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President POV

by Jenna Saucedo-Herrera

The San Antonio region is so many things. Hard-working, humble, collaborative, talented, and real. I believe these are all byproducts of our military heritage that for the most part shine as strengths in our business community. Our quiet, “get-it-done” nature drives us to do big things without seeking attention, which can be challenging when telling our story. As a marketing organization, SAEDF defines and articulates the brand of our region and takes our story to the world. Over the past few years we’ve worked with partners from across the community to create and enrich that story, focusing on what differentiates us from the rest of world—the things that run as a common thread through everything we do: The military, our culture, and believe it or not, research and development. R&D is the underlying connector across our target industries, higher education system, and what helps us define what we mean when we use the sometimes vague and overused term, “innovation.”

As most of you know, San Antonio has had a strong military presence since 1845. It can be challenging to collect consistent and complete data, but we know that Joint Base San Antonio represents at least $30B in economic impact for the regional economy and is the largest concentration of defense personnel in Texas. The state is third in Department of Defense spending and the bulk of that investment is in San Antonio. Earlier this year, Booz Allen announced plans to expand in downtown San Antonio to directly support a military contract in cybersecurity. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is also researching and developing methods to mitigate or eliminate the "cyber sickness" that most individuals develop when using augmented reality systems for more than a short period. In our aerospace sector, the activity seems endless. A massive R&D industry here in San Antonio supports the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management and 16th Air Force operations locally and globally.

Our partners at Port San Antonio know better than anyone that the future of aerospace in San Antonio is focused on integrating new technologies. Predictive maintenance, which involves electronic warfare and digital technologies, is one area that is rapidly changing the industry and involves much of what we do well in San Antonio. In addition, robotics, automation, and productivity improvements like incorporating augmented reality and personal digital devices are areas of opportunity for our San Antonio community.

Also stemming from our military heritage is a collaborative culture that allows us to identify a challenge and pull together the right people to address it, whatever organization (or agenda) they may represent. The recently announced San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics will bring together UT Health San Antonio, Southwest Research Institute, UTSA, and Texas Biomedical Research Institute to target precision customized treatments for cancer, obesity, diabetes, infectious diseases, and other conditions. These world-renowned, local research institutions are working together to provide treatment and cures for diseases that impact millions. Each institution owns a piece of the process and by breaking down barriers that traditionally kept the institutions from collaborating, San Antonio will dramatically affect how healthcare and treatments are delivered in the future, making personalized care and cures a reality.

A new addition to this landscape, VelocityTX’s first tenant moved into office space that will soon be part of a larger hub on our city’s east side. GenCure plans to develop a biomanufacturing facility at the new site, working to develop regenerative medicine products. The first of many innovative tenants, VelocityTX is already working with companies from Chile, Brazil, and Costa Rica, to name a few and providing the critical support for companies to make connections and expedite their launch in the U.S., from San Antonio.

The R&D landscape in our region is complex, exciting, and full of opportunity. It serves as a natural connector for business development and as we determine our way forward, will serve as a powerful connector for our brand.