Category Archives: LAUNCH

LAUNCH: Practice of Knowledge-Creation

Tangled fibers represent threads of future knowledge.

Tangled fibers represent threads of new knowledge-in-the-making.

I’ve been digging into a practice-based approach for my research on how innovation (new knowledge-creation) emerges from collaboration. I’m defining practice as collective action, transaction, and interaction.  From this viewpoint, knowledge is created in the context of interactive participation – the practice of activity. I’ll call it: “Social Ecology of Knowing through Collaborative Innovation Practices,” at least for now.

From a scholarly perspective, a practice-based approach offers a new epistemology where the “world appears to be relationally constituted, as a seamless web of heterogeneous elements kept together and perpetuated by active processes of ordering and sense making” (Nicolini, Gheranrdi, Yanow 2003: 27).

In other words, the practice of collaboration represents infinite opportunities to innovate our thinking. Interactive collaborative processes create new outcomes, new practices, new relationships, as well as new ways to approach the relationships, practices, and outcomes  – as we’ve experienced with LAUNCH.  Though, not all collaborative undertakings have positive outcomes. New knowledge creation isn’t necessarily pretty. The practice of strategy renewal and technological innovation is most often in response to uncertainty, stagnation, tension, disruption, conflict. Let’s face it. We get creative when we can’t get where we want to go. If someone or something stands in the way, we get busy figuring a way around, under, over, or through our barrier. Collectively, we have so many more options available than we do alone, as we’ve learned through the LAUNCH experience.

LAUNCH has become an innovative knowledge-creation community of practice – the Collective Genius for a Better World.

Our LAUNCH team came together to collaboratively search for game-changing sustainability solutions for life on and off our planet. What we discovered along the way was that the innovations weren’t the only outcome. The collective genius of the folks we brought together to solve these problems – the LAUNCH team, LAUNCH council, and LAUNCH innovators – was an innovation itself, along with the LAUNCH processes we created to search and select the LAUNCH innovators.

We discovered, in the “practice” of LAUNCH, that the world of innovation is always in the making.

Innovation emerges from the broken pieces of what was once status quo. At the impasse, we devise new ways forward. The key: allow ourselves to embrace the brokenness, approach it with fresh eyes and unexpected voices, and engage in bricolage – the making do with available material, mental, social, and cultural resources.

In the confusion, new clarity is born.

In Broken Images

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting in his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Robert Graves

Reference:

Davide Nicolini, Silvia Gheranrdi, Dvora Yanow. Knowing in Organizations: A Practice-Based Approach.  Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2003.

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LAUNCH Goes International: Nordic Innovation Challenge

Five years and five innovation challenges into our LAUNCH innovation experiment, and we’ve finally gone international. The LAUNCH Nordic innovation cycle kicked off February 2014 in Copenhagen with a Big Think, followed by a Summit this month.

LAUNCH Nordic Big Think

LAUNCH Nordic Big Think

We’ve been working on a LAUNCH Affiliate concept for the last two years. The Nike LAUNCH team led the effort to move this concept forward in the international context. Awesome!

Nike LAUNCH team at LAUNCH Nordic

US LAUNCH team at LAUNCH Nordic

LAUNCH Nordic: NASA's Diane Powell second from left

LAUNCH Nordic: NASA’s Diane Powell second from left

LAUNCH Nordic seeks to unite Nordic  industry leaders and regional innovators to identify and scale sustainable innovations in materials. We’re SO thrilled to see the LAUNCH model applied to other regions around the world. The Nordic region is only the first. We hope to see other cities, countries, and/or regions to step forward to apply this model.

LAUNCH Nordic Challenge

The Nordic Challenge is now open through June 1, 2014. The challenge is focusing on innovations within the following areas:

  1. Closed Loop Solutions and Design for Disassembly,
  2. Cleaner Manufacturing and Green Chemistry,
  3. Sustainability Investments and Procurement, and
  4. End-user Engagement.

You can apply for the challenge here.

This is our first time to have two challenges open in a concurrent process. Right now, the US LAUNCH team is in the process of moving forward the Green Chemistry Challenge. We held the Green Challenge Big Think in DC during the same week of the LAUNCH Nordic Summit.

LAUNCH Green Chemistry Big Think

LAUNCH Green Chemistry Big Think

As we move forward, I see a future where we have multiple LAUNCH Affiliate cycles around the world at the same time. Imagine what a difference we can make? You can apply to organize your own LAUNCH, or offer your time and talents to the LAUNCH Collective Genius to support the innovators selected through LAUNCH. Join us!

LAUNCH: Get involved!

LAUNCH: Get involved!

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Hope of Public Good…Beyond Furlough

Furlough: noun  • leave of absence granted to a member of the armed services or civil servant  • a temporary release of a convict from prison • a layoff, esp. a temporary one, from a place of employment.

Public Good: noun   • a commodity or service that is provided without profit to all members of a society, either by the government or a private individual or organization.

As a civil servant on directed furlough while Congress deliberates on our agency budgets and the debt limit, I find the conversation around the worthiness of federal employees quite disconcerting. I’ve spent most my career as a civil servant in the federal government. I firmly believe my job is to serve the public and bring about the public good by being available and accessible, creating processes and products that allow engagement, participation, and inclusion; and leveraging the scarce tax dollars as creatively and efficiently as possible.

Do I see waste in the government? Absolutely. Do I see opportunities and possibilities for innovative practices in the government? You bet. That’s why I’m still wearing my NASA badge.  [Ok, it's hanging by the door at this moment, but you know what I mean....]

As part of my PhD research, I ran across an article about inclusive public management and the promotion of democratic engagement. The authors distinguish between participatory and inclusive practices by government officials. Participatory programs enable individuals to engage in a discussion or activity, where inclusive practices allow participants to help define problems, deliberate on issues, and develop outcomes (Feldman, Khademian, Quick 2009). As a political scientist, I believe our government exists for the “people.” As  guardians of the public good, we best serve by opening up our decision-making processes (inclusively) to develop solutions collaboratively with creative thinkers, both inside and outside the government. Think: LAUNCH.org.

LAUNCH Impact Study

LAUNCH Impact Study

The article also introduces the concept of hope as a  means of collaboration and problem-solving within the public sector. As a public servant, I see this as my job — offering hope for a better tomorrow. It’s my passion language, actually.

Government Goddess ScepterIn my imagination, my super power might be…ta da…Government Goddess. [Much better than Government Girl, don't you think?] Cool if my tool belt armed me with a  Scepter of Inspiration to anoint humanity with hope and vision and strength of character to make tough [and often unpopular] decisions AND the desire to help those who can’t help themselves.

Tall order, I know. Sadly, I don’t own a cape or scepter, but we have amazing opportunities at NASA to make choices each day to serve the public while allowing external folks to create the public good with us — in whatever form it may take.

So, let’s get on with the business of offering hope through innovative government programs. I’m ready. I’ll start…the day after our mandated furlough ends. Deal? ;)

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson

Source: Feldman, Martha S., Anne M. Khademian, Kathryn S. Quick. “Ways of Knowing, Inclusive Management, and Promoting Democratic Engagement: Introduction to the Special Issue.” International Public Management Journal 12, no. 2 (2009): 123-36.

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LAUNCHing Materials System Innovators from JPL

Congrats Top 10 Innovators

This week, the LAUNCH team convenes in Pasadena to celebrate ten LAUNCH 2o13 Systems innovators. The LAUNCH forum will be held Friday and Saturday at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You’ll be able to watch the presentation via Ustream and participate in the conversation via MindMapr. Details will be on the LAUNCH website.

In 2013, the LAUNCH team adopted a long-term focus, called LAUNCH 2020, to seek and support innovations that positively influence the materials system. Innovations can take the form of early-stage technologies and prototypes; manufacturing processes; waste production methods; data, decision-support tools, and open technology platforms; business models; financial tools; and programs that accelerate research, education, and capacity building. This year’s challenge is the first step toward transforming the materials system, with a focus on fabrics.

The final ten innovators have the potential to shape the future of sustainable materials and low-impact making. Each demonstrated an understanding and commitment to positive social and environmental impact; and, together, represent a range of solutions that seek to revolutionize the treatment and production of fabrics and textiles on a large scale while reducing negative environmental impacts on Earth. Some of the innovators offer sustainable business models that benefit low-income communities, as well as education campaigns to create awareness and change behavior patterns to reduce harmful consumption of planetary resources.

Mark Browne: Benign By Design

Benign By Design’s unique data-driven process propels the textile industry toward cost effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers.  “Our program will lead to cost-effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers via novel research on how fabrics compare throughout their life cycle.” – Dr. Mark Anthony Browne, National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara

Rana Gupta: Geckskin

Geckskin is a device that can attach and release effortlessly, repeatedly and quietly without affecting either surface. “Our innovation is a new approach to attach and release. Geckskin uses neither classic pressure sensitive adhesive (scotch tape) forces, nor the mechanical properties of a zipper or nail. Geckskin will create new industries of products that we have not envisioned because we have been stuck in a singular-use attach paradigm for decades.” – Rana Gupta, CEO of Felsuma LLC

Sam Harrington: Mushroom Materials

Ecovative works with nature to replace plastics, foams, and other harmful materials with a new high performance, mycelium-based biomaterial platform technology. “These 3-D Myco Fabrics can be composted at the end of their useful life. Unlike many biopolymers such as PLA, these biomaterials can be composted in low temperature home compost piles, and they will break down naturally. Rather than becoming a burden on communities at the end of their useful life, Ecovative’s Mushroom Materials add nutrients to the soil.” – Sam Harrington, Ecovative

Oliver Heintz: Barktex Bark Cloth

BARKTEX® is a contemporary take on traditional bark cloth, which is produced in a sustainable way from the Ugandan Ficus tree. “Bark Cloth is an agroforest-based tree bark fleece from Uganda and said to be the most ancient textile of mankind… Designers value its expressive character, unique texture, inimitable structure and sensual tactility.” – Mary Barongo-Heintz, Co-founder of Barktex

Suzanne Lee: Biocouture

Biocouture is building an open source ‘bioneer’ community of material innovators to catalyze an explosion of product development in this area. There is increasing demand for compostable materials that can be produced with minimal raw materials and toxins. “Microbial cellulose is a fascinating material. From one hugely efficient, single production method, at least three direct products can be obtained: a health drink, a foodstuff and potentially a ‘vegetable’ material. In a process that takes about ten days, the material can be harvested by simply lifting it off the liquid.” – Suzanne Lee, Founder of Biocouture

Jay Nalbach: CRAiLAR

CRAiLAR’s processing technology efficiently creates a high quality natural flax fiber which is nearly indistinguishable from cotton. “CRAiLAR efficiently creates a high-quality natural fiber from flax with its proprietary processing technology. The resulting fiber, CRAiLAR Flax Fiber, is the functional equivalent of cotton in cotton-CRAiLAR blends. The results are clear: compared to cotton, CRAiLAR Flax Fiber is superior in all impact categories considered.” – Jay Nalbach, CMO of CRAiLAR

Felix Puller: Qmilk

Qmilk uses surplus milk unfit for human consumption to produce a new casein-based fiber as a bio-textile replacement for cotton. “Qmilk takes a highly innovative approach to repurposing a waste stream that is seen in every country in the world.” – Anke Domaske, Founder and CEO of Qmilk

Candice Reffe: Blue Flower Initiative

The Eileen Fisher Blue Flower Initiative (BFI) reframes the existing textile values chain as a sustainable eco-industrial co-operative with a paradigm shift from competition to collaboration. “We seek to take our bold experiment to scale. To make an impact that invokes and insures the wellbeing of our great, great grandchildren and our blue flowering planet. For this we need you to LAUNCH us with your expertise and access to resources and collaborators who can not only make the Blue Flower Initiative bloom, but also accelerate the adoption of this unprecedented model so that it will truly transform the planet.”– Eileen Fisher, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Eileen Fisher

Atshay Sethi: Ambercycle Recycling

Ambercycle’s novel process lowers the cost of recycling plastics and provides waste-generators and producers a sustainable and economically sensible choice for the disposal and synthesis of plastics. “With our new approach, we intend to revolutionize the concept of recycling to include environmentally friendly and sustainable elements to already existing infrastructure.” – Akshay Sethi, Co-founder of Ambercycle

Tara Sutherland: Artificial Honey Bee Silks

Bio-synthetic silk is produced through a process that allows industrial volume silk production at room temperature without negative environmental effects. “Proteins are under-represented in materials science mainly because, until now, the lack of structural protein templates that can be engineered and generated in sufficient amounts has limited exploration in this area.” – Tara Sutherland, Principle Research Scientist for CSIRO Division of Ecosystem Sciences

For the past few weeks, the ten innovators and their team members have been immersed in the LAUNCH program, beginning with counseling and mentorship in preparation for this week’s LAUNCH Forum. The LAUNCH Forum will feature innovator presentations and facilitated conversations with the LAUNCH Council, which consists of global thought leaders from multi-disciplined organizations in the public and private sector. The LAUNCH Council recommendations, collected during the two-day Forum, will inform individually-designed innovator Accelerator plans – which serve as the rocket fuel to propel each innovation toward Destination Success. The LAUNCH team guides, supports, and evaluate progress throughout the Accelerator process, which typically lasts between four-six months depending on the maturity of each innovation.

If you want to help these innovators reach success, contact the LAUNCH team.

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Vote for LAUNCH Innovators!

We’re excited about the Top 20 finalists in our 2013 search for ten LAUNCH innovators. The materials challenge closed back in July. Now we’re in the middle of the selection process. For the first time, you can participate by casting your votes for your favorite innovations.

Vote for your favorite LAUNCH innovations

Vote for your favorite LAUNCH innovations

Based on the results from the public vote, the LAUNCH team will take the ten finalists with the highest vote counts and add points to their review scores.

Here’s how selection works:

  1. we bring in experts from the founding partner organizations (NASA, State Department, USAID and Nike), as well as external experts from other federal agencies and organizations, to review and rank all the applications  submitted by the challenge deadline;
  2. YOU weigh in on the top 20 (again, for the first time);
  3. our LAUNCH team conducts thorough interviews with each of the top 20 based on a standard set of questions, as well as specific questions generated during the review and ranking process;
  4. the team brings in experts for follow up interviews if we need a deeper dive; and
  5. the team collates the total scores of the review process (expert + public vote) along with the results of the innovator interviews, and conducts an in-depth assessment
  6. to arrive at consensus on the final ten who will be invited to present at the LAUNCH Forum.

The Top 20 finalists are highly curated by the end of the process, with the final ten rising to the top.

All of these finalists are amazing, and represent different system needs as reflected in the materials challenge. A few, though, really stand out to me. I’m SO jazzed about the possibilities. I wish I could highlight my favs…but I might influence your choices.

I’m curious which ones YOU pick as most promising.

Summaries of the Top 20

Algaeverde waste to fabrics
Algaeverde takes industrial, farm and municipal waste streams and converts them into Ethylene Glycol, the raw material used in the production of synthetic fabrics. This technology has multiple environmental benefits, beyond the redirection of toxic waste, such as bio-fuel as an output of the conversion application.
Algaeverde is still at prototype stage. They are looking for help taking their exciting innovation out of the lab and into the world.  STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Ambercycle plastic bottles to polyester
Ambercycle is a remarkable new technology that harnesses engineered enzymes to degrade plastic bottles, such as PET soda bottles, and transform them into PTA. PTA is the raw material in polyester, which is used in multiple products, from cars to clothing. Ambercycle is an innovation looking to become a business. They are at the stage of building a go-to-market team. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Artificial silk
This innovation, bio-synthetic silk, is produced by fermentation of honeybee cocoon silk within genetically engineered bacteria. The process allows industrial volumes of silk to be produced at room temperature without any negative environmental effects. The silk produced is highly flexible and suitable for knitting and weaving and can be formed into sponges and transparent films. Developed by researchers at Australia’s national science agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), this breakthrough technology has been published in peer-reviewed literature. They are now seeking to identify market opportunities. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

BARKTEX bark cloth
BARKTEX is a contemporary take on traditional bark cloth, which is produced in a sustainable way from the Ugandan Figus tree. Once the bark is stripped form the tree, new bark grows in its place – a truly sustainable product. BARKTEX can be treated with bright colors to create a unique material reminiscent of leather. The team is employing an innovative micro-enterprise model in Uganda that empowers women and provides food security for local farmers. They are looking to develop their business to reach new customers. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Growth and scale.

Benign by Design
Benign by Design helps individuals and organizations better evaluate the impact of materials they use. The team has developed data collection and analysis protocols to understand the impact of textiles through their entire lifecycle – potentially an invaluable resource for all product manufacturers. The Benign by Design team are looking to shape their solution into a marketable offer. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Concept.

Biocouture microbial fashion
Biocouture creates sustainable material from microbes and transforms it into beautiful haute couture. Their unique low-impact fermentation process creates a biodegradable material that can be used to create a wide variety of home-ware and fashion accessories. The Biocouture team have already received recognition for their innovation, including TED, and are now ready to take their concept to the next stage.
STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Blue Flower Initiative
The core purpose of the Blue Flower Initiative is to reframe the existing textile value chain as an eco-industrial co-operative, while supporting and empowering women at risk.The initiative – backed by Eileen Fisher, the American clothing designer and retailer –  is an innovative game changing business model. In addition, the initiative aims to identify new low-impact bio-fibers and manufacturing approaches. The Blue Flower Initiative are looking to prototype their ‘value chain of the future’ in the Bronx in New York and are looking for partners. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Concept.

CRAiLAR Flax Fibers
Flax is a natural fiber that has long shown promise as a base material for sustainable textiles. CRAiLAR has made advances in chemistry and manufacturing that now make flax competitive on cost and comfort with cotton. What’s more, flax can be grown with far less water and pesticides. CRAiLAR is a mature business that is looking to make the leap to compete with the cotton industry and accelerate adoption globally. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Commercial market/Deployment.

Eco-leather alternative
Eco-leather is a sustainable alternative to leather that avoids the large volumes of water and toxic chromium required to produce animal based leather. Unlike PVC (‘fake leather’), this breakthrough material, manufactured from plant oils and natural fibers, is breathable and friendly to the environment, as well as being waterproof and durable. The team behind Eco-leather have strong academic credentials and are looking to take their sustainable leather out of the lab and into the marketplace. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Ecovative Mushroom Materials
Ecovative is a completely biodegradable replacement for polystyrene, packing material or insulation. Remarkably, it can withstand heat, stress and exposure to water, yet be composted in your back garden. This is a fascinating biotechnology derived from mushrooms that can potentially replace numerous products that produce CO2. The team behind Ecovative are well on their way, but require access to private sector customers and help scaling their manufacturing process. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Commercial market/Deployment.

Fabdesigns spacesuit
Fabdesigns have developed breakthrough protective space-wear that provides radiation protection for astronauts with a high-degree of flexibility and additional fire-resistance. The dangerous levels of radiation that astronauts are exposed to beyond Earth orbit remains a significant health challenge for deeper exploration of the Solar System. Fabdesigns is looking for help to perfect their designs for use in space, as well as Earthly applications. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Concept.

Geckskin adhesives
Geckskin is a revolutionary take on adhesives, inspired by the footpads of the Gecko lizard.   Unlike glue-based adhesives, Geckskin creates dry and easily reversible adhesion without leaving any residue – while maintaining an impressive stickability. Geckskin can be used to mount a 42-inch Television on a wall without any loss in adhesion. Geckskin is a product of Felsuma LLC. The team are in start-up mode with a solid plan. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Hologenix Far-infrared
Hologenix is a unique functional fabric that has the ability to absorb and modify far-infrared light and change it into a form that can be more easily absorbed by human skin. Clinical evidence is beginning to show that far-infrared light has multiple heath benefits, such as improving blood flow – which can help accelerate healing. The team is looking to make this novel technology more widespread. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Growth and scale.

Materials Sustainability Index Online Sustainability Guide
The Materials Sustainability Index, originally developed by Nike, enables manufacturers to make better choices when designing products. This innovation, developed independently from Nike, builds on the data and capabilities of the MSI by creating a web portal designed to help shoppers meet their personal goals for sustainably manufactured apparel. Though this innovation is currently in the pilot stage, the web portal creative team is looking for partners to mature this capability. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Pilot.

QMilk milk fiber
QMilk takes surplus milk that is unfit for human consumption and produces a bio-textile replacement for cotton. The product is non-allergenic with potential applications in healthcare. QMilk takes a highly innovative approach to repurposing a waste stream that is seen in every country in the world. The QMilk team is now looking to find partners to help take their innovation to the next stage. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

REvolve: new textiles from old
REvolve tackles the growing problem of textile waste and proposes a way of collecting, sorting, and reprocessing it into new textile materials. The REvolve team is an ambitious start-up looking to pilot their ideas and create a truly ‘closed-loop’ system for the textile industry. This vision will require innovations and partnerships all along the supply-chain. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Pilot.

SLIPS stain resistant fabric
SLIPS is a breakthrough coating technology which makes natural fabrics stain resistant. It works by infusing a fluorinated oil lubricant into the structure of the fabric to make it water and oil repellant, or ‘omniphobic’. The resulting textiles that are more wear resistant, demonstrate better pressure performance and highly resilient to dirt. This technology has been scientifically validated and has won an R&D award. The team is now looking to commercialize their technology. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Commercial market/Deployment.

Solar Fiber
Solar Fiber is a functional fabric technology that weaves photovoltaic yarn into products that can generate their own power from sunlight. This innovative technology has many potential uses from outdoor equipment on Earth and in space, all the way to fashion and furnishings.The Solar Fibre team is looking for partners to help them scale their technology to industrial volumes. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

The Great Recovery
The Great Recovery is a manifesto for ‘closed-loop’ design. In other words, products that have negligible impact on the environment or are even beneficial. The Great Recovery team has developed a comprehensive re-thinking of every stage of the product development cycle: initial design, recovery, disassembly, recyclability and re-use. The goal of the Great Recovery is to pilot hands-on education to take these innovative approaches mainstream. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Waterbourne solvent free leather
Waterbourne is an artificial leather that is almost impossible to distinguish from real leather and is manufactured in a way that doesn’t require toxic solvents. Prior to the Waterbourne process, artificial leathers required foul smelling dimethylformamide (DMF) which is both energy intensive and highly polluting. Moreover residual amounts of solvent often remain on the material. Waterbourne has been developed by Bayer Material Sciences and is currently moving into pilot stage. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Pilot.

NOTE: Some of you may wonder what most of these innovations have to do with NASA. Any collaborative venture, if successful, will reflect the interests of all the participants.  Our NASA reviewers were thrilled with some of the unexpected and unconventional solutions that bubbled up with the challenge. Know that we have a longer term vision for success than our partners. Going to scale for NASA, means that we can improve the lives of six Earthings living onboard the International Space Station…or future human crews traveling to Mars. For USAID, scale means improvement for millions of lives in developing countries. The key to collaboration is finding the common passion that we can rally around — such as game changing sustainability solutions, in the case of LAUNCH: Collective Genius for a Better World.

Take a look at the Top 20 innovations, and cast your vote for your favorites.

Deadline: August 20th.

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Calling All Innovators: LAUNCH Seeking NextGen Kevlar

The early-bird submission deadline for the 2013 LAUNCH System Challenge is tomorrow, June 15. Ten early-bird applicants will receive advice and counsel on  how to improve their submissions for the final July 15th deadline.

All you innovators, get busy!

You can find the details about the challenge at the LAUNCH.org website. Though this is a fabric challenge, fibers can be made of data, technical strands, or bio-synthetic and/or self-healing material. Pretty spacey stuff!

LAUNCH Systems Challenge

LAUNCH Systems Challenge

Don’t let the word “fabric” stop you. Kevlar, a SuperMan fabric, is an invention by Stephanie Kwolek based on a chemical compound called poly-paraphenylene terephtalamide. Kevlar has amazing properties: lighter than nylon, stronger than steel, stiffer than fiberglass, more durable than leather, and doesn’t melt like polyester.

NASA Tethered Satellite Mission

Tethered Satellite Mission

Stephanie discovered Kevlar while “playing” with polymer chains. The substance was a liquid crystalline solution with cohesive, glue-like properties — partially solid, partially liquid. She had to convince her fellow technicians to spin it as fiber, because they feared the gluey mixture would clog their machines. These fibers, which were game-changing in 1965, are regularly used for bullet-resistant vests and firefighter boots. Stephanie most likely never dreamed her discovery might be used in space. In 1992, NASA deployed a 12-mile pencil-thin Kevlar cable to secure a 1,200 pound satellite during STS-75, the U.S./Italian Tethered Satellite System (TSS-1R) mission.

Perhaps you’ve invented the nextgen Kevlar. Perhaps your technical fabric solutions can be the outer shell of a long-duration space ship. We have so many challenges living on and off the planet. Help us find new solutions to age-old problems.

We need you. Submit your innovations today!!

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LAUNCH 2020 Summit: Genius

For the four LAUNCH founding partners, NASA, Nike, USAID, and State Department, LAUNCH is the Collective Genius for a Better World. Nike’s LAUNCH 2020 Summit is sheer genius!

“Our society has reached a point where its progress and event its survival depend on our ability to organize the complex and to do the unusual.” James Webb, former NASA Administrator

Last week, Nike hosted the LAUNCH 2020 Summit in “sunny” Portland  – and sunny it was, both in weather and collaborative engagement. The purpose for the Summit was two-fold: 1) introduce the new seven-year systems focus on materials, makers, and access; and 2) debut the LAUNCH 2013 Systems Challenge. Our last four challenges featured water, health, energy, and waste solutions. This year’s challenge is focused on materials – which are crucial for supporting life outside the protection Earth’s atmosphere – as well as for gravity-bound Earthlings.

LAUNCH partner Alan Hurd of State Department announces the 2013 Challenge

LAUNCH partner Alan Hurd of State Department announces the 2013 Challenge

One of the Summit’s highlights: Hannah Jones, Nike’s VP for Sustainable Business and Innovation, led a discussion about how creative humans can rise above the limits with certified limit-busters, Astronaut Ron Garan and Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Ron Garan + Joan Benoit Samuelson + Hannah Jones discussing triumph over limits.

Ron Garan + Joan Benoit Samuelson + Nike’s Hannah Jones discussing triumph over limits.

LAUNCH 2020 Summit video screen for Astronaut Ron Garan

LAUNCH 2020 Summit video screen for Astronaut Ron Garan

LAUNCH 2020 Summit video screen for Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson

LAUNCH 2020 Summit video screen for Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson

Nike also featured an innovation showcase that included past LAUNCH innovations, Gram Power, Bioneedle, DTI-r, and “Born at LAUNCH” Carbon for Water  – among other innovations such as NASA’s Solar Sail and the Nike Flyknit.

Former LAUNCH Innovation: GramPower

Former LAUNCH Innovation: GramPower

Former LAUNCH Innovation: Bioneedle

Former LAUNCH Innovation: Bioneedle

"Born at LAUNCH" Innovation: Carbon for Water

“Born at LAUNCH” Innovation: Carbon for Water

The AWESOME-sauce Nike team created an immersive process called the Systems Innovation Experiment (SIX) to engage our Summit participants in a decision-making atmosphere that reflects fictional, yet realistic system choices. Team investment decisions were ranked in relation to profit, environmental impact, and social capital – with collaboration as the key to system change. The moral to the story: investments we make today greatly impact our future tomorrows.

Nike's Dave Cobban takes the stage to discuss process.

Nike’s Dave Cobban takes the stage to discuss process.

I was given the opportunity to share the “Why NASA” story on stage during the first day of the Summit. I was “set free” from a scripted speech (due to a glitch in the teleprompter), so I have no idea what I actually said.  But, here are the notes of what I planned to say. Hopefully, I hit some of these points from stage….

For NASA, we look at LAUNCH as a Collaborative Innovation Incubator. In addition to serving as an alternate means to uncover early stage technologies, LAUNCH has become a testbed for new and unexpected ways of doing business in the government. We’re incubating new methods and processes to:

  1. collaborate and partner with new communities outside our normal orbit of influence,
  2. innovate new solutions to a more sustainable existence off-planet, and
  3. broker ideas across diverse innovation clusters of creative thinkers.

Our mission is to enable off-planet citizens to live and work in the extremely hostile environment of space. Materials are key.

Think about it:  We take the materials for human existence with us when we leave our home planet for destinations beyond Earth – whether for orbiting outposts, planetary bodies, or asteroids. These materials must be reused, recycled, and recreated into anything and everything we need to fuel a self-sustaining biosphere – which could be a spacesuit, spacecraft or space colony. As you can imagine, resupply becomes less of an option the farther we travel away from home.

In essence: we need a fully sustainable, closed-loop system to support humans (on and OFF the planet).

At NASA, our issues mirror the struggles facing earthlings – scarce, dwindling, constrained natural resources – but our problem is magnified. We have no natural resources for our journey – except what we harvest along the way.

We’ve learned [during our occupation of Earth] that our ability to thrive as humans shouldn’t harm the planet that hosts us. Sadly, we have a parasitic relationship with Earth. What we want is a symbiotic partnership where Earth thrives because we live here!

 We see LAUNCH as the rocket fuel to reach this new reality.

Process talk: Nike's Santiago Gowland + NASA's Diane Powell + USAID's Will Schmitt + Nike's Hannah

Process: Nike’s Santiago Gowland + NASA’s Diane Powell + USAID’s Will Schmitt + Hannah Jones

With our LAUNCH 2013 Systems Challenge, I’m most excited about our potential to discover cool, futuristic multi-purpose synthetic or bio-synthetic, smart and/or self-healing materials, and technical fabrics with novel attributes that will enable makers (humans) to have access to the materials and data needed to make better choices for better lives.

Highest praise to Nike’s Santiago Gowland and his team for providing leadership for our LAUNCH shift toward systems thinking. Nike provided systems experience and research as the foundation for our new approach. The map below is just one glimpse of the work they’ve been doing with MIT to create a better understanding of the materials value chain.

LAUNCH 2020 Systems Map

LAUNCH 2020 Systems Map

As for the LAUNCH 2020 Summit, I have one word: WOW! The Nike team envisioned, produced, and magnificently hosted a gathering of system thought leaders to engage in the materials system, share expertise, and collaborate to bring about inspired solutions to intractable problems. I’m absolutely awed by Nike’s storytelling genius and professional muscle – crucial ingredients for the Summit’s success. They’re quite brilliant at leveraging the power of spoken word and compelling visuals. They created fabulous assets the LAUNCH team can use to help tell our story going forward, and inspired us to keep pushing through the pain – collaboration is quite messy, but WELL worth it! I’m honored to be part of the LAUNCH team and have the opportunity to take part in this process.

Nike "Word Power" Tower!

Nike “Word Power” Tower!

Nike, you guys ROCKet!! You’ve propelled us from a high school-level sports team to Olympic contenders – EXTREME performers of the magnificent kind!

Planetary CALL to ACTION: Earthlings, we need YOUR help. One of you has a mind-blowing solution to this challenge – one that we could never have imagined without you.  Please apply! If, by chance, you’re not the one, but you know who is, please share the LAUNCH Systems Challenge with your innovation networks. We can’t succeed without you.

"There must be a way to make the things we want, a way that doesn't spoil the sky or the rain or the land.

Sir Paul McCartney

Remember, we’re in this journey together. Help us create a planet-friendly future.

LAUNCH: Collective Genius for a Better World

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