Business Break

By Greg Lane

BatteryIt’s electric, stupid
In the same way that hybrids stole the limelight from purely electric vehicles a few years ago, ‘plug-in’ electrics look like they are about to steal the thunder from hydrogen, the presumed next generation of green auto fuel. An indication of this comes from plans by Aeon, Japan’s leading supermarket chain. Aeon has reportedly begun negotiations with Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries to install fast battery chargers to juice up your car’s lithium batteries in only an hour instead of the 7-14 hours it normally takes from a standard household power outlet. Of course, you probably don’t actually have a plug-in electric, but Aeon is betting you will.

WasedaWaseda opens ‘campus’ in Second Life
Private university Waseda has shown that it is ‘down with the kids’ by opening a ‘virtual campus’ in Second Life. One of the main goals of the campus will be to explore opportunities for cross-cultural research with Princeton University, which opened a campus last year. This is an interesting idea, but given the time difference it’s likely that most of the students will turn up at each others campus while the others are either sleeping or attending actual lectures.

JR TokaiHigh Speed Wireless at High Speed
JR Tokai, operator of the Tokaido Shinkansen which runs between Tokyo and Osaka, has announced that high speed wireless internet will be introduced on its N700 series trains from March, 2009. According to Nikkei Net, the service will be available in all carriages even while passing through tunnels at up to 300kph. This spells even tougher competition for airlines JAL and ANA, who shuttle passengers between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Osaka’s Itami Airport. Instead of enjoying a bento or leisurely browsing a magazine, business people will now be able to continue working until right before their meetings. However, the question has to be asked, why has it taken so long? Germany’s ICE trains operated by Deutsch Bahn have had this service since 2006, complete with power outlets to charge up your battery.

Sharp and Kepco build PV farm
On his blog ‘On the Inside looking In,’ venture capitalist Shin Fukushige reports on the plans by Sharp and Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) to begin constructing a 28MW photo-valtaic (PV) solar cell farm mostly on the roof of Sharp’s Sakai 10G LCD/thin film PV plant. While this sounds like a lot of power, Fukushige notes that only another 700,000 or so of these farms would be required to sate the extra 20TW of demand that will likely be required by 2050. That’s about 46 of these coming online every day. Although PV is undoubtedly going to be an increasing part of the energy mix, there are still going to be some major costs.

University of ToyamaArtificial DNA created in Toyama
Researchers at the University of Toyama are reported to have developed a completely new class of DNA composed entirely of artificial nucleosides. Yun Xie, writing for technology news website Ars Technica reports that the synthetic DNA duplexes form a right handed helix comparable to natural DNA and demonstrate similar stability to natural nucleic acids. Although driven by scientific rather than commercial imperatives, the researchers speculate that their discovery may have commercial biotechnology applications. The artificial DNA could be used to store information that could be replicated through engineered genetics or to build nanostructures that are more durable than those built using natural DNA. JI

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IPO Report

As reported in our publisher’s weekly newsletter (Terrie’s Take) in July, Japanese IPOs have become about as rare as the Bonin Island’s Honeyeater. The only IPOs to happen in June and the first part of July were by a construction related company called Nihoninteground Inc (doesn’t that sound a little close to ‘Nihon in the Ground’?) and Ina Research Inc whose press release was most notable for the revelation that they have a Philippines-based subsidiary purely for the procurement of monkeys for use in pharmaceutical trials. Aside from the poor quality of recent IPOs, the continuous slide of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the weak worldwide economic outlook will not be helping to get things back on track.

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