Saturday, July 20, 2013

Preparing for the 2013 Newspace Business Plan Competition

Tom Olson at the 9th Annual Expanding Canada's Frontiers Symposium in Toronto in January 2012.

According to Thomas Olson, the emerging newspace industry is both "multidisciplinary" and "cross-contextual."
That's why those vying for the $135,000 USD in total prize money provided by the NASA/Ames Emerging Space Office (ESO) and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) for the upcoming 2013 NewSpace Business Plan Competition include such a wide range of diverse ideas and concepts.

But more are needed. During a phone interview on Friday, Olson reminded potential applicants who may still be sitting on the fence to register online before the August 22nd, 2013 deadline passes. Olson, one of the founding partners of the Exodus Consulting Group, is currently working under contract to the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) to organize the event.

The competition, originally expected to be held as part of the annual NewSpace 2013 Conference in Silicon Valley, California from July 25th - 27th, will now be held in Silicon Valley in October 2013, as a stand alone event. 
2011 NewSpace Business Plan competition winner Jon Goff poses with his 1st place check. This year's winner will take home $100,000 dollars. Photo c/o Altius Space Machines.

Of course, previous competitions have also championed a wide range of ideas, inventions and concepts which have included: 
  • "Electrically-throttled propellants" built from a new type of "smart energetic materials" able to act as igniters and thrusters for rocket motor and squib applications (Digital Solid State Propulsion LLP).
  • A new type of high bandwidth, low weight, inflatable reflectors, booms and solar array components which were pitched as being suitable for a variety of telecom applications (Space Ground Amalgam, the 2012 competition winner).
  • Therapeutics which used RLIP76 proteins to create medical countermeasures against radiation exposure and chemical threats (Terapio Corporation).
  • Rendezvous and docking solutions for connecting metal, plastics, glass and even asteroids which utilized a "resettable adhesive gripper" mechanism to capture objects which lack "pre-installed" docking targets (Altius Space Machines, the 2011 competition winner).
Peter K. Homer, representing Flagsuit LLC being presented with the NewSpace 2009 Business Plan Competition 1st prize. Flagsuit LLC was founded in 2007 to commercialize technology developed through the 2007 NASA Astronaut Space Suit Glove Competition. Photo c/o Sam Coniglio

The competition is focused on "new, independent ventures in the seed, start-up, or early growth stages" which will "advance the NewSpace movement" as outlined on the NewSpace 2013 Business Plan Competition website. Examples listed include:
  • Entrepreneurial space firms directly involved in launch systems hardware technology and supporting infrastructure such as data acquisition, communications, exotic fuels, space suits, flight safety and other areas.
  • Space related process engineering power systems, bioregenerative systems, tourism, media, software, and other supportive solutions.
  • Space-scalable technologies primarily developed to solve problems on Earth for commercial benefit and profit, but also scalable to solve key long range space problems in areas like biotechnology, nanotechnology, medicine, radiation mitigation, smart materials, alternative energy and next-gen IT hardware.
The competition also favors start-ups and small firms by generally excluding buy-outs, expansions of well-established companies, real estate syndicates, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area. However, licensing technologies from universities or research labs are encouraged, assuming they have not been commercialized previously. 

According to Olson, the intent is to "reach out to start-ups and universities to promote entrepreneurship." However, regardless of niche, applicants must be able to explain why their product or service helps with the economic development of space.

A maximum of ten teams will be chosen from the registrants and invited to compete and network with space industry executives, investors, and successful entrepreneurs who will be in attendance as both guests and judges at the October event. Unfortunately for Canadians, entries must have at least 50% US-citizen ownership to qualify for any prizes offered through US Government agency grants.

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