Published February 20, 2018
Volume 2, Number 2

Innovation and Adaption

By Darien Louie, Executive Director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (East Bay EDA) a cross-sector organization serving Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. 

 “All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”
                                                                                                                                         Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few months ago an opinion piece regarding “clean meat” appeared in the news. Apparently, biotechnology has made it possible to grow meat in a bioreactor which could potentially eliminate the need for raising animals for food. It is also possible to alter yeast cells to produce a plant-based liquid identical to cow’s milk.

According to the article, the advantages are enormous. Currently, raising cattle for food requires twenty-three calories to produce one calorie of meat. On the other hand, it only requires three calories to produce one calorie of clean meat. There are environmental benefits. Clean meat will not release the large amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, that raising cattle does. It also significantly reduces the amount of water it takes to raise the cattle. By one estimate, it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of steak. There are also public health benefits. Eliminating the need to raise cattle will greatly reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses such as salmonella, which causes 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths annually in our nation, and mad cow disease. The spread of antibiotic resistant pathogens will decrease significantly when massive amounts of antibiotics are no longer part of the production process.

But, as they say, this is a disruptive technology. Cattle growers, farmers producing feed, those working in slaughterhouses, those managing stock yards, veterinarians and many others in the supply chain will be affected. Dealing responsibly with the social impacts of the introduction of this innovation will require a substantial amount of adaptation. Similarly, online shopping, robotics, artificial intelligence, gig work and other emerging technologies are forcing us to simultaneously rethink how we do business and how we take care of our workforce.    

As part of East Bay EDA’s efforts to bring greater recognition to the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs and our region’s success in supporting them, we launched the East Bay Innovation Awards. Now in its sixth year, this annual celebration highlights companies and organizations that contribute to the East Bay’s culture of innovation in an exceptional manner. And it is a testament to the vitality of the East Bay economy that there are so many truly outstanding nominees for this regionally recognized competition. 

But beyond the well-deserved celebration of those producing disruptive products and services, East Bay EDA recognizes that, similar to the clean meat scenario, a large measure of invention, collaboration and effort will be required to maintain economic and social balance. We are proud that we lead most other regions in the nation in commercial innovation, but that means we also have a greater obligation to keep our workforce fully engaged and to keep our laws and regulations consistent with new technology and public safety. If we want to continue to be successful, we need to ensure our housing, utilities and infrastructure can keep up with the emerging needs of a new economy.  

This is the importance of the Education Award among the nine East Bay Innovation Award winners.  It recognizes the energy and creativity needed to solve the adaptation challenge. This is why East Bay EDA has created member-driven leadership committees to champion: STEM education; the alignment between the needs of business and the curricula of our education and training institutions; solutions to our growing infrastructure needs; and state and federal regulations that benefit our businesses and residents. Successful global competition requires the pace of invention to accelerate. As our economy becomes a driving force in that competition, there is an equivalent need for the rest of us to make sure disruptive technologies do not disrupt the integrity of our communities, institutions and the social order.

Join East Bay business and community leaders to celebrate the 6th Annual East Bay Innovation Awards on Thursday, March 29, 2018 from 5:00 - 8:30 pm at the historic Fox Theater in Oakland. Awards will be presented in a variety of categories to East Bay companies and individuals who have contributed to the region's culture of innovation and prosperity. Judges are composed of industry leaders, experts, and influencers in their respective fields. Each category is judged using responses from publicly submitted nomination forms, and evaluated by a committee of 8-10 executives. Categories include: Advanced Manufacturing, Catalyst of the Year, Clean Tech, Education, Engineering & Design, Food, Information and/or Communication Technology, and Life Sciences.