High ambition as business schools launch space programmes

Space has traditionally not been a destination for enjoying delicious food. Without gravity to help clear the sinuses, astronauts are left with a dull sense of taste.

But, at Norway’s BI Business School in Oslo, Carlos Velasco and his colleagues, associate professor of marketing, are trying to create more appetizing meals for space travelers. “Space captured my imagination early in life and we saw an opportunity to tackle some of the challenges that space travelers might face,” says Velasco, a multisensory marketing specialist. We want to put food—a multisensory experience in itself—beyond nutrition.

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His team at BI Norwegian, together with academics at the University of Sussex in the UK and Carnegie Mellon University in the US, have developed three concepts for use in zero gravity. It consists of a mixing pod where solid spices are dissolved in the food for flavor and texture. A 3D printer that astronauts can use to produce food that enhances the emotional experience of eating. and small bites with distinct flavors from different cultures or moments of life combined with virtual and augmented reality.

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It might seem like a lot of effort for the few people lucky enough to travel in space. “But R&D in the space industry often leads to innovations that provide solutions to challenges big and small,” says Velasco, pointing to inventions such as freeze-dried food, home insulation and water purification systems. Humanity also offers.

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Carlos Velasco experimenting with a perfume kit and virtual reality glasses

Carlos Velasco tests food fragrances at BI Norwegian Business School © Ilja C Hendel

Velasco’s menu is still in the conceptual stage, but other European business schools are turning space-age ideas into reality.

At the University of Exeter’s business school in south-west England, Professor Nikita Chiu is launching an undergraduate module on the ‘space economy’ early next year. Open to students from a variety of disciplines and hosted at the university’s Penryn campus, the module offers an opportunity to examine past achievements and missteps in space. The goal is to help students envision a more responsible and sustainable space future, says Chiu, senior lecturer in innovation policy at Exeter and Distinguished Fellow in Robotics and Outer Space Governance at USC’s Center for Space Engineering Research.

“There is no other part more attractive than space,” Chiu says. “When we look at the stars, we’re actually looking at the past, and yet the space sector is very much about building the future.”

He says the course uses insights from business studies, the history of science and technology, engineering and global governance to understand how politics, technology and business intersect to enable the space economy.

For those determined to pursue a career in the space sector, I hope they can use what they’ve learned with us to inspire positive change, bring new ideas to an established industry and make it more diverse, more responsible. says Chiu, who also mentors Space4Women, a network organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Meanwhile, the first six students recently graduated from the European Space for Business programme, an executive training course for space professionals, entrepreneurs and companies interested in developing their ventures. The course is a partnership between the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) at Erasmus University, the Nova Business and Economics School in Lisbon, the University of St Gallen in Switzerland and the European Space Agency.

Space is the new economic frontier, says program director Rene Olly, who is also an associate professor of strategic management at RSM. Investment bank Morgan Stanley estimates that the $350 billion global space industry could reach more than $1 trillion by 2040. However, while many companies in this sector start out with strong ambitions and ideas, they often lack the knowledge and management skills to grow their business.

“Many in the industry come from engineering backgrounds with limited training in business education,” says Oli. Another reason for starting this program was the rapid changes taking place in the industry, which attracted the entry of entrepreneurs and non-space companies such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

The three schools began discussing the idea in 2019. In this program, St. Gallen focuses on the space environment and space business models, Nova specializes in entrepreneurship and financing, while RSM leads in the scaling process, innovation and leadership. The next program will run in early 2024 and there are plans to expand the group to around 15-20 participants.

Space entrepreneurs are also being targeted by HEC Paris, which launched a business support program at its Creative Destruction Lab earlier this year. Launched in partnership with Toronto’s Rotman School and Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, the nine-month program has space for 40 startups as it seeks to develop an entrepreneurial perspective on space science research.

But Franz Viehböck is one of the few who can attest to the rare prospect that space travel brings to life, business and education. The first and only Austrian astronaut has been a speaker at the Vienna-based WU Executive Academy’s short programs on pioneers. He has worked with NASA and Boeing and is now the CEO of Branddorf Steel Products Group, whose employees regularly provide executive training at WU. “The view of Earth from space was amazing,” he says. “You no longer see artificial geographical boundaries, but the big picture.

“There is a spirit of optimism in the aerospace industry, which means that with courage and commitment, you can achieve a lot,” he adds. Unlike many other sectors, innovations are highly welcomed and appreciated. It’s about having the courage to be an entrepreneur and overcome obstacles – it doesn’t necessarily mean flying into space by yourself.

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