Weekend news roundup: Conor Lenihan spearheads Russia’s Silicon Valley, Kodak’s patents defeat

23 Jul 2012

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In our trawl through some of the tech coverage in the weekend newspapers, we learn that Stanford scientists have created software that emulates lifespan of entire organism, former minister Conor Lenihan is helping to build Russia’s Silicon Valley, and what do smartphone covers say about their respective ecosystems’ philosophies?

Lenihan playing a pivotal role in building Moscow’s Silicon Valley

The Sunday Independent reported how former science and technology minister Conor Lenihan is involved in a multi-billion-dollar development to build Russia’s Silicon Valley outside Moscow.

Lenihan is understood to be playing a pivotal role in the massive Skolkovo project. The plan is to create a vast hub of innovation and research anchored by the Skolkovo Tech University.

The Russian state has already spent $4.2bn (€3.4bn) on the project but the overall bill could be up towards $80bn. "About 70pc of that is in city build. This will be a city of 31,000 people," Lenihan said.

Software emulates lifespan of entire organism

The New York Times reported that scientists at Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute have developed the first software simulation of an entire organism, a humble single-cell bacterium that lives in the human genital and respiratory tracts.

The scientists and other experts said the work was a giant step toward developing computerised laboratories that could carry out many thousands of experiments much faster than is possible now, helping scientists penetrate the mysteries of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

“You read in the paper just about every week, ‘Cancer gene discovered’ or ‘Alzheimer gene discovered,’” said the leader of the new research, Markus W Covert, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford. “A lot of the public wonders, ‘Why haven’t we cured all these things?’ The answer, of course, is that cancer is not a one-gene problem; it’s a many-thousands-of-factors problem.”

For medical researchers and biochemists, simulation software will vastly speed the early stages of screening for new compounds. And for molecular biologists, models that are of sufficient accuracy will yield new understanding of basic cellular principles.

Kodak dealt a major patents blow

The Wall Street Journal reported Eastman Kodak Co has lost a patent case against Apple Inc and Research In Motion Ltd, dealing a blow to the one-time film giant’s efforts to raise billions of dollars by selling off its intellectual property.

Kodak filed a complaint against the iPhone and BlackBerry makers at the U.S. International Trade Commission in early 2010, saying their devices infringed on its patent for previewing images with a digital camera.

What smartphone covers say about ecosystems – an open/shut case?

The New York Times had an interesting piece on how various mobile platform providers such as Apple and Google’s approach to their respective ecosystems can be epitomised by the covers on their smartphones.

“It isn’t surprising that Apple, the epitome of the closed organisation and overlord of the iPhone’s tightly controlled software ecosystem, would design screws that, in effect, serve as locks,” the paper noted. “And one can see how it would be in Apple’s interest to make it hard for users to extend the life of older models — it’s a way to encourage the purchase of the newest, greatest Apple stuff.

“Google, which until now has not done much in consumer electronics hardware with its own brand name, is positioning itself as a conspicuous alternative to Apple, in design as in other aspects. As long as Apple embraces closed systems — and closed cases — Google can take advantage of an opportunity to be the un-Apple and to open up.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com