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Artificial Intelligence: UC Davis Awarded $20M Grant For Researching Next Gen Food Systems

UC Davis has received a grant of $20 million for a research institute to integrate artificial intelligence in food systems. The project is one part of a national drive worth $ 140 million being conducted by the National Science Foundation involving research universities and agencies.

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Artificial Intelligence: UC Davis Awarded $20M Grant For Researching Next Gen Food Systems

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The grant will enable UC Davis to set up a new AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems.

UC Davis has received a grant of $20 million for a research institute to integrate artificial intelligence in food systems. The project is one part of a national drive worth $ 140 million under an initiative of the National Science Foundation involving research universities and agencies. (Sacramento Business Journal)

Five-year grant period

The new institute to be set up by UC Davis would be named AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS).

The main objective of the research Institute is to boost efficiency throughout the food system. The activities covered will include:

  • optimizing plants for yield, quality and disease resistance through molecular breeding
  • minimize resource consumption and waste
  • food safety, nutrition and personalized health decisions in diet
  • use of AI applications, sensing platforms, and robotics

The AIFS would be led by director Ilias Tagkopoulos. It would include 40 researchers from universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

“The food system is ripe for disruption, with many advances over the past decade paving the way to a transformation,” observed Tagkopoulos.

The grant will also cover participation in the project by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is a separate research group of the University of California system, based in the city of Davis.

“As with many of our world’s greatest challenges, addressing the critical needs in our food supply requires extensive collaboration between experts from different disciplines,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “The collection of expertise assembled for this new institute brings much hope for transformative advancements to be realized.”

Related Story:   Artificial Intelligence – Univ. of Florida in $70M Public-Private Partnership  

Image credit: Vertical Farming by Wikimedia                                             

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Source: https://dailyalts.com/artificial-intelligence-uc-davis-awarded-20m-grant-for-researching-next-gen-food-systems/

Private Equity

Alternative Investments/AI: European Investors Believe AI Is A “Compelling Opportunity”

Exchange traded fund (ETF) sponsor WisdomTree commissioned a survey by Coredata Research of professional investors across Europe on thematic investing. The survey found that a vast majority of these investors considered artificial intelligence as the most compelling long-term thematic investment opportunity.

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Alternative Investments/AI: European Investors Believe AI Is A “Compelling Opportunity”

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Professional European investors believe the potential of AI is transformative.

Exchange traded fund (ETF) sponsor WisdomTree commissioned a survey by Coredata Research of professional investors across Europe on thematic investing. The survey found that a vast majority of these investors considered artificial intelligence as the most compelling long-term thematic investment opportunity. (INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT)

Artificial intelligence and thematic investing

According to the survey, more than 70% of European professional investors consider AI as a highly compelling long-term thematic investment opportunity.

The believe that AI can transform industries, services, labour, and consumption. However, the technology is still only in its formative stages of adoption and application.

Other popular themes

The second most popular theme, about 60%, according to the survey, was Biotech. This is understandable because of the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine and accompanying research.

Cyber security, at 47%, was the third most fancied thematic investing option. It was triggered by the seemingly overnight transition to remote and home working as a result of the virus. Cyber security has suddenly assumed critical importance given the vast numbers of people working from home and outside the usually secure environment provided by the office technology and network.

Professional European investors also favored cloud computing.

Thematic investing earned solid returns during the pandemic

Ravi Azad, head of UK and Nordics, WisdomTree said: “Our research points to the growing popularity of thematic investing, which has benefitted from strong returns during the coronavirus pandemic. While AI, biotech and cyber security present compelling long-term opportunities, cloud computing has had a strong year as organisations have transitioned to the cloud quicker than experts anticipated. Once seen as a fad, thematics are becoming important building blocks in portfolio construction due to their long-term growth potential”.

Related Story:    A Big Fundraise, And An Acquisition, In Cybersecurity                                              

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Source: https://dailyalts.com/european-investors-believe-ai-is-a-compelling-opportunity/

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FinTech: Western Union Acquires 15% Of Saudi Fintech stc pay For $200M

Western Union (NYSE: WU) has taken a 15% stake in stc pay for $200 million, valuing the Saudi fintech at $1.3 billion. Western Union is the world’s largest remittance company, while stc pay is a fully owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s stc Group.

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FinTech: Western Union Acquires 15% Of Saudi Fintech stc pay For $200M

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stc pay becomes the first Saudi unicorn and first fintech unicorn in the Middle East.

Western Union (NYSE: WU) has taken a 15% stake in stc pay for $200 million, valuing the Saudi fintech at $1.3 billion. Western Union is the world’s largest remittance company. stc pay is a 100% subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s stc Group. (Arab News)

Western Union will initially pay $133.3 million to acquire a 10% stake in the Saudi fintech. It will acquire another 5% for $66.67 million if stc pay obtains a digital banking license.

stc pay

stc pay is the first fintech company in the Kingdom to receive a license from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA).

It is also the largest digital wallet in the MENA region with more than 4.5 million users.

It has been established in accordance with the objectives of Saudi VISION 2030. Those are to support the growth of the national economy, to enhance financial inclusion, and reduce dependence on cash.

First unicorn in Saudi Arabia and first fintech unicorn in the Middle East

HRH Prince Mohammed bin Khalid Abdullah Al Faisal Chairman of stc Group, said the decision by Western Union to make such a significant Foreign Direct Investment in its fintech subsidiary was highly encouraging.

“For us at stc Group it reflects our position as a digital enabler and an ICT regional champion as we celebrate the creation of the first Saudi unicorn and the first fintech unicorn in the Middle East,” he added.

“stc pay has rapidly developed a leading regional digital payments service over the past two years and has been a highly successful digital partnership for Western Union,” said Hikmet Ersek, CEO and President, Western Union. “Looking forward, we believe stc pay is well-positioned for continued expansion in digital payments.”

Use of funds

stc pay will use funds to boost its capital resources and to fund its plans for long-term expansion.

The Saudi fintech also intends to launch more products for its customers.

In July this year, stc pay and Visa (NYSE: V), the world’s leader in digital payments, entered into a strategic partnership. They would launch customer-centric financial services and digital payment solutions to stc pay customers.

Related Story: Saudi Fintech Geidea Launches Beta Testing of End-to-End Solutions for SMEs

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Source: https://dailyalts.com/western-union-acquires-15-of-saudi-fintech-stc-pay/

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European insurers gear up to do deals

A tough period during the pandemic is prompting restructuring and sales, including a number of private equity-backed transactions

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European insurers have weathered the crucible of the coronavirus pandemic and are ready to do some deals.

Last week a Canadian and Danish insurance consortium agreed to buy the UK’s RSA Insurance Group for £7.2bn. And on Friday, 20 November, Zurich Insurance Group said it is in talks to acquire MetLife’s US property and casualty insurance business.

The RSA deal, which pushed up the share prices of some insurance stocks when the proposal was announced on 5 November, portends further mergers and acquisitions, industry participants say.

That is because the pandemic forced insurers of all stripes to take a hard look at their businesses as losses from claims piled up, bringing weaknesses into sharp relief. Some are recognizing the need for scale to cement profitability, while others are pruning units where they can’t make enough money to compete. Bankers say more deals are brewing.

Another factor that could ignite a shopping spree: the regulatory environment. The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority in April urged the industry to temporarily suspend dividends and share buybacks. As a result, cash has accumulated on some companies’ balance sheets, which dilutes return on equity and is feeding the need to seek combinations.

Insurers’ share prices reflect a tough year littered with losses related to Covid-19 and the continuing impact of low interest rates on their investment portfolios.

The Euro Stoxx Insurance Index is down 15% this year, lagging behind the broad Euro Stoxx 600 stock-market index, which is down 6%. Lloyd’s of London, the UK insurance and reinsurance market, said in September it expects to pay out up to £5bn, in coronavirus-related claims this year.

Some insurers reason the larger they are, the better. “The RSA deal shows the importance of having scale to drive profitability for the sector,” said Tryfonas Spyrou, an insurance analyst at Berenberg. Large insurers can operate in multiple markets, negotiate better pricing with suppliers and have access to more data, which allows better pricing of risks, he said.

Consolidation has been happening in the US as well.

Insurance giant Allstate in July agreed to acquire rival National General Holdings for about $4bn in cash, though discussions began before the crisis.

Private equity firm KKR the same month said it would buy retirement and life-insurance company Global Atlantic Financial Group for more than $4.4bn.

Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali SpA last week said it has up to €2.5bn, to spend on “acquisitions that are fully aligned to our clear strategic priorities.” The insurer in June took a 24% stake in an Italian insurance company backed by Berkshire Hathaway that had been told by Italian regulators to boost its capital.

UK-based insurer Aviva has been trying to sell its operations in France, according to people familiar with the matter. A spokesperson declined to comment on a potential sale and pointed to previous statements by the company that it would focus on its businesses in the UK, Ireland and Canada, and that it was in the early stages of developing its strategy for its continental European business.

Dutch insurer Aegon NV in August said it would review the more than 20 countries in which it operates and concentrate on countries and business lines where it could create the most value.

Belgian insurer Ageas NV in recent months has increased its stake in its joint ventures, and recently said it has €700m to €800m in cash.

Some insurers are operating warily. Giulio Terzariol, German insurer Allianz SE’s chief financial officer, said earlier this month that if buybacks aren’t permitted in 2021, the insurer would look at deploying capital. But he said the company wouldn’t buy “suboptimal assets” for fear of regretting it for the next 10 years.

—Ben Dummett contributed to this article.

Write to Julie Steinberg at julie.steinberg@wsj.com

From The Wall Street Journal

Source: https://www.penews.com/articles/european-insurers-gear-up-to-do-deals-20201123

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