The R&D World Index (RDWI) for the week ending October 6, 2023, closed at 2,982.44 for the 25 companies in the RDWI. The Index was up 2.04% (or 59.73 basis points). Thirteen of the 25 RDWI members gained value last week from 0.48% (Sanofi SA) to 5.23% (Eli Lilly & Co.). Twelve of the 25 RDWI members lost value last week from -0.12% (Pfizer) to -6.28% (General Motors).
RDW Index member Intel, Santa Clara, California, announced last week that it intends to make its programmable chip division a standalone business. Intel bought Alterna’s field programmable gate array (FPGA) business eight years ago for $16.7 billion. Intel hoped that the Alterna acquisition would increase access to the data center market and to an emerging class of chips (FPGA) for internet-connected devices. However, the Alterna chips have not provided a meaningful boost to Intel’s core business in PCs and data centers. It appears that Intel prefers to spend its limited resources on new factories and high-performance microprocessors rather than the FPGA business. The standalone business of the Alterna chip operations will begin at the start of 2024. Intel said it will seek private investors and intends to hold a public stock offering in the business in two or three years. Intel said it plans to maintain a majority stake in the programmable chip business and continue making the programmable chips in its own factories.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced last week that an early-stage startup called Likewise (which is supported by Gates’ private office) has launched a chatbot that offers office users personalized recommendations for books, movies, TV shows, and podcasts. The free chatbot, called Pix, runs on OpenAI’s natural language processing technology and will learn user’s preferences over time. Pix will suggest content across platforms to users who text, email, or ask questions through its app. Microsoft was an early investor in OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT in 2022. Gates has worked with OpenAI since 2016.
ExxonMobil, Irving, Texas, announced last week that it is closing in on a deal to buy Pioneer Natural Resources, also headquartered in Irving, Texas, for an expected value of roughly $60 billion according to analysts. This deal, if it occurs, would be Exxon’s largest since it merged with Mobil in 1999. Pioneer is an oil driller with large acreage in the Midland Basin which straddles West Texas and New Mexico. Exxon has a market value of $436 billion which should make the merger deal doable.
ChinaTimes, Taipei, Taiwan, reported last week that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Hsinchu, Taiwan, was dedicating 200 new R&D specialists in the silicon photonics technology arena for use in the AI (artificial intelligence) industry. TSMC is also noted as teaming with Nvidia and Broadcam for the Compact Universal Photo Engine (COUPE) which is expected to be an energy-efficient AI solution in the future. Global Foundries, Santa Clara, California, is also noted as developing silicon photonics technologies, however, TSMC is considerably farther ahead in this technology development area, according to analysts.
A report released by the U.S. State Department, Washington, DC, last week has raised concerns about the European Union’s (EU’s) recently passed AI Act. The report warns that the restrictive legislation imposed by the EU could end up curbing R&D investment in the technology while favoring large AI firms at the expense of their smaller rivals. The EU regulations are also noted as likely to dampen the expected boost to productivity from AI and potentially lead to a migration of jobs and investment to other markets. Some of the rules in the AI Act are also described by the report as vague or undefined.
The recent announcement by the South Korean government of proposed substantial cuts to the government’s 2024 federal research budget has resulted in a flurry of criticism from the country’s R&D workers. South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) plans to eliminate projects it defines as underperforming and to reduce indirect costs, such as those for research infrastructure and equipment. Since 1991, South Korea’s federal R&D budget has increased steadily, accounting for more than 4.5% of GDP in 2023 (U.S. R&D, by comparison, is about 3% of its GDP). The proposed MSIT R&D cuts still must be approved by South Korea’s National Assembly in December 2023.
Research released last week by RDW Index member Microsoft, Redmond, Washington, noted that computer hackers are using AI and encryption to make cyberattacks more painful. Cybercriminals and nation states are using AI to refine the language they use in phishing attacks or the imagery in influence operations, according to Microsoft researchers., Tech and cyber companies are quickly adding AI capabilities to their security tools to “fight fire with fire” according to AI cybersecurity provider Deep Instinct, New York City.
The U.S.’s West Coast wildfires which were at least partially blamed on faults in electric power lines operated by PG&E (formerly Pacific Gas & Electric), Oakland, California, resulted in a PG&E commitment to bury up to 10,000 miles of power lines to stem the risk of them sparking blazes. It was noted earlier this year that California regulators are likely to significantly restrict the number of power lines that PG&E can bury in the coming years in favor of other ways to reduce the fire risk. The regulators’ reasoning is that undergrounding is too expensive when customers are paying larger bills due to inflation and other investments to bolster the power grid.
R&D World’s R&D Index is a weekly stock market summary of the top international companies involved in R&D. The top 25 industrial R&D spenders in 2020 were selected based on the latest listings from Schonfeld & Associates’ June 2020 R&D Ratios & Budgets. These 25 companies include pharmaceutical (10 companies), automotive (6 companies), and ICT (9 companies) which invested a cumulative total of nearly 260 billion dollars in R&D in 2019, or approximately 10% of all the R&D spending in the world by government, industries, and academia combined, according to R&D World’s 2021 Global R&D Funding Forecast. The stock prices used in the R&D World Index are tabulated from NASDAQ, NYSE, and OTC common stock prices for the companies selected at the close of stock trading business on the Friday preceding the online publication of the R&D World Index