Slowly, then suddenly change happens
This past week’s online roundtable for the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2020*, Fostering Innovation, Unlocking Potential, hosted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung (Foundation), saw luminaries from politics, business, civil society and science under Chatham House rule discuss which innovation policies and frameworks are now needed to facilitate economic prosperity and societal progress in the future and strengthen our crisis resilience.
Underpinning the discussion was new research published by the Bertelsmann Foundation in a report titled “World class patents in cutting-edge technologies: The innovation power of East Asia, North America and Europe”. Out of the 58 technology areas covered, with the top 10% classed as world class in each field, the US and China in particular are setting a much faster pace in key digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, quantum computing and big data, the report said.
Governments need to cure old habits of control
The traditional way to think of supporting entrepreneurs has been to look at their five primary needs: access to capital, finding customers, product and service development, hiring people and, eventually, an exit.
Increasingly, however, a sixth factor is coming into play: navigating big government.
From a reflexive position across much of the Anglo-Saxon world of privatisation and letting markets decide, since the days of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, has come a counterblast from the East suggesting that industrial strategies, state bailouts and national champions are important.
This week, German government-owned development bank KfW agreed to invest €300m ($339m) in CureVac, the local developer of messenger RNA (mRNA)-based drugs whose technology could also influence development of a vaccine for Covid-19.
The transaction will give KfW a stake sized at about 23% and it comes after CureVacagreed a $90m loan from the European Investment Bank in March this year, when it announced it would concentrate efforts on developing a coronavirus vaccine, following press reports that the American government had tried to invest with a view to relocating the company and its products to the US.
DoorDash has raised $400m in a late-stage round that increased its valuation from $13bn last November to $16bn post-money. The online food delivery service has now secured a total of some $2.5bn in equity funding from investors including SoftBank and is still in line to go public having confidentially filed for an IPO in February. Durable Capital Partners led the round, which included Fidelity and T. Rowe Price.
Volkswagen invested $100m in solid-state battery developer QuantumScape two years ago and is increasing that commitment by up to $200m as the companies seek to strengthen their existing partnership. They are planning to set up a pilot facility to test out the industrial-scale manufacturing of QuantumScape batteries for use in Volkswagen’s electric vehicles, as the carmaker looks forward to upgrading from lithium-ion battery power.
Orca Bio organises $192m series D
C4 Therapeutics has closed a $150m series B round alongside $20m in venture debt, with the cash coming from new investors and largely undisclosed existing backers that could include Novartis, Roche and Kraft Group. The small molecule therapy developer launched in 2016 with $73m in a series A round that included all three corporates, and it plans to have four candidates in clinical trials by the end of 2022.
Corporates chip in as BYD Semiconductor gets $113m
GreenLight filters through $102m
Pagaya has built an AI software platform that utilises machine learning and data analysis to manage assets for institutional investors. It has also received $102m in a series D round featuring Clal Insurance and subsidiaries of Aflac, Bank Hapoalim and Siam Commercial Bank. The company, which has about $1.6bn under management, plans to now move into additional asset classes, particularly those related to fixed income.
4DMT materialises $75m series C round
Bit Bio whips up series A funding
Proprio picks up $23m
There have been a few significantly upsized IPOs of late, especially in the healthcare sector, but Avidity Biosciences has perhaps pulled off the biggest jump of all. Avidity, which is developing drugs for muscle diseases, raised $259m when it went public on Friday, floating above its range after increasing the number of shares by a whopping 44%. The company, whose investors include Eli Lilly, Brace Pharma Capital, ST Pharm and Takeda Ventures, then saw its shares rise 58% on their first day of trading. Despite ongoing uncertainty in the markets, it seems like tech companies are still in a prime position to IPO.
Kangua canters to $149m IPO
One of the larger tech companies still to make that leap is data miner Palantir, which has raised $1.9bn in funding from investors including Relx and which is reportedly readying a confidential IPO filing with a view to floating in September. Big data analysis provider Palantir has followed a $50m investment by Fujitsu with $500m from its partner in a Japanese joint venture.
Forma Therapeutics looks to be the next life sciences company to step up to the public markets, having set the range for an IPO that would net $212m if it floats at the top of that range. And some of its investors have been waiting longer than most for an exit. Novartis first invested in the cancer and haematologic disease therapy developer in 2009, with Eli Lilly following soon after. Both received a dividend early last year, and if Forma replicates the recent success of other drug developers they could be in for a bumper return.
Repare reaches public markets with $220m
Blued bids for $50m in US IPO
Proteus Digital produces bankruptcy filing