eavesdropping in Houston

Overheard: Space experts discuss commercialization, innovation, and Houston's future

What's Houston's role in the modern era for aerospace? And how can the industry foster public-private collaboration? Experts weighed in at a recent event. Photo via NASA

The aerospace industry — much more than other sectors — is run by a mixture of civil, commercial, and military players. And each of these verticals operate very differently.

At a Houston Tech Rodeo event called "Lasso the Moon" put on by Space Force Association and TexSpace, aerospace experts representing various entities — from startups to big tech to education and military organizations — discussed the future of space innovation.

Missed the conversation? Here are five key moments from the event, which included several talks and a panel at The Ion on Monday, February 28.

 "In this age of rapid advancement, Houston has to take an active stance on supporting space innovation. Leaders must leverage all that this great city and our community have to offer, and we must align civil, commercial, and academic communities to work together to build an effective space innovation ecosystem."

— Mayor Sylvester Turner says at the event's welcome address. “Ever since Houston was the first said from the surface of the moon, Houston has been known as the Space City," he says.

“How is the tech industry going so fast in updating their technology, but the government is struggling? … The system is not designed to innovate.”

— United States Space Force Lt. Gen. Chance Saltzman says, addressing innovation in space and war operations. He adds, "The system is designed to just do continuous improvement on existing capability. When we talk about the need to shift or jump and revolutionize the technology we are using, there are a lot of things at play working against us."

“Houston is the global energy capital, human spaceflight capital of the world, and has the biggest medical center of the world. All of these sectors are heavily dependent on innovation and technology. And many of these technologies overlap. It’s time to switch to technology verticals.”

— David Alexander, professor in the department of physics and astronomy at Rice University, says in a call for industries in Houston to work together. "If you focus on the technologies, then collaboration happens."

"Houston intimately understands innovation. We come from a city of wildcatters."

— Sarah Duggleby, CEO and cofounder of Venus Aerospace, says in her talk about how she's growing her California-founded company in its new Houston headquarters. She added that Texas makes it "infinitely easier to do business."

"Innovation in our business usually equates to risk. Usually when we start to on a project, we like to use time-proven technologies. Creating onramps for technology and innovation has to be something that we plan."

— Sam Gunderson, lead of partnership development at NASA's Johnson Space Center, says adding: "The other thing that I think creates a challenge for innovation within industry that I think the government needs to improve on is that we often over-define our solution set when we try to (onboard new technology). Leaving room for innovation and for people to bring something in that doesn't solve the problem in the way we anticipated needs to be a part of the way we buy services."

"You're a private business — you're trying to grow, you're trying to scale, you need cash. The government has a lot of it. It's perfectly aligned – if you do it right." 

​— Enrique Oti, CTO at Second Front Systems, says on the process of getting grants and submitting RFPs within government agencies. "There are lots of way to do it, but the only way you can get there as a startup or small company is if you're blatantly asking for the money and information."

Trending News

Building Houston

 
 

BioBQ is working on technology to bring its lab-created, cell-cultured brisket to the market in 2023. Courtesy of BioBQ

Brisket, a barbecue staple in Texas, is as synonymous with the Lone Star State as the Alamo and oil wells. A Texas company recently recognized as the state’s most innovative startup wants to elevate this barbecue staple to a new high-tech level.

BioBQ is working on technology to bring its lab-created, cell-cultured brisket to the market in 2023. The Austin-based company made the Bloomberg news service’s new list of the 50 startups to watch in the U.S. — one startup for each state.

The co-founders of BioBQ are Austin native Katie Kam, a vegan with five college degrees (four from the University of Texas and one from Texas A&M University), and Janet Zoldan, a “hardcore carnivore” who’s a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. Kam is the CEO, and Zoldan is the chief science officer.

This kind of meat is genuine animal meat that’s produced by cultivating animal cells in a lab, according to the Good Food Institute.

“This production method eliminates the need to raise and farm animals for food. Cultivated meat is made of the same cell types arranged in the same or similar structure as animal tissues, thus replicating the sensory and nutritional profiles of conventional meat,” the institute says.

It turns that before becoming a vegan, Kam worked at the now-closed BB’s Smokehouse in Northwest Austin as a high school student. She’d chow down on sauce-slathered brisket and banana pudding during on-the-job breaks.

“But then over time, as I learned more about factory farming and could no longer make the distinction between my dogs and cats I loved and the animals that were on my plate, I decided to become vegan,” Kam writes on the BioBQ website.

Hearing about the 2013 rollout of the first cell-cultured hamburger set Kam off on her path toward starting BioBQ in 2018. Zoldan joined the startup as co-founder the following year.

Now, BioBQ aims to be the first company in the world to sell brisket and other barbecue meats, such as jerky, made from cultured cells rather than slaughtered animals.

According to BioBQ’s profile on the Crunchbase website, the startup relies on proprietary technology to efficiently produce meat products in weeks rather than the year or more it takes to raise and slaughter cattle. This process “allows control of meat content and taste, reduces environmental impacts of meat production, and takes BBQ to the next tasty, sustainable level consumers want,” the profile says.

In 2020, Texas Monthly writer Daniel Vaughn questioned BioBQ’s premise.

He wrote that “there is something about the idea of lab-grown brisket that keeps bothering me, and it has nothing to do with science fiction. If you could design any cut of beef from scratch, why choose one that’s so difficult to make delicious? Why not a whole steer’s worth of ribeyes?”

Kam offered a very entrepreneur-like response.

“I’m from Austin, and I know that brisket’s kind of a big deal here,” Kam told Vaughn. “It seemed like a great, challenging meat to demonstrate this technology working.”

Meanwhile, Zoldan came up with a more marketing-slanted reaction to Vaughn’s bewilderment.

“I don’t think cell-based meats will take over the market, but I think there’s a place for it on the market,” Zoldan she told Vaughn.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMapCultureMap.

Trending News