Live! Anderson & Ferrara Headline Rock Stars of Innovation Summit

3/26/13Follow @bvbigelow

Recession gripped the nation in early 2009, and many startups in San Diego were locked in a desperate struggle to survive. So Connect CEO Duane Roth inaugurated a showcase event for local startups that was initially billed as The La Jolla Research & Innovation Summit. Roth defied conventional wisdom, which was intimidated by the liquidity crisis, rallying local innovation leaders to bring out-of-town VCs to San Diego, and tapping renowned local scientists like J. Craig Venter and Larry Smarr to remind everyone there was still plenty of fuel in San Diego’s engine of innovation.

Since then, the economic picture in San Diego has improved, and Xconomy has joined forces with Connect to update the signature event, now known as the Rock Stars of Innovation Summit. The summit will be held April 12 at San Diego’s Hard Rock Hotel, to be preceded the previous night by a VC jam session and networking event.

3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson

The first keynoter to take the stage will be Chris Anderson, who resigned last summer as the longtime editor in chief of Wired magazine to devote his energies to an emerging industry as the  founder and CEO of 3D Robotics. The startup, which is based in the Bay Area, San Diego, and Tijuana, is straining to meet strong demand for its robotic aircraft, sensors, and technology. Enthusiasts just can’t seem to get enough DIY Drones—leading Anderson to famously compare the current market for “personal drones” to the early fervor for personal computers among members of Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club.

How strong is the demand? Market research by the Teal Group estimates that worldwide spending on unmanned aerial systems will hit $11.4 billion by 2022. In a blog entry last June, Anderson wrote that probably 1,000 new personal drones take to the sky every month. More recently, he told The New York Times that every three months, 3D Robotics alone is selling about 7,500 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—a number that he said is roughly equivalent to the total number of UAVs the U.S. military is flying… everywhere!

Meanwhile, Congress has asked the FAA to write regulations governing civil operation of small drones in U.S. airspace by Sept. 30, 2015, and privacy experts are raising concerns about our emerging surveillance culture. For example, they note the DARPA-funded Argus camera, developed for use aboard small drones, has a resolution of 1.8 gigapixels and is capable of identifying objects as small as six inches from a height of 17,000 feet. As Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, “Drones may also carry infrared cameras, heat sensors, GPS sensors that detect movement, and automated license plate readers”—and some day they could carry facial recognition technology as well.

So there’s a lot of ground to cover. But we’re confident Anderson can file a flight plan to avoid all the hazards.

Napoleone Ferrara, UCSD Moores Cancer Center

Napoleone Ferrara

The summit’s closing keynote, which is intended to serve as a bookend to Anderson’s opening talk, will be given in the early afternoon by Napoleone Ferrara, the UC San Diego cancer scientist who received the $3 million “Breakthrough Prize” awarded in February by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and a handful of other Silicon Valley billionaires.

Ferrara, who came to UC San Diego last year after a long career at Genentech, has said he was “very much astonished” when Apple chairman and Breakthrough Prize Foundation president Art Levinson called to tell him he had won the $3 million award. “I didn’t know the award existed,” Ferrara said—and neither did the other 10 recipients of the inaugural prize.

Ferrara, who is officially the senior director for basic sciences at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, gained renown for … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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