According to a press statement released by the Government of India, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have agreed on enhanced cooperation in security and digital technology.
With Japan’s software and India’s hardware, the two nations hope to innovate and promote global innovation through exchanges of each other’s talents in the IT industry and other means. The agreement came on during their 12th summit.
A Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) was inked between the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on a Japan-India Digital Partnership.
Under this MoC, the countries aim to tap into the synergies and complementarities between Japan’s “Society 5.0” and India’s initiatives like Digital India, Smart City and Start-up India. It hopes to promote cooperation in areas of next-generation technologies such as AI, and IoT (Internet of Things).
The countries also signed a statement of intent between India’s Policy Commission, that is the National Institute of Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and the Ministry of Economy, and the Trade and Industry (METI), Japan. The statement is on AI and will encourage and develop cooperation on AI technologies.
An Agreement for Cooperation was also signed, between Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India and Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT), Japan for joint research in interdisciplinary areas for application in Industrial Research. This is to establish a research partnership between CSIR and TIT in areas such as bioscience and IT.
The release said the leaders agreed to launch a two-plus-two meeting format of defence and foreign ministers to make the Indian and Pacific Oceans free and open against the backdrop of China’s stepped-up maritime activities.
Japan and India will promote the expansion of their start-up talent in each other’s markets through a centre set up in India’s technological hub- Bangalore. The Indian government will support Japanese businesses entering the country by connecting them with talent and related companies.
Tokyo will provide US $2.82 billion (316.4 billion yen) in yen-denominated loans this fiscal year. The money will be used to implement the Shinkansen-style high-speed rail (Japan’s bullet train technology) in Western India, and a bridge project in the North-Eastern region of India.
According to a press release by the Prime Minister’s Office, recognising the need for advanced and secure technology, the countries will consider cooperating in the areas of security of digital infrastructure of future networks, framework for Telecom Security etc.
The countries will also partner up to develop electronics manufacturing and will collaborate with Indian and Japanese companies on electronics system design and software technologies.
The partnership will promote corporate and business linkages in the field of IT between India and Japan through initiatives such as matching events, dispatching business missions and BSNL.
A PSU (Public Sector Undertaking) functioning under the under the Indian Ministry of Communications and the NTT-AT of Japan signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in telecommunication.
Ho Chi Minh City has received approval from the government to operate electric buses on regular public routes. It has been instructed to work with various ministries and other agencies to finalise economic-technical criteria for the buses and pricing.
Its People’s Committee last month sought permission from the government to operate 77 electric buses on five routes for a two-year trial period. The conglomerate Vingroup will operate electric buses with 65-70 seats during the trial period. However, in the future, the operators will be chosen through tender.
According to a news report, nine new bus stations, a depot, and 12,200 square metres worth of parking lot at Vinhome Grand Park in Thu Duc city will be built. The city will make an assessment at the end of the trial period. Public transportation currently meets only 9.2% of demand in the city, according to the Department of Transport. The city has been seeking to develop public passenger transport and earmarked VND500 trillion (US$21.6 million) for it.
Last month, a group under the Vingroup, VinFast announced the debut of Vietnam’s first electric car, called VF e34. It is a C-segment electric car. Early customers who place bookings prior to 30 June this year, can take advantage of the special pricing at VND590 million VND (US$25,496) along with a one-year free battery subscription.
Customers do not have to pay for batteries and operating costs (including costs of battery rental and charging), which are exactly equal to the cost of gasoline consumption, while the price and features are superior to gasoline cars, as per a news report.
The car has several AI-based driver-oriented features like remote software updates, remote customer support, emergency rescue services, battery tracking status, vehicle operation history, and theft alerts. It is powered by an electric motor and uses a 42-kWh battery making 110 kW power and 242 Nm torque.
The company targets around 40,000 electric car charging points in 63 provinces and cities by the end of this year. Following only three years of operations, since its inception in 2017, the company has launched three smart EV models – VF31, VF32, and VF33 and will receive orders from global markets from the end of 2021. Each of these models will come in with artificial intelligence (AI) and state-of-the-art features.
Vingroup also announced the establishment of the Green Future Fund, which aims to encourage and support initiatives to improve the living environment, towards a sustainable future. The Green Future Fund will immediately donate VND30 million (US$1,298) to customers who change from fossil fuel-based vehicles (gasoline, oil) to electric cars, thereby contributing to reducing environmental pollution through the Smart Solution’s “Car Exchange Offer” service.
Electric vehicles are classified into four groups: HEV, PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), BEV (battery electric vehicle), and FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle). The core parts are an electric engine, battery, and electricity storage unit. According to a report, by 2030, the global market will have more than 90 million electric cars, of which HEV and PHEV will become the major line before shifting to BEV and FCEV.
The Science Park at Thailand’s Khon Kaen University held a special event to train people in the industrial sector in “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology”. The “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology” training program was held on 2 and 3 April 2021, including both theoretical and practice sessions.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Assoc. Prof. Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, M.D., President of Khon Kaen University, who conveyed the opening address. Dr Apirachai Wongsriworaphon, Director of Khon Kaen University Science Park made a welcoming speech and reported about the objectives of the event.
Participants included personnel from the industrial sector, both governmental and private. The event was also under preventive measures against Covid-19 at the Main Building of the Northeast Science Park, Khon Kaen.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rawee Hanpachoen, a full-time professor of the Faculty of Architecture; an expert and researcher from the Smart City Operational Centre; Khun Pongpat Kangkong, Manager of the Smart City Operational Centre (SCOPC); and Khun Suchat Prommee, a Drone Technology expert, were the trainers of the program.
The Northeast Science Park at Khon Kaen University, as the network node for the operation of the Northeast Science Park, organized this event under the mission to develop technological competency of personnel in the industrial sector (Brain Power Skill Up) and under the Regional Future Manpower and Skills Creation Project, which answer the national innovation development plans.
The event was supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation and was aimed at increasing skills for personnel in the industrial sector to accommodate the changes of technologies that will arise in the future.
Drone tech in Thailand
According to an earlier article, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) plans to roll out an artificial intelligence (AI) university project and drone academy this year, as part of the agency’s plan to drive digital skills and support the digital economy.
The AI university project is meant to provide AI knowledge to learning programmes and workshops at designated universities, while the drone academy is set to help Thais learn how to use drones for their businesses, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Depa President and Chief Executive said the projects are part of the agency’s strategic cooperation plans aiming at digital economy development, which covers digital transformation, manpower skill enhancement and start-up incubation.
About 200 million baht will be used to develop the AI university project, with half the amount budgeted by Depa and the remainder by private entities through a matching fund. For the drone academy, Depa plans to set aside THB50 million to develop the project and a matching fund will earmark another THB50 million. Universities are being considered for the AI project, with Mahidol, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat the main contenders, he said.
“Drones are a new technology for Thais in terms of business use, especially big drones, which are very useful in several sectors, including agriculture and logistics,” said the Depa President. When the drone business approaches maturity, international tech companies will come and invest in this segment in Thailand, he said.
Experts from India and Japan discussed possibilities of collaboration for the promotion of hydrogen-based technologies. They also explored related innovations, trends, concerns, and solutions at a webinar on De-carbonisation: Exploring the Hydrogen Prospects and Innovative Technologies.
The areas for India-Japan hydrogen research are cost reduction and improved performance for fuel cells, and hydrogen storage. Also, challenges for viable green hydrogen process routes, significant investments required for research infrastructure, and support for commercialisation, according to a press release.
Professor Kojima Yoshitsugu from the National Science Centre for Basic Research and Development, Hiroshima University, said that ammonia could be a potential hydrogen carrier because of its high hydrogen densities. “Direct combustion of ammonia is also possible without emission of carbon dioxide. The heat of combustion of ammonia is above 1.3 times of liquid hydrogen,” he added.
The webinar was jointly organised by the Embassy of India in Japan, the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Japanese Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), and the Indian Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The event was held on 19 April and provided a platform for the experts to deliberate on the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns, and practical challenges and solutions.
Researchers also spoke about renewable hydrogen for disruptive decarbonisation. Hydrogen enables high efficiency and zero or near-zero-emissions operations. Green hydrogen will be good for industrial processes, chemicals producing, iron and steel, food, semiconductors, and refineries. The two sides will explore opportunities for co-innovation in accelerating green hydrogen to reduce dependency on petroleum imports.
The webinar also highlighted the IIT-Madras Research Park, which facilitates the promotion of research and development by the institute in partnership with industry, assisting in the growth of new ventures and promoting economic development. It also elaborated on the challenges in using fuel cells, like the non-existence of hydrogen fuel infrastructure and the difficulties related to hydrogen storage and transportation.
An expert from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore underlined the sustainable route of generating hydrogen using biomass, hydrogen from a range of sources, utilising, dispensing, storing, and distributing. It creates a level playing field for all sources of green hydrogen.
Hydrogen gas is a fuel with plenty of potentials. But because it is highly combustible, managing it safely is key. The advantages of a hydrogen energy system are that hydrogen gas is generated using a renewable energy source, instead of fossil fuels. It can be stored safely and is a clean, alternative power source, a Professor at the Institute for Materials Research, Tohoku University, explained.
The potential scale of hydrogen demand growth in India is significant. The costs of green hydrogen will start to compete with fossil fuel-derived hydrogen by 2030, at the latest. Hydrogen should be targeted at those sectors where direct electrification is not well-suited.
Representatives from the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan stressed the importance of green hydrogen and energy of system integration. The National Thermal Power Corporation noted that green hydrogen shall play a very important role. Along with pilots, NTPC is pursuing efforts with various stakeholders to shift to green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and industries. Also, fertilisers, refining, and long-range heavy-duty transportation blending into gas grids and energy storage.
The experts agreed that hydrogen could be a good alternative because of its capability of producing lower emissions and less pollution and looked forward to collaborations between groups in India and Japan to that end.
An automated general waste collection system in Maroochydore, Queensland, will be operational in July 2021. Waste and recyclables from buildings and street bins in the new 53 ha Maroochydore City Centre will be pumped through a 6.5 km network of underground pipes, at speeds of up to 70 km/h, to a collection station for transfer to disposal or recycling facilities.
Each building in the CBD will include at least three waste inlets, for organic, recyclable and general waste. Waste dropped into each inlet will be stored in a sealed compartment underground until a vacuum pump is activated at the central waste facility, usually twice a day.
Once delivered to the central facility through a network of sealed vacuum pipes, each waste type will be stored in sealed compactors to await collection by a council contractor. The design of the new city centre began in 2015 to provide a mix of residential, commercial, retail, civic and community uses to complement the area’s existing business offerings.
Sunshine Coast Council’s Group Executive of Customer Engagement and Planning Services, James Ruprai, said that although COVID-19 delayed the commissioning of the system, it is expected to be operational by mid-2021.
The waste collection system was designed by a Swedish firm and manufactured in South Korea. It will be extended as the development of the Maroochydore City Centre progresses. A high-speed fibre-optic network will also be installed in the centre’s foundations to enable the council to provide smart signage, free Wi-Fi hotspots, real-time transport information, movement sensors and smart lighting.
According to a government press release, Council and the Sunshine Coast are leading Australia in efficient waste collection. Council is installing Australia’s first underground automated waste collection system (AWCS) in the new Maroochydore City Centre.
High-tech underground pipes will transport waste out of the city centre. Waste will travel at up to 70km/h through a 6.5km system of underground vacuum pipes removing waste from:
- residential apartments
- commercial buildings
- public places
The AWCS is a more efficient alternative to conventional above-ground waste collection. The system will help create a cleaner, healthier and more attractive city centre. Recycling rates are also expected to improve.
The use of the AWCS will result in a significant reduction in the number of large vehicles needing to access the city centre. This will provide a safer and more pleasant urban environment. It will also reduce the carbon footprint associated with this essential service. The elimination of early morning garbage collection also creates better urban living conditions.
The AWCS flier notes that the Sunshine Coast aims to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative. They are taking a nation-leading position by installing this high-tech, underground AWCS in the new Maroochydore City Centre, and are committed to ensuring 21st-century technology and innovation are key characteristics of this greenfield site.
This innovative waste management system is the first of its kind in Australia with many benefits including:
- Workers and residents in the new CBD will never have to walk past rows of waste bins or be woken early by noisy garbage collection vehicles
- No front, rear or side lift waste collection vehicles
- No kerbside waste and recycling collection
- No overflowing public place bins
- Underground collection means no impact on street traffic
- Improved resident and visitor safety and amenity
- Improved local air quality by eliminating conventional waste collection services.
Vietnam’s National Power Transmission Corporation (EVNNPT) has operationalised its first digital transformer station in Thuy Nguyen district, the northern port city of Hai Phong, earlier this week. The 210kV station was built at a total cost of around VND348 billion (US$15 million) on an area of 40,100 square metres spanning the Dong Son and Kenh Giang communes.
According to EVNNPT Deputy General Director Luu Viet Tien, the station helped cut around 80% of the amount of copper cable, slash copper cable transport and installation costs, and reduce the risks of incidents caused by cable damage. The system will use artificial intelligence (AI) in monitoring and examining and make use of cameras and smart drones to repair lines.
He said the 220KV digital station will a ensure stable power supply for socio-economic development in Thuy Nguyen and regions in the vicinity, reduce power loss, and enhance connectivity, safety, stability, and flexibility in the operation of power systems.
EVNNPT will evaluate the efficiency of the station to select suitable technologies for transformer stations in the future. The Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) plans to have all equipment on transmission lines and 80% of 110 kV circuit facilities digitalised from now to 2022.
By 2025, EVNNPT will have digitalised 100% of facilities on medium and higher-voltage power lines, according to EVNNPT Chairman Duong Quang Thanh. To that end, the group will continue to integrate other digital technologies like the Internet of Things, big data, and cloud computing.
It will continue research on building information models and digital worker platforms to serve its staff while developing AI applications for image analysis and data governance. EVNNPT said it has completed 61 of the 63 centres for the remote control of transformer stations and converted 670 of the 844 transformer stations into unmanned ones.
Tien said that the digital transformer station is a new technology in both Vietnam and many other countries in the world. He added that before the station was constructed, EVNNPT held several conferences with large equipment suppliers such as Siemens, ABB, and GE.
Recently the Minister of Information and Communications (MIC), Nguyen Manh Hung, claimed that digital transformation and innovation will turn Vietnam into a developed country by 2045. He said that innovation always has to start with awareness and thinking and has to be seen from different perspectives. Old infrastructure, old ways of doing things, old knowledge, old products, old business models are no longer suitable. The country needs new infrastructure, new ways of doing things, new knowledge, new products, new business models.
That is why many people say that digital transformation is more of a policy revolution than a technology revolution. Adopting new business models, new technologies that fundamentally change industries. “If we are open to accepting the new, then the new technology of the world will come, talent from all over the world will come, a new industry will emerge and the cradle of Vietnam will create exportable digital technology products,” he noted.
The New Zealand Growth Capital Partners’ (NZGCP) Elevate New Zealand Venture Fund is committing NZ$14 million (US$10 million) into the Finistere Aotearoa Fund, which will target agri-food technology companies needing Series A and B investment. The fund will match Elevate’s commitment at least dollar-to-dollar with private capital. At first close at least US$28 million will be available to invest into agri-tech investments in New Zealand-connected entities.
According to a news report, the Finistere Aotearoa Fund will focus on commercialising New Zealand’s robust technology and intellectual property pipeline. The Fund is a subsidiary of Silicon Valley venture capital fund managers Finistere Ventures.
The Economic and Regional Development Minister, Stuart Nash, welcomed the new Elevate commitment. “The government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan was launched last year. In that, we highlighted that investment was a key constraint for the sector, so we welcome the creation of this specialist fund and look forward to its productive contribution to New Zealand’s transformation.”
The New Zealand government’s investment and commitment to a zero-emissions national agriculture strategy has turned the country into a centre for agricultural excellence, according to Arama Kukutai, co-founder and partner of Finistere Ventures. The New Zealand operation will be managed by long-time investment manager Dean Tilyard and based in Palmerston North. Finistere Ventures has a global agri-tech focus with offices in the United States, Ireland, and Israel.
New Zealand has become a world leader in agricultural research and innovation focused on curtailing the environmental impact of agriculture. “Having a strong local presence in Aotearoa has long been on our agenda. We are excited to partner with NZGCP to support the global commercialisation of New Zealand’s most promising agri-food technology advancements,” Kukutai stated.
NZGCP was established by the New Zealand government. As per its website, NZGCP aims to stimulate a well-functioning capital market for early-stage technology companies. Its investment vehicles are designed to stimulate private investment into this space through fund of funds and co-investment models.
Finistere Ventures is aiming for a final close of NZ$42 million (approximately US$30 million), which if achieved would see Elevate’s contribution rise to NZ$21 million (US$15 million). James Pinner, the investment director of Elevate, said, “Finistere and Dean Tilyard established Sprout, a Callaghan tech incubator based in Palmerston North with a strong agri-tech focus, and the fund has a number of existing New Zealand investments including BioLumic, Invert Robotics, and CropX – all three have also been supported by NZGCP via our Aspire fund.”
The Aspire Fund is one of two NZGCP investment vehicles created to promote private investment. The Aspire Fund does this through partnering with other private investors to make direct investments into early-stage (proof of concept and seed stage) companies. The Elevate Fund does this through using best practice fund of funds management to invest into venture capital firms looking to fund New Zealand companies at the Series A and B stages.
The group is also involved in a range of market development initiatives alongside investors, New Zealand Private Capital, and the Angel Association of New Zealand. It has a market development mandate and seeks to partner and collaborate with a wide range of government bodies and private investors. It intends to help develop the early-stage New Zealand investment market and ultimately help early-stage New Zealand companies grow.
University of Queensland scientists have published the clinical trial data confirming their molecular clamp-stabilised vaccine technology was safe and potentially effective. The vaccine candidate developed by the team last year did not progress through to Phase 2/3 clinical trials, due to cross-reactivity caused by the protein fragment used to stabilise the clamp design.
Initial data from the clinical trial conducted in Brisbane was initially released last December and has now been published following peer review in the prestigious Lancet Infectious Diseases. Project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell said 99% of vaccinated participants in the study produced a neutralising immune response.
“In 75 per cent of vaccine recipients it was above the average in recovered patients, and in 38 per cent it was more than twice the average for recovered patients,” he said. “Adverse events were comparable to those in the saline placebo, with the only exceptions being mild injection site pain and tenderness.”
Project Director Professor Trent Munro said the paper also discussed the cross-reactivity in HIV diagnostics that led to the decision not to proceed into later-stage clinical studies. “The design of the original molecular clamp excluded known antibody binding sites to reduce the potential, but unfortunately the antibodies registered a low response on some highly sensitive HIV tests.”
Project co-leader Professor Paul Young said the 2020 vaccine candidate was not an option for Australia’s current vaccine rollout. “The team understood the decision in December to shift the focus to other candidates that were showing promise. Some of these vaccines are now in the market and need to remain the immediate priority.”
It was noted that the study has strongly validated the Molecular Clamp technology as a promising rapid response strategy for vaccine development. “The team is continuing to work on alternative clamp constructs that could be used to respond to COVID-19 in the future or other viral diseases.”
The data published relates to the clinical trial involving 120 participants aged 18 to 55, 96 of which received the vaccine candidate. Collaborators on the clinical trial included CSL/Seqirus, Australian National University, Doherty Institute, CSIRO, Patheon, Cytiva and Nucleus Network.
In addition, to support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Queensland Government provided $10 million Advance Queensland funding for the vaccine project last year, the Federal Government contributed $5 million and more than $10 million was provided by philanthropic and other donors.
The research is published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.
What is clamp-stabilised vaccine technology?
A molecular clamp is a polypeptide used to maintain the shape of proteins in some experimental vaccines. On a virus, pre-fusion proteins on their surface provide an attractive target for an immune reaction. However, if these proteins are removed or made by recombinant technology, they lose their shape and form what is called a “post-fusion form”.
When part of a virus, these proteins maintain their form by forming a quaternary structure with other viral proteins. The pre-fusion state of the protein is a higher energy metastable state. The extra energy is used to overcome the activation barrier of the fusion to the cell membrane. The virus protein (or part of it) in combination with the clamp polypeptide is called a chimeric polypeptide.
The clamp is made from amino acid residues in a pattern that repeats after every seven residues and must be at least 14 residues in length. The clamp self-assembles into a twin helix with one strand going forward and the other in reverse.
The pairing of the amino acids in the strands is ensured by a pattern of hydrophobic and hydrophilic amino acids. The pattern is arranged so that none of the clamps will bind to the protein from the virus. The clamp self-assembles into a stiff rod. The clamp is linked to the desired part of the virus protein by a linker. The linker may serve other functions, such as allowing the chimeric protein to be purified from a mixture.