LM Industries Announces $15M Funding from SPARX Group to deliver Olli to customers and consumers

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 15, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — LM Industries, the parent company of Local Motors "" the world's first and only digital vehicle manufacturer "" today announced a $15 million raise from Mirai Creation Fund II (managed by SPARX Group Co., Ltd, the Japanese asset management firm). This financing will help Local Motors deliver Olli to customers and consumers who are seeking ways to redefine local mobility.

"When SPARX considers partnering with new businesses, we are committed to finding great companies, like Local Motors, with intentions and abilities to make the world a better place," said Shuhei Abe, CEO of SPARX Group.

"Local Motors has a unique advantage to quickly deliver impactful products that can revolutionize the automotive and mobility industry," said Seiji Miyasaka, President of SPARX Capital Investments, Inc., a US subsidiary of SPARX Group and new Local Motors board member. "At a time when the world is changing faster than ever, we're thrilled to be working with a company that can evolve with it."

This latest funding will be used to drive product development, production and deployment for Olli, the world's first 3D–printed, electric, self–driving shuttle. Since entering series production for Olli 2.0, its latest iteration and the third generation of the Local Motors manufacturing line, the company has seen a significant resurgence in interest for safe and reliable transportation, recently deploying the first ever Olli 2.0 at the AZ Maria Middelares hospital in Ghent, Belgium and delivering the first 2.0 in the United States to Jacksonville Transportation Authority at the AV Test & Learn track at Armsdale.

"We share a dream with SPARX Group to completely reimagine the mobility and automotive industry, with the goal to truly move society forward in a profound way," said Jay Rogers, co–founder and CEO of Local Motors. "Delivering innovative and locally relevant vehicles and mobility solutions has been at the core of our company from the beginning, and we look forward to pushing the industry to be a more clean, customer–centric business. SPARX's investment, which includes Toyota Motor Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation as seed LPs for the Mirai Creation Fund II, proves that our commitment to low–speed autonomy and digital manufacturing can make a direct impact in the world through cleaner manufacturing and better mobility experiences for all."

Throughout the pandemic, Local Motors has continued to address the need for clean and safe autonomy. In July, the company announced a partnership with Beep, the Florida–based Mobility–as–a–Service (MaaS) provider, with plans to deploy hundreds of autonomous vehicles in the coming years. Additionally, Local Motors made significant strides in validating the safety of its vehicles this year, proving that its 3D–printed structure performs at an equivalent level to traditionally manufactured vehicles during crash testing.

"Our partnership with Beep, improved crash testing process, and distinct manufacturing method puts Local Motors in a unique position capable of meeting consumers' constantly changing needs around the world today and in the future," said Rogers. “This funding will help propel our vision forward, and continue making a difference in our communities.”

About Local Motors
Local Motors empowers communities to create and manufacture opportunity. We provide innovative and locally relevant vehicles and mobility solutions. We have the unrivaled capacity to make the improbable come to life and are focused on delivering Olli to customers and consumers around the world. LM Industries is the parent company of Local Motors.

About Mirai Creation Fund I and Mirai Creation Fund II
The Mirai Creation Fund I began operations in November 2015 with financing of JPY 13.5 billion from three companies: Toyota Motor Corporation, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, and SPARX, the Fund's general partner. Ultimately, the Fund received contributions from 20 companies, including the above three. Casting intelligent technologies, robotics, and hydrogen–economy technologies as core technologies of the future, Fund I has invested in approximately 50 companies and projects""from the US, the UK, Israel, Singapore, and Japan""that possess innovative technologies in these fields. In H2 2018, SPARX began managing the Mirai Creation Fund II, which targets the three existing Mirai Creation fields along with the two additional areas of electrification and new materials. As of June 30, 2020, the combined AUM for Fund I and Fund II were JPY 109.3 billion.

Media Contact
LaunchSquad for LM Industries

Why We Need Trees to End to Poverty – Landmark Report

Forest cover on the east of Saint Lucia. Forests and trees play a significant role in poverty alleviation and ultimately, eradication. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

Forest cover on the east of Saint Lucia. Forests and trees play a significant role in poverty alleviation and ultimately, eradication. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

By Alison Kentish
NEW YORK, United States, Oct 15 2020 – With extreme poverty (living on $1.90 a day) projected to rise for the first time in over 20 years, a new study has concluded that global poverty eradication efforts could be futile in the absence of forests and trees.

Twenty-one scientists and over 40 contributing authors spent the last two years studying the role of forests and trees in poverty alleviation and ultimately, eradication.  The Global Forest Expert Panel issued its findings on Oct. 15, in a report titled, “Forests, Trees and the Eradication of Poverty: Potential and Limitations”.

The report comes amid two global challenges that are disproportionately impacting the poor and vulnerable – the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. According to the United Nations, 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, a major threat to Sustainable Development Goal 1, ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere.

Lead researcher and chair of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations Professor Daniel C. Miller told IPS that while forests and trees can help the severe losses at the intersection of climate change, zoonotic disease outbreaks and poverty alleviation, they continue to be overlooked in mainstream policy discourse.

“A quarter of the world’s population lives in or near a forest and trees actively contribute to human well-being, particularly the most vulnerable among us. This research hopes to bring to light the available scientific evidence on how forests have contributed to poverty alleviation and translate it in a way that is accessible to policy makers,” he said.

Globally forests are a vital source of food, fuel and ecotourism services. They also help to conserve water and soil resources and boast climate change mitigating properties such as carbon sequestration, the process of absorbing and storing carbon.

The report states that the rural poor need forests for subsistence and income generation, but in one of its chief findings, reported that inequality in the distribution of forest benefits continues to hurt the vulnerable. 

“To illustrate, in large scale logging on indigenous lands or where marginalised people live, timber is the most valuable forest product, yet that value is often not accrued to the people who have to deal with the aftermath of not having forests anymore,” said Miller.

The researchers are hoping that the report can help to inform policy on issues such as equitable and sustainable forest use and conservation. Along with their findings, they have prepared a policy brief for lawmakers. That document takes a multi-dimensional look at poverty, assessing both the monetary value of forests and tree resources and their impact on human well-being, health and safety.

For two small islands in the Eastern Caribbean, the report’s findings complement ongoing sustainable forestry for poverty alleviation programs. In 2o16, Saint Lucia, which boasts 25,000 acres of forest or 38 percent of its land area, launched a 10-year forest protection plan. The country’s most senior forester Alwin Dornelly told IPS that this document was ahead of its time, as Saint Lucia’s is well in keeping with some of the report’s major recommendations.

“We simply cannot do without our forests. 85 percent of our country’s water sources are in the forests. Our fresh water supply depends on the trees. The plan underscores forest protection for lives and livelihoods; from charcoal for fire and timber for furniture to agricultural produce for household use and for sale by residents of rural communities. Sustainable use of forest resources is a hallmark of this plan,” he said.

The forestry department monitors the country’ eco-trails, popular with nature tourists who take part in camping, hiking and bird watching, activities that create employment for nearby residents and based on the sustainable forest livelihoods component of the 10-year plan. According to the global report ecotourism activities are among the practices that may lead to greater equity in forest benefits.

The report is also a morale booster for forestry officials on the island of Dominica, who are celebrating reforestation gains. Known for its lush, green vegetation, forests carpet 60 percent of the island and its Morne Trois Piton National Park is a U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site. It has taken just over three years, but the country has recovered the almost one-third of forest coverage destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“Dominicans have the right to reap the benefits of sustainable forest resources. We suffered 90 percent defoliage after the 2017 hurricane and 33 percent forest destruction. We are thankful for both natural regeneration and our national tree planting initiative. We have eight community plant nurseries and propagation centres for sustained reforestation – nurseries we hope turn handover for community ownership. We understand that forest loss is livelihood loss, especially for those in rural areas,” the country’s forestry chief Michinton Burton told IPS.

The English-speaking Caribbean is not wildly cited in the study, something Miller says falls under its ‘limitations’ segment, adding that more research is needed on smaller islands. The forest experts who spoke to IPS, however, say the report’s warnings, calls to action and findings are instructive for policy makers globally.

The researchers have made it clear that forests and trees are not a cure-all for poverty but are essential to the overall solution. With health experts predicting future pandemics due to ecological degradation and climate scientists warning that the Caribbean will experience more intense hurricanes like Maria, the report states that these challenging times call for a rethink of current poverty eradication measures. It adds that the ability of forests and trees to positively impact lives, health and livelihoods must be a central part of discussions to lift people out of poverty, particularly in rural settings.

The report was launched ahead of this year’s observance of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, World Food Day and the International Day of Rural Women – three important days on the U.N. calendar that promote sustainable livelihoods, food security and poverty eradication.

High Tech, Low Labour?

KJ Ong is an independent researcher on technology and the co-founder of Data Democrasea, an initiative that advocates for knowledge, justice, and equality at the frontier [...] Read more »