From energy efficiency and grid storage to 3-D printing and advanced materials, 2012 was a year rife with exciting new technologies and innovations that promise to impact every facet of manufacturing.
Carrying these developments and driving them into the mainstream is a field of some of the most aggressively innovative and forward-looking companies the industry has seen.
Harnessing the potential of such global trends as infrastructure, health and wellness, and alternative energy, these companies have emerged as new tech leaders by matching pressing social and economic needs for new technologies with the business prowess and R&D investment needed to bring them to life.
As we close out this year and review the progress it has brought us, emerging technology research firm, Lux Research, has pulled together a list of the 10 most compelling companies that led the way during this busy year of innovation.
This list was drawn from 1,380 companies across 15 different technology domains profiled in 2012. According to Lux, the profiles are based on primary and secondary research, rating each on a 10-metric scorecard and providing critical analysis of their prospects.
Each firm receives a "Lux Take" that ranges from "Strong Caution" to "Strong Positive," to provide a bottom-line assessment of its prospects, with a "wait and see" rating for companies that still face too much uncertainty for a definitive call.
The 2012 Top Ten List
1. Solazyme (Positive) – One of the few advanced fermentation companies generating revenue today, Solazyme is aligning partners and scaling production facilities to sell into high value markets before bringing down costs to compete in commodity fuels and chemicals.
2. EOS (Positive) – A leader in the burgeoning 3D printing space, EOS boasts a long list of development partners and employs a savvy business model that includes selling “optimized” raw material input powders at very high margins to go along with laser sintering tools.
3. Vigilent (Positive) – Vigilent’s artificial intelligence-based energy management software learns operational habits and optimizes building energy efficiency and consumption, offering payback periods to customers of less than two years.
4. Cambrios Technologies (Positive) – Cambrios develops silver nanowire-based transparent conductive films to replace indium tin oxide, particularly for touchscreen applications. Along with partners Nissha Printing and Synaptics, it released its first commercial product in the Huawei Ascend.
5. Oxford Pharmascience (Positive) – The ability to manipulate properties such as taste and viscosity to improve oral delivery of medicine makes Oxford Pharmascience appealing. Calcium supplements gained the company entry into emerging markets and doubled its revenue in one year.
6. SunPower (Positive) – As the manufacturer of the highest efficiency crystalline silicon modules on the market at 21% efficiency, SunPower has strong strategic partners and a multi-gigawatt project pipeline in the high profit margin regions of the Americas and Asia.
7. Efficient Power Conversion (Positive) – This fab-less manufacturer of gallium nitride (GaN) power electronics devices is already offering products in the 40 V to 200 V range, and is well positioned to expand its offering to 600 V applications, taking advantage of GaN’s improved efficiency over today’s silicon-based devices.
8. Enviro Voraxial (Positive) – The company sells high efficiency, low footprint oil-water separators especially suitable for the offshore market, and quadrupled its revenues in 2012.
9. Itaconix (Positive) – With a low-capex, low-opex process expanding to 5,000 MT/year to produce itaconic acid polymers for chemical intermediates, binders, and super-absorbents, Itaconix is one of the few bio-based chemical companies we expect to run in the black in 2013.
10. Desso (Positive) – This developer of carpet for residential, office, and hospitality sectors and artificial grass for sports stadiums uses "cradle-to-cradle" principles, making its products biodegradable and recyclable, while offering functionality like capture and retention of allergens and enhanced sound insulation.