Lehi
03 Jul, Sunday
64° F

  

TOP

These experts think this is the future of deep tech in Utah

In March 2022, Utah Business and Altitude Labs hosted a half-day summit focused on the ins and outs of the Deep Tech industry. Moderated by Jack Boren, managing director of Epic Ventures watch the entire first panel above or read the printed recap below.

What is deep tech and most specifically, how do each of your companies fit into it?

Laura Pace | Founder and CEO | Metrodora |

To me, deep tech is really leveraging the power of technology to solve hard problems. Biology is a series of really hard problems, it’s incredibly complex, it’s interconnected, and so it’s a systems biology problem that actually the human brain can’t solve on its own. And so [at Metrodora] we have to implement technological tools to be able to help us understand biology better and in doing so, we’re going to be able to understand medicine better.

Mandy Rogers | System Engineering Director | Northrop Grumman

To build off of that a little bit, I like to think of deep tech as really the platform of being able to innovate and create where we previously couldn’t. There’s high technology risk, but now we’re at a point in the ecosystem of technology and engineering where we can do things that weren’t possible 5, 10, or 20 years ago. 

Linda Cabrales |  Director  | Utah Innovation Center 

 When I think of deep tech, you can think of what it’s not. So it’s not like if you’re developing an app, that’s quick usually if you know what you’re doing, but when you think of the things that are based on science and engineering, that is where you’re finding difficult things, and you’re finding those technologies that can help respond to those.

Let’s explore the relationship between an innovation team, the technology team, and the marketing team. How do you think about those early collaborations and plan for success in deep tech markets?

Mandy Rogers | System Engineering Director | Northrop Grumman

This is probably one of my favorite topics. I look for high-energy collaborators who have some technical experience or diversity of thought. I have engineers on my team who have worked in the cyber domain. I’ve had aerospace engineers, I’ve had electrical engineers, just any kind of engineer you can think of, and non-engineer, we actually have someone who came from business management who works with a lot of numbers and data, and they’re all helping us solve some really complex technical challenges. So I really look to build those super-diverse teams that have that motivation and want to solve hard problems together, and that’s worked really well.

Angela Trego | Director of Science and Technology | UAMMI

I know this is maybe another topic, but kind of along those same lines [of having good talent with diverse thinking], one of the things that we’ve taken initiative for is actually finding ways to educate and increase that STEM pipeline. Because at the end of the day, we need to get more people into this state that can actually be qualified to be working in these higher paying and really cool deep tech jobs.

Is anybody willing to share some thoughts and perspectives of how your organizations are working across that span of hiring issues?

Angela Trego | Director of Science and Technology | UAMMI

One of the things that I find encouraging in biotech, if you look at a diversity statistic, it’s now about 50/50 men to women, which is pretty exciting. Now you go to mechanical engineering and it’s about 11 percent. You go to computer science, it’s about 8 percent women. 

To me [success from a hiring and diversity standpoint is about] getting kids and showing them what possibilities they have, that they can work in deep tech that’s going to have these huge magnificent changes on how we live and work with faculty members. 

Linda Cabrales |  Director  | Utah Innovation Center

I think a trend in healthcare that we’re seeing is the estimates that 50 percent of people will actually change jobs in the next few years. And this is actually very different than what we’ve seen historically. But I think it’s because people really want to be a part of something bigger. They want to be a part of change. They want to be a part of something that means something that has a true impact.

Mandy Rogers | System Engineering Director | Northrop Grumman 

We are definitely in an interesting time for talent recruitment and retention, and we are a very large company. We really have to lead with heart and with just empathy, and we’re seeing now that people are a bit more risk-averse of switching jobs, switching careers, switching needs, and doing something that they hadn’t done before in their career.

 People have lived through a pandemic, so it’s kind of like, hey, why not? Maybe I can become a rocket scientist too. What’s the worst that could happen? We’re seeing that shift and I think it opens up the door to a lot more diversity of again, building off of deep tech, what can we do next? If we bring someone is not a rocket scientist in the rocket science field and have them think about these hard problems.

I’m not sure how to phrase a prompt around this, but I want to highlight the necessity of the mentor-mentee relationship, particularly at a younger age.

Linda Cabrales |  Director  | Utah Innovation Center

I think it’s so amazing now when I think of everything going on, the many opportunities, the Women Tech Council, many of you may know about that. They do a She Tech Explorer day, and so they invite these young girls to come to this day they have mentors and they give them a scientific challenge. There are so many opportunities, and I love the idea that we can mentor these young people and encourage them that anything is possible. 

Angela Trego | Director of Science and Technology | UAMMI

I think it’s important, especially women tend to, although all individuals, as they get to certain levels, but it does happen more to women and underrepresented populations, imposter syndrome. And one of the biggest things [needed] to overcome imposter syndrome is having a mentor. 

Mandy Rogers | System Engineering Director | Northrop Grumman

You talked about imposter syndrome. I once had a young male mentee tell me, “I think you have imposter syndrome.” I became kind of obsessed with researching about it. And I was like, yeah, you know what? I could do this. It’s not that hard. Everyone’s learning even these SMEs that have 30 years of experience, they’re learning along the way too. And it took a lot of time and just reflecting on imposter syndrome that a mentee shared with me and exposed me to, to build up the confidence in myself and actually be able to execute.

What’s it like leading deep tech organizations here? What are some of the benefits and maybe setbacks of our ecosystem? What can we improve on and what are we already great at?

Laura Pace | Founder and CEO | Metrodora

When we were thinking about where we wanted to locate Metrodora, the science piece [of Utah’s tech community] was really integral for us. The other thing has been the collaboration, the openness, the fact that we can meet with someone so easily from the governor’s office, who’s willing to help us with questions that we have, this doesn’t happen in other places as easily. And there’s just a great community here. I find that people, again, want to be part of teams, part of something. So they’re super motivated. It’s just a wonderful place to live and to work.

What technological advancements are you most excited about today?

Laura Pace | Founder and CEO | Metrodora

We’re in the era now where [people can sequence their own genomes] for hundreds of dollars, so we can change the [preventative medicine] landscape for people. We can get everyone sequenced before they become ill, so we can start to practice truly personalized medicine, preventative medicine, and prescriptive medicine.  This is the thing that I’m just so excited about. And this is technology really bringing medicine to sort of the leading edge of science.

Angela Trego | Director of Science and Technology | UAMMI: 

From our perspective, one of the biggest factors is going to be batteries. As you’re looking at batteries, vehicles, whether they’re cars, flying cars, drones, delivery systems, batteries are complex and difficult. And right now we have issues that there’s a capacity—they don’t last long enough, they weigh a ton, they have a ton of rare earth metals. Those batteries are really, really toxic. So how do we deal with the toxicity and reusability and recycling of batteries so that they’re not going to be so bad on the environment when we’re done with them?

Mandy Rogers | System Engineering Director | Northrop Grumman 

At Northrop, we’re building aircraft, spacecraft, and we have to be able to digitize that information very quickly to develop that rapid technology, to explore space, to explore land, air, everything in between. And I think we’re really going to revolutionize how we do digital threading, digital replication, and digital building blocks to these complex solutions that you can visual as the problem at hand and see things that you couldn’t see when it’s built. From my perspective, it’s just those more complex systems that are going to get even more complex. And we need to reduce that cognitive burden on folks like our rocket scientists so they can solve the next harder problem.

Linda Cabrales |  Director  | Utah Innovation Center 

I’m just amazed at all the technologies that are being developed. And when I look ahead from simulation to medical advances, there are so many amazing things and we get to understand or see so much of that. When I think of medical advances, it gets personal to me, and it’s so amazing when I think of the future of everyone, right? And we all want to be healthy. We want a better climate. We want better technologies, and that’s what I’m about.

Utah Business provides award-winning, in-depth journalism on the tech and entrepreneurial businesses at the forefront of our nation's economy. Our print and digital publications reach millions of executives across the state and our live and in-person events provide deep-dive access into the industries shaping our future.