May 5, 2020

Corporate innovation weekly: aviation forecasts, AI for insurance, make-up filters

This is what Europe's biggest companies are still investing in: AI, AR, APIs, business transformation software, electric vehicles and biotech.

Maija Palmer

5 min read

Picture of 8 women using dfifferent L'Oreal filters in a video call


Two-to-three year recovery predicted

Live polling of the 900+ people attending the Future Travel Experience webinar last month showed that the travel industry expects a slow recovery — only 5.8% think the industry will recover to 2019 levels within a year. Three quarters expect aircraft orders to decrease. But 68% expect spending on digital transformation to increase. 


Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s a Maybelline filter

Every time I see my outgrown lockdown hairdo and unflattering under chin displayed in another video call I find myself wishing that I had either a) made more effort with makeup or b) had better beautifying filters on my laptop. L'Oréal is clearly thinking along the same lines, becoming the first beauty company to partner with Snap Camera to create eight branded lenses that you can use in your next video call (Lancome, Garnier, L’Oreal Paris, Maybelline depending on what kind of look you want).

Financial services


RBS has pulled the plug on its digital bank Bó, just six months after it was launched. Coronavirus undoubtedly hastened this decision, but Bo had been struggling anyway, having lost chief executive and mastermind Mark Bailie in January and chief product officer Ollie Purdue last month, as well as continual poor user feedback.


Streamlining e-trading

ING Ventures and HSBC were among the investors in the £5.75m Series A round for TransFICC, which provides an application programming interface (API) to streamline e-trading by banks and asset managers.

AI for insurance claims

Nationwide Insurance, GE, and Samsung have invested $52m in Nexar, an Israeli startup that makes software that alerts drivers to road hazards like potholes and helps with auto insurance claims.

Using artificial intelligence to help make auto insurance claims is an idea that is being tried by a number of insurers, including China’s Ping An and Japan’s Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance.

Online lending, the Israeli website builder, was one of the investors in Oriente, the Hong Kong-based startup that builds tech tools for online lending. Oriente has raised $50m in an ongoing Series B round. Despite the raise, the company is understood to be laying off staff.


Lung disease

Novo Ventures, the investment arm of Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, was one of the investors in the $35.5m Series B funding round into Avalyn Pharma, which is developing a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that causes lungs to become covered in scar tissue.

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Cancer-eating microbes

Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund led the $34m Series A funding round into Actym Therapeutics, a California-based startup developing an immunotherapy treatment for various cancers based on microbes.


AI for industrial manufacturing

SAR Electronik took part in the seed funding round for Munich-based IT startup Erium, which uses artificial intelligence to optimise industrial manufacturing processes using only a small amount of data. BMW is already a customer. 


Electric fleet management

Siemens and Soros Fund Management invested in the $13.2m funding round for Amply Power, a US startup that helps fleet operators switch to electric vehicles. It helps install charging equipment and can even plan the charging schedule to avoid peak electricity prices.


Arm offers startups free IP

Chip designer Arm is offering early-stage startups (those with up to $5m in funding) free access to its chip design IP, so that they can experiment, prototype and even manufacture without paying anything. It’s a good way to support the ecosystem, and to ensure that Arm gets deigned into the next potential automotive or internet of things (IoT) breakthrough product.


Business transformation

Axa Venture Partners and Orange Ventures took part in the €25m Series B funding round for InsideBoard, a French startup that provides s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to help companies run business transformation projects.


Good Reads

How the crisis is redefining jobs

This is a time when companies can radically reimagine how work is done, argues this article in the Harvard Business Review. Here are three things companies can do to help navigate the crisis (and which could remain permanent features afterwards, too):

  1. Make work transferable across the company. Businesses like Cisco and Allianz Global Investors have set up internal project marketplaces so that people who find their normal role on hold can go help teams whose workload has increased.
  2. Accelerate automation. Swamped call centres, for example, should be going full steam ahead with this.
  3. Share employees in cross-industry talent exchanges. US supermarket chain Kroger, for example, is doing this with Sysco Corporation, a wholesaler to restaurants, which has been hit hard by coronavirus.

How to thrive after the pandemic

Using the analogy of the Brazilian football team going from dismal in the late 1960s to brilliant in the 1970s, McKinsey has put together a guide for how businesses can come out of the coronavirus downturn with maximum shots on goal.

This is a looong report with a lot of recommendations, but these are some of the highlights for us:

  • Rapidly recover revenue. Speed will matter and the quickest companies will win.
  • Rebuild the organisation — including making supply-chains more robust and automating more.
  • Keep hold of the nimbleness developed during the crisis. Rapid pivots and redeployments have proved that companies can take decisions and act quickly when they need to. Don’t go back to the old, slow ways.
  • Accelerate the pace of going digital.

Zoom fatigue — it’s a real thing

Are you finding the schedule of back-to-back Zoom calls strangely more exhausting than their physical equivalents? You are not alone and there is a reason for it, this article in National Geographic reveals. Video conferencing, with limited non-verbal cues available to help you “read” the interaction, is more tiring, and multi-person calls force you to multitask in a way your brain is not necessarily prepared for.