The Astera Institute believes that revolutionary engineering developments will allow humanity to overcome great challenges and unlock unimagined possibilities. Our focus is on R&D with multiplier-effect potential for civilization. We work in the innovation “valley of death” shepherding novel engineering towards the light of day.
Societies of Earth face enormous technical problems and incremental change may not be enough. New energy technologies, advanced robotics, an active space economy, and steps towards atomically precise manufacturing are among the developments we believe necessary for progress to continue and civilization to achieve its potential. The last fifty years has seen an explosion in information and biotechnology, while large-scale engineering, with a few notable exceptions, has lagged behind. An engineering revolution is needed to meet the challenges of our moment.
To that end, Astera seeks to support open platform technologies and applied science research that do not have a natural home in the existing system of academia, industry, and government. Most innovation organizations lack the capability to properly tackle the most ambitious engineering projects. Academia is not well situated to turn novel concepts into engineering projects. Corporate R&D labs are far too focused on improving existing product lines to invest in unproven large-scale tech. Venture capital and startups typically rely on ROI timeframes unconducive to open-ended engineering research. There’s a reason that moonshots and Manhattan projects have been the domain of governments. However we believe that bold engineering should not be left entirely to the state or the market — there exists a critical niche in the system, an alternate organizational model where resources can be strategically deployed for maximum effect and engineers freed from the incentives of profit and reputation. This is the niche Astera hopes to fill.