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The Station: Zoox seeks out rain and Tesla fans go on the attack — again

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox. Hello readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future…

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The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan and Aria Alamalhodaei were a bit ambitious this week, which means I dialed back some of the other parts. Let’s go!

But before we dive in, I wanted to give a nod to the inaugural effort of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, which was held Saturday. The IAC brought together students from 21 universities from 9 countries, who were charged with programming driverless racecars to compete in a  high-speed autonomous race. The winning team, which received the $1 million grand prize, was the Technical University of Munich. I did not attend, but was told by a few folks who were there that it was a small, yet fun event and solid foundation had been established for this to continue in future years.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

Let’s start the week with a new-ish company and this week’s unsung hero of micromobility: Zoba.

Zoba, a Boston-based startup that runs fleet optimization for many major micromobility companies, including Spin, just announced a $12 million Series A raise.

The company’s AI runs behind the operator’s fleet management software. Zoba’s software takes into account shifting local regulations and basically helps micromobility companies get as many customers on vehicles as possible, while being as efficient as possible and helping to adhere to a company’s bottom line.

While we’re on the subject of bottom lines, Lime said CEO Wayne Ting said the third quarter of 2021 would be the company’s second profitable quarter, adjusted for EBITDA, of course. While Lime wasn’t able to generate more sales or revenue to increase top line growth, it seems it was able to increase efficiency in a way that quite possibly has led to profitability. But we’ll have to take their word for it. Nothing can be certain until the company goes public and dishes up those earnings.

Bolt Mobility is launching both an in-app navigation system for its e-scooters, called “MobilityOS,” as well as a new scooter with a built-in smartphone holder that also uses the scooter’s battery to charge the phone! Let’s see how that one goes. Is it safer to just listen to audio directions and occasionally try to check your phone while riding, or is it safer to take a cheeky peek down at the screen every now and again?

Helbiz has partnered with mapping company Fantasmo to integrate its parking tech into Helbiz’s e-scooter app. Fantasmo’s camera-positioning tech detects the exact location of e-scooters and validates parking within eight inches or less via a rider’s phone camera. The integration will roll out in Miami first.

Voi is making a Copenhagen comeback as the city aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. Voi, based in neighboring country Sweden, is bringing 800 e-scooters to the Danish metropolis for the next year; the service could be extended another two years if all goes well.

Niu Technologies, a Chinese electric motor scooter manufacturer, announced it would start making e-bikes in order to help grow its international presence. The e-bike series includes a 15 mph and a 28 mph version. The bikes are pretty heavy at nearly 100 pounds, due to large aluminum frames and oversized dual suspension.

Japanese motorcycle manufacturer Kawasaki says it’s going all-electric in developed countries by 2035, which really gives it plenty of time to get its model together and keep selling gas-powered motorcycles in the meantime.

To compete with Ola’s amazing success selling electric scooters (the big ones, not the kick ones), Honda announced it would be selling the same in India. Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India told the Economic Times it would have a product within the next financial year.

Finally, at the Micromobility America conference last month, micromobility legend Horace Dediu presented the 10 commandments of micromobility, which I now present to you. I do think you should watch the video, as well.

1. Nobody invented micromobility. “Micromobility is the confluence of thousands of ideas and the work of thousands of people.” A range of enabling technologies, like lithium ion batteries becoming cheaper, led to this micro outcome.

2. Most trips are short, which means short trips are more important. 50% of trips are from 0 to 5 miles. That number could actually increase if people have more access to a vehicle that’s designed for shorter trips.

3. Cars are a bundle. You can substitute the short trips with smaller vehicles, and you can substitute the bigger trips with bigger vehicles that are shared, like planes, trains and buses.

4. The smaller it gets, the bigger it gets. And by this he means volumes. For example, Android and iPhone sales far surpass those of PCs and other revolutionary computers, even though they came to market much later. In terms of vehicles, Dediu expects micromobility vehicles to grow much faster than electric vehicles in the future.

5. You can’t get there from here. There are more cars than ever in all of our cities and countries, and based on adoption curves, that number will only increase exponentially. Even if you tried to electrify all cars, emissions would still rise beyond legal limits. But with micromobility, we could have twice the number of drivers with half the amount of emissions.

6. Don’t dig where there’s no treasure. All infrastructure is a sunk cost. All the arguments we have about not changing infrastructure are based on the massive costs associated with infrastructure builds, but those are fallacies. We’ve destroyed infrastructures in the past. Inner-city highways can be demolished, too.

7. They promised flying taxis. We got bike lanes. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on big moonshots like autonomous vehicles and flying cars, but the simple bike lane is far better and more revolutionary than “any of this crap.”

8. You sell miles, but customers buy smiles. The transition to micromobility will happen because people are happy with the vehicles and like riding them.

9. Micromobility is a mind for the bicycle. Micromobility absorbs data, software, intelligence and sensing. It’s cheaper and builds on the shoulders of giants, and it’s increasingly the smartest machine on the road. “The power of software allows us to invest in solutions to overcome most of our machines’ shortcomings.

10. Cities always win. Micromobility is urban freedom. Cities have gone through much worse than coronavirus, and they all came back stronger than ever. Cities are antifragile, the more you stress them, the stronger they become.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Welp … I’m not ready to call peak urban air mobility quite yet, but we might be getting close.

HT Aero, an urban air mobility company that’s an affiliate of Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Xpeng, raised an eyebrow-raising $500 million in a Series A round. The company said it will use the funds to acquire top-tier talent, advance R&D and “continue to gain airworthiness provision and certification” as it advances toward the next generation of its vehicles, according to Deli Zhao, founder and president of the company.

The company recently revealed its fifth-generation flying vehicle, the Xpeng X2, which can handle autonomous flight take-off and landing for certain city scenarios, back-end scheduling, charging and flight control. The company says it wants to provide UAM solutions for individual consumers, rather than businesses, which would certainly be in line with Xpeng’s goals.

Other deals that got my attention …

AirGarage, a startup that works with parking real estate owners and offers a full-stack software and management service for their lot or garage, closed a $12.5 million Series A round led by a16z, with participation from existing investors Floodgate, Founders Fund and Abstract Ventures. AirGarage has more than 200 locations across 30 states under its management.

Alaska Airlines launched a new venture capital arm, dubbed Alaska Star Ventures. The aim is to find and invest in emerging technologies to help decarbonize air travel. Its first investment was to put $15 million into the Los Angeles-based UP.Partners’ inaugural venture fund. UP.Partners’ $230 million early-stage fund is focused on mobility technologies. Woven Capital, the investment arm of Toyota Motor’s Woven Planet Group, Standard Industries, Hillwood and OSM Maritime have also invested in the UP.Partners fund.

Ally Financial, the automotive finance giant, plans to acquire credit card company Fair Square Financial for $750 million, reported Automotive News.

BMW i Ventures invested an undisclosed amount into Our Next Energy Inc., a Michigan-based energy storage solutions company working to develop longer range, lower cost batteries for electric vehicles.

FlixMobility, the $3 billion-German transportation startup, showed it’s pretty darned interested in the U.S. market. The company agreed to acquire Greyhound Lines, the iconic U.S. bus network, from U.K.-based owner FirstGroup. The deal, which includes a vehicle fleet, trademarks and related assets and liabilities, has an enterprise value on a debt-free/cash-free basis of $46 million, with an unconditional deferred consideration of $32 million with an interest rate of 5% per annum alongside that.* (Check out Ingrid Lunden’s article to get deeper into the details, including what that * is all about)

Flock Freight, the trucking logistics company, raised a $215 million Series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, making it the industry’s most recent unicorn at a valuation of more than $1 billion.

Gatik, the autonomous vehicle startup, reached a strategic lease and vehicle maintenance agreement with Ryder System, Freightwaves reported.

River, an Indian startup focused on the electric two-wheeler market, came out of stealth with $2 million in backing from Maniv Mobility and TrucksVC.

Yummy, the Venezuelan delivery super app founded in 2020, raised $18 million in a Series A round aimed at accelerating the company’s proposed expansion throughout Latin America. Anthos Capital led the latest round, with additional participation from JAM Fund, whose founder Justin Mateen was an investor in the startup’s $4 million seed round.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Hello everyone! Welcome back to Policy Corner.

The big news this week is the appointment of Missy Cummings, former Navy fighter pilot and engineering professor at Duke University, to a senior safety advisory role at the nation’s top vehicle safety regulator.

This kind of appointment might not typically get much notice from the general public. But Tesla fans sure did (side note from transportation editor and The Station creator Kirsten Korosec: the AV industry absolutely took notice; they just didn’t comment publicly). The reaction from a community of Tesla owners and shareholders was loud — a torrent of concern and vitriol that frothed forth on Twitter and that at times devolved into attacks on Cummings gender and character.

Cummings has been a vocal critic of Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driver assistance system, and more recently, its rollout of the “Full Self-Driving” beta program to thousands of drivers across the United States. On the McKinsey Global Institute podcast last month, she called attention to what she referred to as “mode confusion,” or when the driver doesn’t have sufficient understanding of the capabilities (and limitations) of a system.

“We’ve known about this for a long time in aviation, but this is new learning for the automotive world,” she said on the podcast. “We see this when people think that Autopilot and Full Self-Driving actually mean those things, and people climb in the backseat or take their hands off the steering wheel and don’t realize the trouble they’re in, and the car crashes.”

Just as news of the appointment was circulating, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted “Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla.” That tweet fanned the growing flames of dissent from Tesla fans, many of whom are also shareholders. A petition has even been circulated on Change.org requesting her removal.

Supporters of Tesla have also called attention to Cummings’ service on the board of Veoneer, a Tier 1 company that supplies automakers with advanced driver assistance software and the accompanying hardware such as radars, lidars, thermal night vision cameras and other vision systems. It’s the lidar — a sensor that most in the industry with the exception of Tesla believe is required to offer fully automated driving — that triggered Tesla fans. Qualcomm recently reached an agreement to acquire Veoneer.

Her critics suggest that the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration may take a more conservative stance on ADAS and Tesla in the future. (It should be noted that NHTSA has in the past has generally taken rather laissez faire approach with Tesla; anything beyond that will seem as if the regulatory gates have come crashing down on the automaker.) It is unclear whether she will take an advisory role in the investigation into Autopilot currently underway at NHTSA, which was opened following 12 incidents of Teslas crashing into parked emergency vehicles.

Kirsten here with a side note on this issue: Missy Cummings first protected and then ended up deleting her Twitter account because she was not just trolled; she received death threats, which are being investigated, according to my sources.

Update: FSD software beta was rolled back Sunday. Musk tweeted Sunday “Seeing some issues with 10.3, so rolling back to 10.2 temporarily. Please note, this is to be expected with beta software. It is impossible to test all hardware configs in all conditions with internal QA, hence public beta.”

The other piece of news that caught my eye this week  ….

Uber and Lyft have been lobbying the government to include provisions to boost electric vehicle adoption in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill currently being debated in Congress.

The two ride-hailing giants have made sweeping, ambitious pledges that all rides booked on their platforms will be taken in an electric vehicle by 2030 — a goal that each company is unlikely to reach without hefty government support.

Both companies consider cost and lack of charging infrastructure to be two key obstacles to larger EV uptake, according to reporting from E&E News. And it’s true that for many, electric vehicles remain prohibitively expensive, especially compared to the plethora of used internal combustion engine vehicles available… well, basically anywhere.

“Our population of drivers who use our app, they are coming from lower-income communities, and they’re serving mobility in urban areas,” Adam Gromis, a sustainability policy manager with Uber, told E&E News. “So for us, we want to see slow charging in underserved neighborhoods and multiunit dwellings, and we want to see fast charging in urban areas and areas of high mobility demand.

According to the spending transparency platform OpenSecrets, Uber and Lyft have each spent close to $1 million so far in the first half of the year on lobbying efforts, though each employed fewer lobbyists overall. Data on third quarter lobbying spending is not yet available.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

Keeping this short — and a bit of a mishmash — this week.

Elon Musk’s Boring Company received initial approval to build a transportation system that would shuttle passengers in Tesla vehicles via a network of tunnels under Las Vegas. The special use permit and franchise agreement would allow the Boring Company to expand its Vegas Loop system beyond its current 1.7-mile footprint that connects the Las Vegas Convention Center campus to a 29-mile route with 51 stations that would include stops at casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, the city’s football stadium and UNLV. It would eventually reach the McCarran International Airport.

Lyft released its first and long overdue safety report.

Miles, the universal rewards app that lets users earn miles for every mile traveled, has launched in Japan. The expansion aims to build off of Miles’ marketplace, which now offers users 500 personalized rewards from 350 brands, including Garmin, Hulu, Japan Airlines, Red Bull and Under Armour.

Motional, the autonomous vehicle joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, is partnering with Transport for New South Wales too help the Australian state better understand the technology and possibilities that come with a driverless ride-hail service.

Plus, self-driving truck technology developer, said it plans to expand into Europe. The company has hired Bosch veteran Sun-Mi “Sunny” Choi as senior director of business development to accelerate that European expansion.

Rivian, which filed to go public, said in a recent regulatory filing that it expects to record a quarterly net loss of up to $1.28 billion due to costs associated with the start of production of its debut truck. The net loss for the period ended Sept. 30 will range from $1.18 billion to $1.28 billion, according to the preliminary results.

Stellantis, the automaker formed through a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA, reached a preliminary deal with LG Energy Solution to produce battery cells and modules in North America.

Tesla continued its profitability streak, reporting net income of $1.62 billion in the third quarter. That’s a nearly fivefold increase from the $331 million it earned in the same period last year. The record-setting profit came thanks to record sales and despite a global chip shortage and supply chain constraints that have affected the industry. Notably, Tesla was able to earn that record net income (on a GAAP basis) even as the vast majority of its sales came from its cheaper Model Y and Model 3 electric vehicles.

Wolfe Research went out and rode in an Argo AI autonomous test vehicle. The tl;dr is that they saw great progress and the vehicle was able to navigate an environment packed with cars, double parked trucks, street-cleaners, e-bikes, aggressively driven scooters, and pedestrians. “For the most part the vehicle performed complex decisions (yielding or not yielding to pedestrians, unprotected left turns, adjusting to construction),” the report said. Their takeaway: “We tested an Argo’s AV. And it reinforced our view that this technology is coming sooner, with potential for greater disruption than investors currently appreciate.”

Zoox, the autonomous vehicle startup acquired last year by Amazon, is expanding to Seattle. The company plans to open in 2022 an engineering office and operations facility, which will act as a base for its autonomous vehicle testing. The company, which today employs more than 1,300 people, tests its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Foster City, California, near its headquarters. The company started testing its autonomous vehicles on public roads in Las Vegas in 2019.

I spoke to co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson and he said Zoox has been eyeing Seattle as a test site for years. The company even completed a small pilot in the city in late 2019. The frequency of rain in the area is one of the primary reasons Zoox picked Seattle, Levinson said.

Zoox has developed some advanced weather proofing, including what Levinson described as “active rain mitigation” for its sensors. “We’re very excited about that and we want to test it and validate it in the rain; Seattle is a great place for that,” Levinson said.

While Zoox is setting up operations in the city where Amazon is based, Levinson emphasized that the two companies still operate separately. The Zoox office and operations hub will not be housed on the Amazon campus, for instance. Zoox will take advantage of its proximity to Amazon to work with the company on various collaborations in the future, Levinson said, describing that as an “extra bonus.”

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Economics

After a near 10% rally this week can the Netflix share price make a comeback?

The Netflix share price rallied by nearly 10% (9.6%) this week after co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed the film and television streaming market leader is to…

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The Netflix share price rallied by nearly 10% (9.6%) this week after co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed the film and television streaming market leader is to introduce a new ad-supported, cheaper subscription. The company also announced it is to lay off another 300 employees, around 4% of its global workforce, in addition to the 150 redundancies last month.

Netflix has been forced into a period of belt-tightening after announcing a 200,000 subscriber-strong net loss over the first quarter of 2022. The U.S. tech giant also ominously forecast expectations for the loss of a further 2 million subscribers over the current quarter that will conclude at the end of this month.

netflix inc

The company has faced increasing sector competition with Paramount+ its latest new rival, joining Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max and a handful of other new streaming platforms jostling for market share. A more competitive environment has combined with a hangover from the subscriber boom Netflix benefitted from over the Covid-19 pandemic and spiralling cost of living crisis.

Despite the strong gains of the past week, Netflix’s share price is still down over 68% for 2022 and 64% in the last 12 months. Stock markets have generally suffered this year with investors switching into risk-off mode in the face of spiralling inflation, rising interest rates, fears of a recession and the geopolitical crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Growth stocks like Netflix whose high valuations were heavily reliant on the value of future revenues have been hit hardest. No recognised member of Wall Street’s Big Tech cabal has escaped punishment this year with even the hugely profitable Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon all seeing their valuations slide by between around 20% and 30%.

But all of those other tech companies have diversified revenue streams, bank profits which dwarf those of Netflix and are sitting on huge cash piles. The more narrowly focused Meta Platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram) which still relies exclusively on ad revenue generated from online advertising on its social media platforms, has also been hit harder, losing half of its value this year.

But among Wall Street’s established, profitable Big Tech stocks, Netflix has suffered the steepest fall in its valuation. But it is still profitable, even if it has taken on significant debt investing in its original content catalogue. And it is still the international market leader by a distance in a growing content streaming market.

justwatch

Source: JustWatch

Even if the competition is hotting up, Netflix still offers subscribers by far the biggest and most diversified catalogue of film and television content available on the market. And the overall value of the video content streaming market is also expected to keep growing strongly for the next several years. Even if annual growth is forecast to drop into the high single figures in future years.

revenue growth

Source: Statista

In that context, there are numerous analysts to have been left with the feeling that while the Netflix share price may well have been over-inflated during the pandemic and due a correction, it has been over-sold. Which could make the stock attractive at its current price of $190.85, compared to the record high of $690.31 reached as recently as October last year.

What’s next for the Netflix share price?

As a company, Netflix is faced with a transition period over the next few years. For the past decade, it has been a high growth company with investors focused on subscriber numbers. The recent dip notwithstanding, it has done exceedingly well on that score, attracting around 220 million paying customers globally.

Netflix established its market-leading position by investing heavily in its content catalogue, first by buying up the rights to popular television shows and films and then pouring hundreds of millions into exclusive content. That investment was necessary to establish a market leading position against its historical rivals Amazon Prime, which benefits from the deeper pockets of its parent company, and Hulu in the USA.

Netflix’s investment in its own exclusive content catalogue also helped compensate for the loss of popular shows like The Office, The Simpsons and Friends. When deals for the rights to these shows and many hit films have ended over the past few years their owners have chosen not to resell them to Netflix. Mainly because they planned or had already launched rival streaming services like Disney+ (The Simpsons) and HBO Max (The Office and Friends).

Netflix will continue to show third party content it acquires the rights to. But with the bulk of the most popular legacy television and film shows now available exclusively on competitor platforms launched by or otherwise associated with rights holders, it will rely ever more heavily on its own exclusive content.

That means continued investment, the expected budget for this year is $17 billion, which will put a strain on profitability. But most analysts expect the company to continue to be a major player in the video streaming sector.

Its strategy to invest in localised content produced specifically for international markets has proven a good one. It has strengthened its offering on big international markets like Japan, South Korea, India and Brazil compared to rivals that exclusively offer English-language content produced with an American audience in mind.

The approach has also produced some of Netflix’s biggest hits across international audiences, like the South Korean dystopian thriller Squid Games and the film Parasite, another Korean production that won the 2020 Academy Award for best picture – the first ever ‘made for streaming’ movie to do so.

Netflix is also, like many of its streaming platform rivals, making a push into sport. It has just lost out to Disney-owned ESPN, the current rights holder, in a bid to acquire the F1 rights for the USA. But having made one big move for prestigious sports rights, even if it ultimately failed, it signals a shift in strategy for a company that hasn’t previously shown an interest in competing for sports audiences.

Over the next year or so, Netflix’s share price is likely to be most influenced by the success of its launch of the planned lower-cost ad-supported subscription. It’s a big call that reverses the trend of the last decade away from linear television programming supported by ad revenue in its pursuit of new growth.

It will take Netflix at least a year or two to roll out a new ad-supported platform globally and in the meanwhile, especially if its forecast of losing another 2 million subscribers this quarter turns out to be accurate, the share price could potentially face further pain. But there is also a suspicion that the stock has generally been oversold and will eventually reclaim some of the huge losses of the past several months.

How much of that loss of share price is reclaimed will most probably rely on take-up of the new ad-supported cheaper membership tier. There is huge potential there with the company estimating around 100 million viewers have been accessing the platform via shared passwords. That’s been clamped down on recently and will continue to be because Netflix is determined to monetise those 100 million viewers contributing nothing to its revenues.

If a big enough chunk of them opt for continued access at the cost of watching ads, the company’s revenue growth could quickly return to healthy levels again. And that could see some strong upside for the Netflix share price in the context of its currently deflated level.

The post After a near 10% rally this week can the Netflix share price make a comeback? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Government

Aura High Yield SME Fund: Letter to Investors 24 June 2022

The RBA delivered a speech this week indicating faster monetary policy tightening is to come in the near-term with the aim of curbing the rate of inflation….

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The RBA delivered a speech this week indicating faster monetary policy tightening is to come in the near-term with the aim of curbing the rate of inflation.

Inflation and Monetary Policy 1,2

This week, RBA Governor Philip Lowe spoke about the department’s monetary policy intervention to tackle inflation in the evolving economic environment. Over the last six months, similar factors have continued to put pressure on food and energy prices – namely the war in Ukraine, foods on the East coast, and Covid lockdowns in China. The ongoing lockdowns in China are causing disruptions in manufacturing and production and supply chains coupled with strong global demand that is unable to be met. These pressures have forced households and businesses to absorb the rising cost of living.

To demonstrate the rise, the RBA reporting this week on Business Conditions and Sentiments saw:

  • Almost a third of all businesses (31 per cent) have difficulty finding suitable staff;
  • Nearly half (46 per cent) of all businesses have experienced increased operating expenses; and
  • More than two in five businesses (41 per cent) face supply chain disruptions, which has remained steady since it peaked in January 2022 (47 per cent).

* The Survey of Business Conditions and Sentiments was not conducted between July 2021 to December 2021 (inclusive)

Inflation is being experienced globally, although Australia remains below that of most other advanced economies sitting at 5.1 per cent. The share of items in the CPI basket with annualised price increases of more than 3 per cent is at the highest level since 1990 as displayed in the graph below.

With additional information on leading indicators now on hand, the RBA has pushed their inflation forecast up from 6 to 7 per cent for the December quarter, due to persistently high petrol and energy prices. After this period, the RBA expects inflation will begin to decline.

We are beginning to see pandemic-related supply side issues resolve, with delivery times shortening slightly and businesses finding alternative solutions for global production and logistic networks. Whilst there is still a way to go in normalising the flow in the supply side and the possibility that further disruptions and setbacks could occur, the global production system is adapting accordingly, which should help alleviate some of the inflationary pressures.

The RBA’s goal is to ensure inflation returns to a 2-3 per cent target range over time, with the view that high inflation causes damage to the economy, reduces people’s purchasing power and devalues people’s savings.

Household Wealth 3

Growth of 1.2 per cent in household wealth, equivalent to $173 billion, was reported in the March quarter. The rise was a result of an increase in housing prices in the March quarter. Prices have started reversing since that read.

Demand for credit also boomed, with a record total demand for credit of $218.8 billion for the March quarter. The rise was driven by private non-financial corporations demanding $153.2 billion, while households and government borrowed $41.9 billion and $17.5 billion respectively. 

We will likely see a significant shift in household wealth and credit demand in next quarter’s report given the rising interest rate environment, depressed household valuations and elevated pricing pressures. 

Portfolio Management Commentary

A lag in leading economic indicators has shifted the RBA’s outlook, with an increase in the expected level of inflation to peak at 7 per cent and rate rises to come harder and faster in the near term. From a portfolio standpoint we are not seeing any degradation in our underlying portfolio and open dialogue with our lenders has us confident in their borrowing base. We are maintaining a close eye on the economic environment to ensure we maintain the performance of our Fund and ensure our lenders are in a position to maintain performance and strive to capitalise off the back of economic shifts.

1 RBA Inflation and Monetary Policy Speech – 21 June 2022

2 RBA Inflation and Monetary Policy Speech – 21 June 2022

3 Australian National Accounts: Finance and Wealth

You can learn more about the Aura High Yield SME Fund here.

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Stocks

The Sussex researchers who used international collaboration and 3D printing to stem PPE shortages in Nigeria

Researchers at the University of Sussex and their partners in Nigeria used open-source designs and 3D printing to reduce personal protective equipment…

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Researchers at the University of Sussex and their partners in Nigeria used open-source designs and 3D printing to reduce personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for a community in Nigeria during the Covid-19 pandemic – tells a recently published academic paper.

Credit: Please credit Royhaan Folarin, TReND

Researchers at the University of Sussex and their partners in Nigeria used open-source designs and 3D printing to reduce personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for a community in Nigeria during the Covid-19 pandemic – tells a recently published academic paper.

In their paper in PLOS Biology, Dr Andre Maia Chagas from the University of Sussex, and Dr. Royhaan Folarin from the Olabisi Onabanjo University (Nigeria), explain how their collaboration led to the production of  over 400 pieces of PPE for the local hospital and surrounding community, including those providing essential and frontline services. This included face masks and face shields, at a time when a global shortage meant it was impossible for these to be sourced by traditional companies. 

In their collaboration, they leveraged existing open-source designs detailing how to manufacture approved PPE. This allowed Nigerian researchers to source, build and use a 3D printer and begin producing and distributing protective equipment for the local community to use. Plus, it was affordable.

One 3D printer operator and one assembler produced on average one face shield in 1 hour 30 minutes, costing 1,200 Naira (£2.38) and one mask in 3 hours 3 minutes costing 2,000 Naira (£3.97). In comparison, at the time of the project, commercially available face shields cost at least 5,000 Naira (£9.92) and reusable masks cost 10,000 Naira (£19.84). 

Dr Maia Chagas, Research Bioengineer at the University of Sussex, said: “Through knowledge sharing, collaboration and technology, we were able to help support a community through a global health crisis. 

“I’m really proud of the tangible difference we made at a critical time for this community. As PPE was in such high demand and stocks were low, prices for surgical masks, respirators and surgical gowns hiked, with issues arising around exports and international distribution. 

“We quickly realized that alternative means of producing and distributing PPE were required. Free and open-source hardware (FOSH) and 3D printing quickly became a viable option.

“We hope that our international collaboration during the pandemic will inspire other innovators to use technology and share knowledge to help address societal problems, which were typically reliant on funding or support from government or large research institutions. 

“With open source designs, knowledge sharing and 3D printing, there is a real opportunity for us to start addressing problems from the ground up, and empower local communities and researchers.”

Dr. Royhaan Folarin, a Neuroscientist and lecturer of anatomical sciences at Olabisi Onabanjo University in Nigeria, said: 

“During the pandemic, we saw the successful printing and donation of PPE in the Czech Republic by Prusa Research and it became a goal for me to use the training I had received in previous TReND in Africa workshops to help impact my immediate community in Nigeria.”

The international collaboration came about as a result of the TReND in Africa network, a charity hosted within Sussex which supports scientific capacity building across Africa. 

After initial use, testers provided feedback commending the innovativeness, usefulness and aesthetics of the PPE and, while the team’s 3D printer was not built for large-scale serial manufacturing, they identified the possibilities for several 3D printers to run in parallel, to reduce relative production time. During the pandemic, this was successfully demonstrated by the company Prusa Research, which produced and shipped 200,000 CE certified face shields. 


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