19-22 September, 2023
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GEC 2023: The Challenges of Space

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The field of space exploration an innovation is dynamic and rapidly evolving. From tourism to robotics, AI to debris mitigation, what impact does the modern ‘race to space’ have regarding life on Earth – and beyond?

Space technology expands way beyond the stars. They’re vital to the everyday functioning of life on Earth.

The diverse applications, challenges, and potential of space technology for our planet are part of the program for GEC 2023, focusing on removing barriers so that innovators, locally, can have an impact, globally.

Space experts and panellists are seeking to address the challenges of space – and the ways we might take collaborative, collective action to address them.

Space innovation requires interconnected thinking

Innovating for space requires a unique mindset where sustainability, scarcity and resilience play a role, and ‘dual-use’ thinking can yield incredible results.

According to Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, co-founder and CEO at SpaceBase, space innovators need to think harder about how to design more sustainably.

“[Many] new players are looking at creating space ecosystems to solve their near-term challenges and problems. We focus on leveraging space technology for planet Earth. Climate change for example is one of those problems that we all have regardless of your country or space industry level of development. There is a lot of opportunity for countries to leverage space to solve the grand challenges they have today. But there is also dual use for terrestrial and space purposes,” she said.

Register now for #GEC2023 and learn from space sector experts:

Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, co-founder and CEO at SpaceBase

Dr Anilkumar Dave, space economy advisor and VC partner

Prof. Alan Duffy, pro vice-chancellor Flagship Initiatives, Swinburne University of Technology

Martin Duursma, partner, Main Sequence

Stephan Reckie, executive director, GEN Space          

Sara Sabry, astronaut, engineer, CEO & founder, Deep Space Initiative

All companies are space companies

The complexity and ubiquity of space-related technology is not widely understood. According to Paat-Dahlstrom, the true impact of space technology often goes unnoticed.

“From GPS to navigation to weather, these are technologies we are using we take for granted and think are not space-related. People think of the definition of space as rocket ships when 75% of the global space economy is downstream. The biggest part of the space industry flying under the radar,” she said.  

Designing for the environment of space with its limited resources often helps create solutions that address challenges on Earth.

For example, NASA Deep Space Food Challenge partners with the Canadian Space Agency to foster innovation for a closed-loop food system. This has the potential to work for those travelling to Mars, as well as those on Earth, to access higher nutrient foods they could grow themselves or be self-replenishing. 

In New Zealand, Neocrete aims to create carbon-negative cement. A significant polluter on Earth, cement will also feature heavily in up-and-coming lunar missions and economy in the form of landing pads on the moon and Mars.

Space innovation might be longer-term but often have Earth applications needed today, and thinking of companies in terms of ‘space’ and ‘non-space’ is limiting.

Join the conversation in the GEC2023 Space sessions:

Beyond the Kármán Line: The Role of Governments + Space Agencies in Startup Ecosystem Development
Getting to the Launch Pad: How to Build a Space Startup
ROI – Return On Orbital Investment: How to Approach Investing in Space Companies
Stars in their Eyes: Taking a Closer Look at Astronaut Health + Performance

Redefining the space industry

There’s a phenomenon called the Overview Effect, which is the perspective you get when seeing Earth from space. According to astronaut, entrepreneur and engineer Sara Sabry, it’s a neat way to explain the artificial boundaries we place on innovation.

“We always talk about space and Earth as two separate things. We never really say that one is part of the other. But looking at that window and seeing Earth and seeing darkness of space, I didn’t know that I would feel so connected to the universe,” Sabry said

This non-binary mindset needs to be applied to all elements of the space sector to ensure success, including funding approaches.

Innovators can unlock funding through multiple sources, and need to be aware of new sources opening up, according to Paat-Dahlstrom.

“Create opportunities through grants, investment, and as a customer to help the nascent industry that is creating this innovation. It is great that statistically there is more diversity in funding from VCs. Now there’s traditional funding sources like banks that are beginning to look into the industry. Originally this was too risky,” she said.

Gathering to transform your world

It’s a critical time for space and Earth innovation alike. According to Thomas Gooch, founder and CEO at Office of Planetary Observation, innovative space technology thrives when great research, leadership in ideas, and being bold come to the fore.

“Maturing the ecosystem to continue our leadership of the global market needs to be on the table for the right conversations to take place. GEC is the ultimate forum to do that with global thinkers and players physically in the same place, at the same time,” Gooch said.

Want to help shape the conversation in your sector? Register now, and transform your world.

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