Thursday, July 14, 2011

NASA Ames Conference, July 28-30, 2011

Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2011 Conference

When: July 28-30, 2011

Where: NASA Ames Research Center

The Space Frontier Foundation's annual conference, NewSpace 2011, is one of the most important commercial space conferences in the nation. The event will be held July 28-30 at NASA Ames Research Center. Lori Garver, Deputy NASA Administrator will present the opening keynote on Thursday morning, kicking off a great conference. This is the third year the conference has been here in Silicon Valley and we are working to grow this into THE premier commercial space event in the world. The theme of this year's conference is "The Next Big Thing". The three day event will focus on the current, near term, and future potential and challenges of the emerging commercial space industry.

Programming on Thursday will kick off with "The Big Thing of Today", which will address the current state of not only the NewSpace industry, but also the critical partnership between the growing commercial industry and civil space and will feature a roundtable of the leadership of the different NASA Centers. Friday will carry on with "The Big Thing of Tomorrow", which will feature a Business Plan Competition and our popular "War Stories" panel. Friday will also seek to investigate what opportunities and markets exist in the near term. Saturday will focus on "The Future is the Really Big Thing", which will explore what opportunities await us in the future and will feature a panel on "The Promise of NewSpace," which will be comprised of high-level visionaries from across the industry. Finally, the conference will close Saturday night with the star-studded NewSpace Awards Gala. The conference is sponsored by NASA, SpaceX, Space Systems Loral, XCOR, SEDS, the National Space Society, International Space University,, NewSpace Magazine, Space Newsfeed, and VLAB

More information about the program and registration may be found on the website

Entrepreneurs are exploring opportunities with new rocket launchers, novel uses of affordable small satellites, space tourism, and even space-based power generation and extraterrestrial mining.

Who will fund these highly front-loaded capital requirements? What business models are effective? How will technology commercialization mesh with market windows? What about multi-national regulatory incompatibilities?

Space has always been a petri dish to breed new technologies that later penetrate our everyday life. Discover the latest developments and learn how private investors and businesses are planning to overcome capital intensity and provide new solutions for our problems on Earth.

Share your ideas with us on twitter @vlab


Thursday, February 10, 2011

China Commercializing Space

The Chinese space agency just announced plans to open new research centers to commercialize its technologies for use in space science, information technology, energy and health.

As China shifts from low-cost manufacturing to innovation, it is investing heavily in cutting-edge technologies in order to create new jobs and industries for its millions of young people graduating from college -- a challenge facing the world. European Space Agency (ESA) advisers estimate each US dollar of space spending generates 15x in economic growth so the stakes are high.

China, Europe, and U.S. are racing to leverage space to create jobs. NASA Ames recently announced plans to expand its research park to spin off more technologies and companies. ESA has partnered with a Paris VC to set up a space tech fund. Sweden has launched the Down-to-Earth (DTE) Project to commercialize space technologies for sustainable products and services.

At Shanghai Expo 2010, our DTE Project held a workshop, which attracted China's top space agency officials as well as local and foreign companies and government agencies. DTE is planning a China-to-Helsinki space school on the Trans-Siberian Railway this spring.

The new "space race" promises to create exciting new jobs and industries, just as the Apollo Project helped Silicon Valley startups get off the ground during the 1960s.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NASA Ames Expands Research Park

NASA Ames is expanding its research park activities to leverage Obama's new commercialization policies. For decades, NASA has co-developed thousands of cutting-edge technologies that have been adopted by aerospace, medical, IT, sports and other industries. This new initiative leverages Silicon Valley's research strengths to create new technologies that will drive innovation in the valley for the coming decades.

NASA's commercialization policies focus on new space launch vehicles, but the real goldmine will be down-to-earth applications for sustainable products and services, such as electric vehicles, mobile imaging, healthcare, green cities, etc.

In Sweden, I'm collaborating on the Down-to-Earth Project with Umbilical Design ( and on commercializing European Space Agency technologies for sustainable products and services with Swedish companies, municipalities and schools.

We're not only focused on technologies, but also the inspiration and new concepts stimulated by space research and exploration. For example, the rubber wheels of the Mars Rover led to extreme sailing wetsuits that are more tolerant of cold. Space helmets are being adapted to alpine skiing helmets.

NASA Ames has a major opportunity to develop down-to-earth products and services that could unlock totally new markets. After all, the Apollo Project contributed to the development of chips, personal computers and the ultimate spinoff, Silicon Valley.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NASA Seeks New Approach to Tech Transfer

NASA has tried licensing its technologies, but hasn't been very successful in expanding its technology transfer program beyond a few licensees.

There are several problems with its current approach:

1. Tech-push driven: Like universities, NASA is trying to push its basic research into the marketplace, which usually doesn't work since NASA technologies are designed for space flights, not earthly commercial applications. Moreover, tech-push approaches rarely work. Silicon Valley venture capitalists only succeed with about 10% of their portfolio companies, which are selected from thousands of business plans. If seasoned VCs cannot hit many successes, how can government managers do any better? It's mission impossible.

What NASA needs is more market- and user-driven demand. In Sweden, our Down-to-Earth Project with and is working with companies, cities and schools that need to innovate and find space technologies a way to differentiate their products and services. For example, a white goods manufacturer had washing machine vibration problems and learned that the European Space Agency (ESA) had many solutions. Most organizations could benefit from the creative thinking and technologies from space researchers.

2. Brokers as bottlenecks: NASA and ESA use technology brokers, who are limited in the number of companies they can handle. Moreover, they do not want more competitors so few technologies can feasibly be licensed and commercialized at one time. Space agencies need to open up the licensing process by using the Internet and smartphone alerts, auctions and other business innovations to increase visibility and accelerate the process.

3. Lack of young people: Most space agency researchers and tech brokers are middle-aged professionals focused on existing businesses and industries. Few college students and postdocs, who are seeking careers and have access to the latest thinking and technologies, are invited to participate in identifying, brainstorming and commercializing space technologies. is one of the few examples.

4. Shortage of investors: ESA is partnering with a French venture capitalist (VC) to commercialize its technologies, but few VCs have jumped into the space commercialization business yet, mostly for developing commercial space vehicles, not sustainable earth applications where the market need is biggest.

NASA and ESA should work with VCs and sovereign funds to finance startups that want to commercialize space technologies for sustainable earth products and services. The Apollo Project, which stimulated chip and computer startups (i.e. leading to Silicon Valley), is a good example of the power of space tech commercialization. Not a bad return on investment; the electronics industry is over $500 billion a year.

So NASA has its work cut out. I hope Obama's commercialization policies is quickly expanded so the U.S. can create millions of exciting new jobs, especially for mid-career professionals and college graduates. If the U.S. could put men on the moon fifty years ago, we can put millions of Americans to work addressing climate change and other major challenges facing us.

Monday, September 20, 2010

America Wakes Up to Space Potential

The United States is suffering with 9.4% unemployment and is finally waking up to the potential of space commercialization as a way to jumpstart new job creation.

Experts at the European Space Agency (ESA) estimate that each Euro generates 20x in new economic growth, double the 9x to 11x from high-tech investments. Space agencies worldwide spend $45 billion a year, which could generate $900 billion in new jobs, or 9 million jobs at year at US$100,000 per job. These are exciting, high-level jobs, not sweeping floors or serving tourists.

Obama and the Democrats are seeking new ways to create jobs. They should expand NASA's tech transfer programs and integrate them with K-16 education, job retraining programs and regional incubators. If the U.S. government did, we could give hope to millions of Americans and inspire other space agencies to do likewise.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

African Americans and Space

Why should African Americans, let alone other Americans, worry about Obama's space program initiatives when they face serious unemployment problems on earth?

Simple, because space spending creates new knowledge that has benefitted everyone on earth. Examples: Chips were developed for small onboard computers for the Apollo Project, which stimulated Silicon Valley's chip and PC industries. NASA and other space agencies have developed thousands of technologies that have found their way into everyday life.

European Space Agency technology brokers estimate a 20x return for every Euro spent in space. If done properly, NASA's annual $19 billion would generate $380 billion in economic growth a year, or 3.8 million jobs annually, which would help get America back on its feet economically and employ lots of people, including African Americans.

Worldwide, space agencies spend $45 billion annually, which would generate $900 billion in growth, or 9 million new, exciting jobs a year. Not a bad return on investment. Now, will politicians wake up to the possibilities? Let hope so or we'll miss the opportunity to inspire and employ our burgeoning "Lost Generation" of unemployed college graduates who are giving up hope of pursuing wonderful careers.

Kennedy sent us on a mission to the moon. Obama and other world leaders can inspire and create jobs for this generation.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Swedish Down-to-Earth Project

”Commercializing Space Technologies for a Sustainable Earth

Down to Earth is a Swedish ten-year initiative that targets current and
global challenges regarding energy, health care, transportation, water,
climate change and mega cities. The interdisciplinary project involves
solutions inspired by space technologies. The goal is industrial renewal,
job creation and sustainable growth, which requires new thinking and
methods. The space sector is an untapped source of know-how with
a great potential for technology transfer to Earth bound businesses.

The Down to Earth project started 2009 as a strategic partnership
between Jönköping International Business School and Umbilical
Design AB, to enhance this process by merging the power of space
innovation with strategies for sustainable development. Umbilical
Design is working with space technology transfer and outer space
design, and has project references with NASA, European Space Agency
and many sectors over the last ten years. JIBS works in partnership
with more than 200 universities all around the world and is one of
the world leading when it comes to research in entrepreneurship and
business renewal.

Ebba Kierkegaard