 mentions

Amazon’s newly announced $1bn industrial IoT fund, and AWS IoT Twinmaker making it faster and easier to create digital twins, were some of the popular discussions in Q2.

Mauricio Amaro, CIO and IT corporate director at the textile manufacturing firm Avante Textil, shared a podcast on Amazon’s newly announced $1bn fund for industrial IoT innovation. The article detailed that until now, Amazon has been investing in computer vision and robotics start-ups, but supply chain technology, warehouse automation, and logistics are of interest to the fund now. The company has also released a new Alexa feature for the smart home, Sense raised $105m for smarter home energy monitoring and Wyze introduced a garage door controller, the article detailed. Willem Sundblad, the CEO of Oden Technologies, an industrial IoT start-up, discussed how its customers are using its software to track the quality of their batch processes, overcome supply chain challenges, and even achieve their sustainability goals. Inc (Amazon) is an online retailer and web service provider headquartered in Seattle, Washington, the US. The company offers products such as apparel, auto and industrial equipment, beauty and health care, electronics, groceries, books, games, jewellery, kids and baby products, movies, music, sporting goods, toys, tools, and other products. The company also offers related support services, such as home delivery and shipping, cloud web hosting, and other web related services. It also manufactures and commercialises various electric devices, including Kindle e-readers, fire tablets, fire TVs, echo, Alexa and other devices.

4. Cisco Systems Inc – 104 mentions

Cisco and General Motors (GM) collaborating for the future of connectivity in cars, Cisco IoT expanding its portfolio of industrial wireless and management tools, and the company’s partnership with Emerson to facilitate data collection, plant productivity, and worker safety across environments, were popularly discussed in the second quarter of the year.

Amanda Healy, head of IoT global digital marketing at the technology company Cisco, shared an article on Cisco IoT and automotive company General Motors working together to modernise and automate the development process for performance testing vehicle development data and speeding up time-to-market for commercially equipped vehicles. GM is the first automaker to use Cisco wireless backhaul technology for real-time, high-speed performance testing of pre-production vehicles, the article detailed. Cisco’s industrial wireless networking allows GM engineers to quickly analyse critical vehicle information to make faster, data-driven decisions. Reliable and instance access to performance data is a key advantage in the race to bring electric and autonomous vehicles to the market.

Cisco Systems Inc is an integrator of intent based technologies across networking, security, collaboration, applications, and cloud, headquartered in San Jose, California, the US. The company’s products and technologies assist clients in managing more users, devices and things connecting to their networks. It markets solutions through direct sales force and channel partners, including service providers, system integrators, distributors, and resellers.

5. Eseye Limited – 82 mentions

Eseye Infinity allowing its customers to scale and evolve their IoT deployment, Eseye partnering with Armis to develop the Connectivity Management Platform for securing devices on cellular networks, and the company facilitating Telli Health to launch its first eUICC-certified remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices, were some of the popular discussions in Q2.

Yves Mulkers, a data strategist, shared an article on the global IoT connectivity services provider Eseye having launched its next generation mission control IoT connectivity platform called Infinity. The Eseye Infinity IoT Platform provided a single, scalable, and customisable network for both today’s and the future’s worldwide IoT deployments, the article noted. Some of the common challenges with IoT deployments have been its complexity with devices, global connectivity and security issues. However, Eseye’s new platform now enables its customers to easily scale and develop their IoT deployment according to their needs, thereby assisting them in making the right decisions from anywhere in the world.

Infinity allows organisations to right-size, alter, and optimise connectivity as per their needs, the market, and technology advancement, the article further detailed. Infinity’s all at one place single IoT platform approach thereby implies that customers can manage existing legacy SIMs, and Eseye AnyNet+ SIMs, and emerging iSIM solutions. Some of its earlier projects include Amazon’s network of Lockers, oil and gas company Shell Recharge Solutions’ network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and technology company Itron’s smart meters.

Eseye Limited is a telecommunications company headquartered in Guildford, Surrey, the UK. The company provides seamless IoT connectivity, technical device services, and versatile hardware, backed by constant support. The company’s AnyNet+ eSIM technology, Infinity IoT Connectivity Platform and partner ecosystem connects millions of devices across 190 countries.

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