Technology and innovation have always been the backbone of our region. After all, we’ve launched the most sophisticated spacecraft from here and are home to some of the largest technology companies. But 21st century technology is different. It’s fast paced. It’s ever changing. It’s futuristic, yet attention to it is required in the here and now.
While we continue to focus on infrastructure, business friendly policies and overall business growth tools, we have shifted a greater emphasis into the innovation space through several initiatives.
A Roadshow for the Tech Set
In September, manufacturers and community stakeholders interested in the latest trends in technology advancement and new opportunities joined forces at the inaugural Technology Docking Roadshow.
While thoughts of a “roadshow” may conjure up images of eager consumers anxiously awaiting word from antique experts on whether they are sitting on the next multi-million dollar gem, this roadshow had a focus all its own.
As part of the EDC/NASA Technology docking program, the event featured interactive sessions designed to connect NASA resources, capabilities and expertise to solve private sector technology challenges. At the forefront of the event, nine companies were selected and paired with NASA subject matter experts to assist in solving a company defined technology challenge:
- Direct Beam Incorporated, Melbourne, FL – custom, high performance antenna solutions
- FreeWavz, Lakeland, FL – consumer/medical wearable technology
- GeNO, LLC, Cocoa, FL – design, development and commerciality of next-generation biopharmaceutical products
- Island Boats, LLC, Vero Beach, FL – developing a new category of boats for recreational use
- Matrix Composites, Inc, Rockledge, FL – advanced composites
- MultiGP, Palm Bay, FL – first-person viewing technology for the unmanned aerial vehicle industry
- New Solutions/Piezo Power Tech, Indialantic, FL – piezoelectric structures and other technologies
- OTF Design, LLC, Oak Hill, FL – underwater vision system
- Structural Composites, West Melbourne, FL – composite systems with new physical properties
The selected companies will continue to work with NASA appointed experts over the coming months as they make progress on existing challenges and realize solutions. Results will be monitored and guided by NASA’s regional economic development experts.
A Start-Up Group for Start-Ups
Helping to guide this major effort and provide implementation advisement is another technology focused group, the Economic Development Commission’s (EDC) Innovation Council, a team of local experts focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses find the support they need to innovate and grow right here. What does this really mean? Picture a think tank, with dozens of high-tech and entrepreneurial focused leaders connecting the dots through strategic community outreach and engagement.
In addition to the Technology Docking program, this year-old council has adopted several initiatives that are critical to impacting a cultural mindset change and stimulating deeper conversations about capturing innovation in the region’s most important industries.
The group is working to promote the resources within the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovative Design at Florida Institute of Technology, expanding innovation portal AccelerateBrevard.com, and promoting events and resources to tech focused companies and the innovation community.
One such event, the NASA/Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Innovation Expo, held in October at the KSC Visitors Complex, is an EDC Innovation Council supported event. Started five years ago, this event encourages collaboration and knowledge within KSC. It is structured to create a forum to encourage dialogue and raise awareness to regional industry of the challenges NASA faces that private sector could assist in solving.
Innovation Hot Buttons
With the prevalence and constant flow of today’s technology, communities must innovate now or get left behind. The Space Coast is already well ahead of the curve in terms of emerging technology and the supporting players that have put our community on the map. The addition of a dedicated group of leaders working to uncover opportunities for local innovators and the myriad of technology-focused events is timely and necessary.
We’ve always been known for one type of space on the Space Coast. Now, we’re well on our way to being recognized for our leadership in a different one – the innovation space.
About the Author
Lynda Weatherman is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.