If you take the really big picture view, and look ahead over the coming decades, the biggest technological development of our time could well be synthetic biology, our ability to now engineer biological systems. Most of us today are just so caught up in the digital transformation, the ongoing computer and internet revolution, that we are largely missing the beginning of this next massive tech transformation. To catch up, you can start by sinking your teeth into an Impossible Burger. Alternative meats, whether plant-based like the Impossible Burger or cell-based and grown in vats, make up one of the first waves of products that have moved off the speculative drawing boards and into the actual public marketplace, and are giving people some taste of what’s to come. This future of food, which is a harbinger to the future of bio-materials and an entire bio-economy, is the subject of our next What’s Now: San Francisco at Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange.
Liz Specht is the perfect person to guide us through this brand-new world. Specht is a frequent guest lecturer on the Future of Food at Singularity University and knows how to translate what’s going on in synthetic biology to broader business audiences. Her main job is Associate Director of Science & Technology at the Good Food Institute, which is dedicated to scaling up the use of alternative meats and proteins, partly in response to climate change. She spends her days focused on what tech hurdles lie ahead for the rapid adoption of alternative meats and looks at new developments in a wide range of tech fields that might provide new ways forward. She talks to technologists, investors, entrepreneurs, and consumer researchers and so has a broad perspective about what’s possible.
Specht reminds us that all synthetic biology comes down to chemical engineering, which is getting material inputs broken down into basic building blocks which can then be reassembled into innovative new outputs. This is happening in a profound way in the food industry with more innovation soon to come, but it’s not limited to food: many other industries like medicine, energy, and materials are tapping into the same driving forces toward a bio-based economy. Join us in what will surely be a fascinating conversation about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Come early and meet your peers over a drink. We may even have some alternative foods to try out too.