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Innovation and Taking Risks

by on April 03, 2014 11:12 AM

STATE COLLEGE — A leader of the global forerunner in the creation of incentivized prize competitions, Peter H. Diamandis shared his enthusiasm on campus earlier this week about the future of technology, entrepreneurship, medicine and energy.

Diamandis, CEO of the X Prize Foundation, was the keynote speaker at the 2014 “Shaping the Future Summit: The Impact of Innovation,” sponsored by Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College. Held at Eisenhower Auditorium Tuesday evening, the summit was also supported by Life Technologies, Inc., a global biotechnology company based in Carlsbad, Calif.

The X Prize Foundation is dedicated to spurring breakthrough innovations that lead to growth in emerging industries. The first X Prize was a $10 million award to the first team to conduct two manned suborbital spaceflights within a two-week period. The competition is credited with more than $100 million invested into private space flight ventures, according to a press release by the Schreyer Honors College.

One of X Prize’s competitions is the Google Lunar X Prize, in which teams are charged with landing a rover on the moon. Penn State’s Lunar Lions, a group of undergraduate and graduate students and researchers, is the only university team remaining in the competition. The first team to land a rover on the moon, cover a specified distance on the lunar surface and successfully transmit data back to earth by December 31, 2015, will win $20 million, according to the SHC.

“(This is an) extraordinary period of time we’re living in,” Diamandis said Tuesday afternoon at the Nittany Lion Inn. “It’s an extraordinary time to be alive.”

A space pioneer, entrepreneur and author, Diamandis took some time prior to the summit to give an overview of his summit speech and address questions from the media about the Lunar Lions, his latest genome sequencing venture Human Longevity, Inc., and a variety of other topics related to his work.

Entrepreneurs, this day in age, have the ability to touch the lives of a billion people, Diamandis said, explaining many can go from having an idea to starting a million dollar company.

“It’s a magical time,” he said. “A time where our … dreams can come true.”

In order to reach new heights in innovation, one must be willing to take risks, Diamandis said.

He said he has started about 17 companies in his career. The X Prize Foundation was born from his study of the use of awards. He discovered that prizes are “extraordinarily powerful for a means of driving innovation,” he said.

X Prize took about five years to form, he said, and today launches prizes in a variety of areas. According to its website, the foundation conducts competitions in energy and environment; exploration (ocean and deep space); global development, learning; and life sciences.

Diamandis said part of his mission in visiting Penn State is to urge the community to support the Lunar Lions.

“(The Lunar Lions) have a real shot at landing on the surface of the moon,” he said. “That’s the world we’re living in today.”

“It behooves the community here to back them,” he continued. “The risk/reward is incredible.”

To date, only three countries have attempted to land on the moon, Diamandis said.

“It’s important to take these shots for society,” he said.

Addressing Human Longevity and if genetics have always been an interest of his, Diamandis said he grew up in a medial family. While watching a TV program on the lifespan of sea turtles, he began to wonder why humans can’t live for hundreds of years while other species can.

Passionate about extending the life of human beings, Diamandis’ first goal was to discover a way for humans to live to be 700 years.

 “How do we create the ability for us to live a healthy, long life?” he said.

Diamandis said he believes, with the work he’s done, that it is possible to extend human life.

“(There are) mechanisms to understand what happens to us,” he said. “How do we restore our (genetic) energy?”

As people get older their cells undergo changes, he explained, and people lose the ability to repair themselves. However, he trusts that cells are repairable and changeable.

“We think that there’s a real shot of (extending) human longevity,” he said.

Human Longevity, which launched last month, is a partnership with geneticist J. Craig Venter and stem cell pioneer Dr. Robert Hariri.

In addition to X Prize, Diamandis is the co-founder of Singularity University, the Silicon Valley center dedicated to innovation and technical acceleration; a co-founder of Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company; and the author of the New York Times best-seller “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think,” according to the SHC.

Diamandis’ summit address culminated a series of programs focused on innovation that have been held on campus throughout this academic year. Events have focused on the future of technology, the future of entrepreneurship, the future of medicine, and the future of energy and sustainability. Lectures, panel discussions and a tour of innovative enterprises housed at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia have been among the programs, according to the SHC.

For more information about the X Prize Foundation visit For more information about the Google Lunar X Prize visit

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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