At a Glance
- The 8th annual ISS R&D Conference included keynote speakers NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, investment-related events, and workshops in tissue engineering, materials science, and sustainability.
- Three Destination Station events in collaboration with NASA provided an opportunity for in-depth brainstorming sessions with academic and commercial entities interested in space-based R&D.
- New organization-specific “pitch events” were piloted as an alternative to traditional research solicitations, promoting crowd-sourcing of innovative ideas for ISS National Lab R&D.
- These in-person touchpoints were augmented by growing digital engagement, with social media engagements and blog user sessions more than doubling in FY19.
- Owned and earned media reach was improved by partnerships with Scientific American, Seeker, and TIME.
Alongside the coast-to-coast reach of the ISS National Lab network of partners and investigators (showcased in the map on pages 22–23), ISS National Lab activities sought to expand U.S. engagement using both in-person touchpoints and digital strategies.
The 2019 ISS Research & Development Conference
The 8th annual ISS Research & Development Conference (ISSRDC), held in Atlanta, GA July 29–August 1, 2019, included dynamic keynote speakers, plenary presentations, technical sessions, workshops, and other activities. Speakers drew attention to projects and programmatic efforts that not only strive to maximize utilization of the ISS National Lab but also reflect our organization’s dedication to the development of meaningful focus areas (Industrialized Biomedicine and Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, covered in detail in Section V).
Post-conference analysis of this year’s ISSRDC demonstrated overall success in attracting new potential ISS users. Approximately 850 people attended this year’s ISSRDC, and 52% of conference survey respondents had not attended ISSRDC in the past, 38% identified their role as researcher, and 92% are considering using the ISS now or in the future. The highest-rated sessions included notable keynote speakers such as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well as an education-themed session titled “From Skylab to the ISS.” The first high school students to do experiments in space worked with NASA and the Skylab space station in 1973. The ISS National Lab tracked down those students, who are now in their sixties, and invited them to share their experiences and the long-term impact on their lives and professional careers, felt even now, 46 years later. The ISSRDC panel consisted of former Skylab high school students as well as students who have more recently conducted experiments on the ISS National Lab, each reflecting on the power of the experience and real or anticipated impact on their lives.
The ISS National Lab also held its annual space-focused startup and investor networking event, Space Investment 2019, at ISSRDC. The session included innovative startup presentations showcasing tangible terrestrial revenue opportunities across the life sciences, medical technology, advanced materials, Earth observation, data analytics, and semiconductor sectors, driving follow-up investor interest in the presenting companies. The event also delivered investor insight on various criteria to access capital from the venture capital community. In addition to the Space Investment event and one-on-one meeting opportunities, ISS National Lab investor activities at 2019 ISSRDC included keynote panel discussions from leading capital market participants from across the funding and investing spectrum, delivering valuable insights on what is driving space investment and highlighting potential areas of opportunity and risk. The 2019 ISSRDC investor events highlighted ISS National Lab’s cross-functional capabilities to communicate with and connect financial market participants with relevant innovation and investment opportunities on the ISS.
Additional outreach designed to inform and educate also took place throughout FY19. The ISS National Lab orchestrated or collaborated with other entities on various workshops and events.
- A subject matter expert workshop held with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) at the Brooklyn Historical Society provided a venue for investors, businesses, researchers, and others to learn about ISS National Lab initiatives in plant science and agricultural biotechnology, toward the potential formation of a research alliance in those areas.
- The annual ISS National Lab Public Board Meeting provided an opportunity for stakeholders, media, and interested members of the space community to receive an overview of recent successes and future opportunities, illustrating the tangible progress made toward full utilization of the ISS.
- The ISS National Lab frequently teams up with NASA throughout the year to visit multiple U.S. cities as part of Destination Station, a free event through which the public engages with astronauts and scientists. These events provide attendees a detailed introduction to the unique R&D capabilities of the ISS National Lab. In FY19, Destination Station Events were held in Austin, TX; Cambridge, MA; and Pittsburgh, PA. ISS National Lab and NASA staff raised awareness of the ISS and increased our reach and involvement with companies such as Philips Research North America and IBM, and academic institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh.
- The annual BIO International Convention attracts leaders from around the world in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Since 2012, we have met with multiple researchers and companies at this event, resulting in partnerships such as an ISS National Lab project with 490 BioTech that is investigating potential cancer drugs.
- Regular and personal touchpoints with key groups such as the U.S. Congress, the National Space Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and others help us share our experience as it relates to policies or legislation being crafted that will affect the future of the LEO economy. The ISS National Lab is a major component of the LEO Commercialization effort, and not just in operationalizing commercial activity in space by flying private payloads to the ISS—but by facilitating various interactions and process optimizations in the development of a LEO marketplace. These meetings help showcase the value of the ISS National Lab as a thought leader in determining national policy directions in regard to LEO.
Additionally in FY19, the ISS National Lab piloted a new approach to recruiting interesting projects that leverage LEO for innovation to benefit Earth. While formal solicitations garner investigator attention and quality submissions, some organizations are working with us to develop more targeted “pitch events,” organization-specific challenges to find quality project ideas. Similar to a Request for Proposals, a hosting organization puts out notification of an upcoming challenge, and participants submit their concept papers. The concepts are reviewed for quality of science and operational feasibility and the down-selected concepts move toward a live pitch competition. Participants have an opportunity to get information from various sources before putting together their presentation and “pitch” their idea to a panel of judges that include ISS National Lab science reviewers. Winning ideas are selected to complete and submit a final proposal, which then enters the ISS National Lab final determination review process. In FY19, the Mayo Clinic and IBM (with MIT) hosted such competitions and identified a number of candidate projects that are currently finalizing their projects plans. Based on the success of these pilot events, we plan to leverage this event-style competition for larger challenges in FY20.
Digital & Media Engagement
Throughout FY19, the ISS National Lab continued to deepen its engagement through digital channels by showcasing ISS National Lab activities and the successes and milestones of our partners, users, and affiliates—most frequently through posts on our ISS360 blog (www.issnationallab.org/blog) and use of a variety of social media platforms. Both social media engagements (a measure of audience interactivity) and ISS360 user sessions more than doubled in FY19. In total, our social media reach increased by almost 30%, and half of new users to our website were generated based on organic search, demonstrating an increased optimization of search traffic to our content.
Additionally, digital media and partners are extending content viewership, thereby engaging new users, partners, and investors.
- A relationship with Scientific American was solidified in FY19 with a Scientific American article titled, “The International Space Station as a Teaching Tool,” in which two members of the ISS National Lab Board of Directors discuss the power of the ISS as a tool for engaging today’s youth in science. An additional online article by Christian Zur (Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Procurement and Space Industry Council), titled “The International Space Station Is More Valuable Than Many People Realize,” detailed the growth of commercial activities onboard the ISS, including the role of the ISS National Lab.
- The ISS National Lab has continued to develop its relationship with Seeker, the popular science content publisher—a collaboration initiated in FY18. The publisher is working with us to highlight research conducted on the ISS National Lab through its digital channel, Seeker Universe. Seeker also is featuring our content on their website, podcasts, and other channels to connect their subscribers with the excitement of ISS National Lab R&D.
- TIME, sponsored by the ISS National Lab and in collaboration with Felix & Paul Studios, released a virtual reality (VR) and video series called “The ISS Experience,” documenting what it is like to live in space, including the first-ever filming of a spacewalk in cinematic virtual VR. The product was highlighted at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (See time.com/issexperience for more information.)
Additional content authored by the ISS National Lab included the following.
- Upward, the official magazine of the ISS National Lab, released an issue showcasing regenerative medicine discoveries related to heart disease therapy, multisector innovations toward sustainable living, and startup-company advancements in Industrialized Biomedicine. (See issnationallab.org for more information.)
- A report titled “Exploring the Microbiome/Immunome and Disease on the International Space Station—Improving Human Health on Earth,” released in FY19, is an overview of the Workshop sessions conducted by the ISS National Lab in conjunction with the 32nd annual ASGSR meeting held in FY18.
- Two articles published in Apogeo Spatial, titled “A focus on remote sensing from the International Space Station” and “Lidar from space! Lidar remote sensing on the ISS” reached new audiences.