Innovations That Matter

Spotted: UK- based Frugalpac has created a 100 percent recyclable paper coffee cup. It is the first coffee cup that can be easily and completely recycled, the company said.

Unlike other paper coffee cups, Frugal Cups are made from recycled paperboard with no waterproofing chemicals. Standard paper coffee cups are harder to recycle because they are produced from plastic-coated virgin paperboard, according to the company. That material does not break down easily when recycled. Another difference is that the parts of the Frugal Cup – the outer layer and the liner – are easy to separate during the recycling process.

The cups are already in production (they come in four colours – including polka dots) and can be ordered from the company.

Spotted: The American startup PopCom is working on a vending machine that would allow the legal purchasing of government-regulated items. So, alcohol, medication and cannabis vending machines could be around the corner. 

“There are definitely infinite possibilities,” PopCom CEO Dawn Dickson told Columbus Business First. “My No. 1 focus now is getting the product out and showing the world what we already know – that it works and will be very disruptive to the automated retail industry.”

PopCom is upgrading its existing automated retail system that already uses facial recognition and supports payments using biometrics and blockchain. The new version will use smart contracts and enhanced biometrics and blockchain technology to allow for compliant and secure payments. It has raised over £983,000 — reaching the maximum allowed through equity crowdfunding. There are plans to pilot the new system at the end of this year with machines that dispense cannabis and pharmaceuticals.

Spotted: UK-based Windward Engineering has created a portable wind turbine to charge electronic devices. Unlike portable solar panels, it can charge day or night.

The GIGA 5V turbine is waterproof and portable. It weighs one kilogram and is 325 mm across. It can start charging from 8mph of wind. At 14mph the turbine will output 5W, according to the company.

The turbine is a variation of the marine wind turbines the company produces for battery maintenance on yachts and other types of vehicles. The GIGA 5V is currently available through a Kickstarter campaign for £99.

Spotted: In the UK, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) has launched an eye-catching campaign featuring large, interactive digital displays that resemble smartphones.  The “Call for Help” campaign aims to break stigmas around mental health.

The screens’ purpose is to show how frequent the CALM helpline receives calls. They are connected to the live helpline. A loud ringtone will alert those nearby when a call is incoming and will then display “call in progress.” The displays have been placed in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

“In 2018 we directly prevented 675 suicides, and we aim to further open up the conversation around mental health and suicide, empowering more people to best support their own wellbeing and that of those around them,” CALM’s chief executive Simon Gunning told

The CALM helpline gets over 200 calls per day. To raise awareness in the past, CALM has experimented with other bold awareness campaigns, including one that used 84 mannequins and put them on the ledges of London’s ITV Southbank buildings.

Spotted: Germany-based shoe giant Adidas has developed running shoes made from 100 percent recyclable material. The idea is that customers will be able to return the shoes to the company instead of throwing them away. Once back with the company, they can be broken down into material to be used in a new pair.

Futurecraft Loop shoes are made with reusable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and do not contain glue. When they are worn to the point where they would normally be discarded, they can be sent back to Adidas. They are then washed, ground down to pellets and melted into a material that can be part of new shoes.

“Taking plastic waste out of the system is the first step, but we can’t stop there,” said Eric Liedtke, an Adidas executive board member. “Our dream is that you can keep wearing the same shoes over and over again.”

The company says the shoes will meet the same performance standards of its other high-performance athletic footwear. The Futurecraft Loop line, including the return and recycling process, is being tested in a beta program. A proper release is planned for the spring/summer of 2021.

Spotted: A new app promises to manage all of a users’ privacy settings from one location. Jumbo can change your Facebook privacy settings with one tap and create backups, as well as delete old tweets, Google searches and Alexa voice queries.

It will soon be able to clear out old Tinder and Instagram posts as well. Another feature will let users access old data that is encrypted and securely stored on their iCloud or Dropbox accounts.

The name Jumbo was chosen by the apps’ designers as a reminder that big tech never forgets anything you have ever posted or searched for. In contrast, Jumbo is an elephant that never remembers. All of Jumbo’s processing takes place on the users’ phone — the app does not communicate with a server. This means that Jumbo doesn’t even know who is using the app.

Jumbo operates on a freemium subscription model, with users paying for advanced features. Although only available for the iPhone, an Android version will be released soon.

Spotted: A group of researchers at Tel Aviv University have used a 3D printer to create a cherry-sized heart out of human tissue. While 3D printers have replicated the structure of a heart in the past, this is the first time someone has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart, including cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers, according to professor Tal Dvir, who led the project.

The team took a biopsy of fatty tissue cells from the patient. That was turned into “ink” for the 3D printer. The result was a complete heart the size of a cherry. The technology to create a human heart would be the same, the team says. But scientists are still struggling to create enough tissue to print a human-size heart, among other challenges, like teaching the heart how to work. While the cells can contract, they do not yet have the ability to pump.

The plan is to transplant 3D-printed hearts into animals in about a year. “Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” Dvir said.

Spotted: The Chinese video sharing site Kuaishou is allowing users to monetise their videos by linking them to online stores. For example, a farmer may post a video about their farm, and then use the site to sell fresh farm products. Other users post funny dog videos that link to pet food sales sites.

The site has built a reputation for posting videos of people performing crazy antics, such as putting firecrackers in their underwear or showing off their knife-spinning skills. But the site is also popular with ordinary people, who post videos of their daily lives.

Kuaishou has around 130 million active daily users, mostly in in lower-tier cities and rural areas. The site’s biggest rival Douyin, which targets users in China’s top tier cities, has also added e-commerce functionality, by integrating external online shopping links from Taobao, China’s biggest e-commerce platform. Taobao has also recently launched an AI program called Alibaba Wood, which can produce up to 200 short videos of products in one minute and can automatically match the music style in the video to whatever people are selling.

Spotted: A German-Mexican collaboration is building beehives out of used plastic straws. Last Straw is a campaign to save bees and reduce plastic waste. The idea came to digital marketing agency Flock Linked by Isobar as a way to encourage people to stop using straws. It partnered with honey producers Son De Miel and digital production company Praxlab to create the campaign.

Last Straw is a prototype of a man-made bee hive, created entirely of used plastic straws. The team discovered that standard straws are the same size as Apis Mellifera honeycomb cells. Straws are also made out of the same type of plastic used to manufacture artificial beehives. That means it is more likely bees would accept the straw-based hive. The team worked with professional bee keepers and academics to design the hive and introduce the bees.

The prototype bee hive is already hosting a bee colony. The plans for the man-made hive are available online for free.

Spotted: A Finnish-based startup has created an app that coordinates all forms of city transportation into a single platform, potentially providing a single solution for all transportation needs. The Whim app eliminates the need for different passes and tickets. Instead of juggling each service’s payment service, users opt for different subscriptions.

The goal is to simplify travel and to make commutes “eco trips not ego trips”, according to Whim founder Sampo Hietanen. More access to alternative forms of transportation means “less traffic, less pollution, less stressful journeys,” Hietanen said.

Whim offers a variety of payment options, including pay-as-you go and monthly subscription fees. It is currently available in the West Midlands and Helsinki. It is expanding to Belgium this year.