CU Boulder faculty researchers, staff, and students discussed innovation, collaboration and career opportunities with thought leaders and executives from Colorado’s aerospace industry on campus Thursday, October 27 at the 4th Annual AeroSpace Ventures Day.
Held at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) in CU Boulder’s Research Park, the sold-out event brought together representatives from the state’s leading aerospace companies in order to learn about the latest cutting-edge research, discuss challenges and opportunities facing their organizations, and explore ways in which the CU community can help advance the field.
Bobby Braun, incoming dean of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, praised Colorado’s “strong and vibrant” aerospace industry in his keynote address.
“From small to medium to large-sized businesses, to the space-oriented focus at CU, to some of the work that’s going on at the national labs, CU and Colorado are a real aerospace economic and innovation engine,” said Braun. “And there’s nothing you can’t do when you partner industry and university folks. I’ve seen that on the academic side and on the federal side.”
In addition to research presentations from over thirty CU Boulder faculty researchers—in areas related to space weather, earth observation, space exploration, and space technologies—the event featured industry discussion panels with representatives from Ball Aerospace, Harris Corporation, United Launch Alliance, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Digital Globe and Advanced Space: all companies with offices in Colorado.
One hot panel topic centered around the need for greater flexibility in university-industry partnerships, a challenge that has led to a growing number of high-level “master” agreements between CU Boulder and participating companies—including small businesses, which comprise 84% of Colorado’s aerospace companies. Several company representatives expressed the value of such agreements in helping catalyze more effective collaborations.
“Creating lasting impact requires industry and university members to engage far beyond the conventional exchange of research or funding,” noted panel moderator Major General (Ret.) Jay Lindell, Aerospace and Defense Industry Champion for the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). “It requires collaborative relationships. And when they work well, strategic partnerships merge the discovery-driven culture of the university with the innovation-driven environment of the industry.”
Students joined a crowd of 50 attendees toward the end of the day for a candid Q&A with industry members about how to launch—and develop—a successful career in aerospace. Afterward, in a departure from typical career fair structure, students attended a networking reception and had an opportunity to meet with in-state aerospace companies in a more personal setting.
“We wanted to highlight the huge workforce opportunity right here in Colorado and facilitate those connections for our students,” said Abby Benson, executive director of AeroSpace Ventures.
As several panelists expressed, aerospace offers intrepid engineers more than a dynamic, evolving career platform; it regularly provides something much more elusive in today’s job market—fulfillment. “I joined Lockheed Martin because I decided I wanted to do something that’s bigger than I am,” said Radek Uberna, a Business Development Analyst at Lockheed. “If you work for a space systems company, even if you don’t build spacecraft directly, you still participate in historic events.”
Carol Driggs, Engineering Center Manager for Northrop Grumman, agreed: “Everything we do every day is saving lives.”
About AeroSpace Ventures: CU Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, housed within the Research & Innovation Office (RIO), brings together researchers, students, industry leaders, government partners, and entrepreneurs to envision and create the future for space and Earth systems, driving the discovery and innovation that will shape the 21st century economy.