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20 Top innovations for 2020

Alex Stockham

Alex Stockham

Communications Manager – IN-PART, London Office.

Starting the 20’s on the front foot, we’ve assembled a list of twenty innovations that we think are going to have a big impact over the coming years. Based on reads from industry R&D professionals using IN-PART to find and connect with new academic breakthroughs, our 20 top innovations for 2020 showcases the highest performing articles on the platform in 2019.

IN-PART is an online matchmaking platform that simplifies the initial connection between academia and industry, helping R&D-driven companies to benefit from the latest discoveries and breakthroughs from 230+ universities and institutes.

Browse the latest industry-oriented academic research, and read the full summaries of the innovations in this article by setting up a free account.


Biometric textiles

By integrating flexible sensor arrays within the fibres of textiles, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a working prototype for a new biometric system that unlocks new parameters for wearable smart sensors, accurately measuring movement, heart/respiratory rates and sweat levels.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Technology that can see

Outperforming existing computer vision SLAM systems (simultaneous localization and mapping), a new technology developed by researchers at the University of Essex utilises deep learning neural networks to facilitate real-time localisation and simultaneous environment mapping, with the potential to disrupt robotics, healthcare and autonomous vehicles.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Biomimetic wound healing

Building on the discovery of a peptide secreted by Opisthorchis viverrini (the Southeast Asian liver fluke) that promotes tissue repair through a unique knotted structure, James Cook University researchers have used the peptide as the basis for a new treatment to enhance wound healing.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Recycling mixed-plastic products

With a view to improve the recyclability of multi-component, mixed plastic waste streams, researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a compatibilizer that enables previously unusable plastic waste to be combined into new products.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Obliterating microbes

Researchers represented by the MU AIT ITC Knowledge Transfer Consortium in Ireland have developed a new biomaterial that exhibits broad-spectrum antimicrobial and biofilm disruptive activities, which has already shown to be effective against mastitis, and could be utilised for additives/coatings as well as in industrial sterilisation processes.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Graphene balls

By wrapping electrochemically-active metal oxide nanoparticles in graphene, researchers at the Max Planck Society have created hybrid graphene nanoparticles and materials that exhibit remarkable properties with wide-ranging applications in energy storage, sensors, photovoltaics and optoelectronics.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Bolstering treatments for autoimmune disease

One of the triggers that results in the destruction and clearance of invading pathogens from the body, the complement split product C4d, has been shown by researchers at the Medical University of Vienna to trigger anti-inflammatory responses and decrease the production of pro-inflammatory factors, making it a potential new addition for autoimmune disease treatments.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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A circular economy for plastic

With 60% of all the plastics ever produced buried in landfill, new work by scientists at the University of Oxford is addressing the vital need for more effective recycling processes by converting waste polymers back into their constituent monomers, creating a circular economy for the plastic industry.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Optimizing product development

Researchers working at the UK’s Science & Technology Facilities Council have designed bespoke software to accelerate the development of chemical formulations – such as coatings, paints, agrochemicals and personal care products – that augments chemical experimentation to accelerate the speed, scale and scope of R&D.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Ingredient transparency for household products

With a view to providing the consumer goods industry with viable options for natural ingredients, scientists at North Carolina State University have laid the foundation for a new green cleaning product that combines the antimicrobial properties of green tea with copper ions as an effective, safe, and fast-acting natural disinfectant.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Detecting microcolonies

Able to detect even the smallest numbers of pathogens – at 10 CFU (colony-forming units) per millimetre, with traditional methods unable to detect less than 1,000 CFU/mm – a new technology developed by a team of researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory promises to significantly cut down the time needed to detect microorganisms for food safety, clinical diagnostics, homeland security.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Turning CO2 back into fuel

An efficient, zero-carbon, solar-induced carbon capture system is in development by researchers at The University of Adelaide to sustainably convert CO2, in combination with water, into useful fuels such as hydrogen and methane.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Multimodal wearable sensors

A team at Monash University have developed biometric sensors that can measure changes in pressure, strain, temperature and glucose levels with high accuracy, whilst even monitoring skin and muscle deformation, with wide-ranging applications in health, sport and behaviour monitoring.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Versatile motion sensing

By infusing elastic bands with graphene, Trinity College Dublin researchers have been able to create low-cost, highly-versatile strain sensors that exhibit unprecedented electrical and mechanical properties to accurately monitor position, velocity and acceleration changes across a range of biometric applications.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Detecting disease from a patient’s breath

To detect the presence of diseases or infections, a team of researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have built upon decades of chemical analysis research to develop a point-of-care diagnostic that can pick-up on illnesses from signature volatile organic compounds in a patient’s breath or biological fluids.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Shape-changing dynamic surfaces

A new technology from researchers at the Max Planck Society has unlocked the possibility of creating magnetically-programmable active surfaces that can change shape in seconds with high spatial and temporal resolution for future applications in robotics, engineering, material science and medicine.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Upgrading antibiotics

Scientists working at the University of Lincoln have developed a library of teixobactin analogues (a new, recently-discovered class of antibiotic) that show superior antimicrobial activity over their natural variant to push forward in the fight against multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Superomniphobic self-healing coatings

With the aim of creating a self-healing coating that repels both oil and water for the automotive, aerospace and electronics industries, a scientist at the University of Kansas has developed a new multi-layer material that restores its superomniphobicity even after mechanical damage.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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A potential universal treatment for inflammatory bowel disease

Targeting the root cause of IBD – intestinal inflammation – researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a new treatment/management option that combines safe and readily available vitamins, shown in IBD mouse models to completely prevent intestinal inflammation.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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A new type of paint

With the ambition of negating the negative environmental and health effects of traditional oil-based paints, researchers at Queen’s University in Canada have developed a novel paint composition that has tailorable particle solubility, paving the way for a water-based paint that forms an insoluble coating when dry.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top innovations for 2020 feature.

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Technologies written by Ruth Kirk (1, 10, 17), Joseph Ferner (2, 8, 16, 20), Callum Turner (3, 11, 19), Jake Colder (4, 12, 18), Belinda Wistow (5, 13), Emma Brown (6, 9, 14), Steph Faulkner (7, 15).

Edited by Alex Stockham. Formatting by Eve Satkevic.

Copyrights reserved unless otherwise agreed – IN-PART Publishing Ltd., 2019: ‘Top 20 Innovations for 2020’


Discover more top innovations for 2020 in our previous quarterly features:


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RegBarc, Wikimedia, CCBY-SA 3.0; Flash Alexander, CC0; David Pereiras, Adobe Stock; Pxhere, 1402466, CC0; Christian Heisch, 190795254, Adobe Stock; vrx123, Adobe Stock; deusin, Adobe Stock; Tony Webster, flickr, CCBY2.0; Production Perig, Adobe Stock; appledeng, pixabay; Prawny, pixabay; Navajo generating station, Wikimedia, CCBY-SA4.0; vectorfusionart, Adobe Stock; Pixabay, CC0; Jyotirmoy Gupta, Unsplash, nonexclusive licence; NASA, CC0; E.coli, Design Cells, Adobe Stock; bohbeh, Adobe Stock; CoRus13 ,Eosinophilic colitis, CCBY-SA 4; 5598375, Pixabay.

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