Credit: Originally published by ExpertHub | 28 November 2018.

InnoCircle recently hosted a webinar with Dr Adriana Marais to discuss the link between the vision and mission of the Mars One project and the imminent Africa-first Aerospace Accelerator #Africa4Future. African innovators in the tech sector have 4 days left to apply.

Dr Adriana Marais is a theoretical physicist who has made it her life’s mission to embark on the one-way trip to Mars in order to establish life on the surface of another planet. As Head of Innovation at SAP Africa she is passionate about exploring innovative applications of emerging technologies to challenges facing the continent.

Mars One is a foundation that will establish permanent human life on Mars. Human settlement on Mars is possible today with existing technologies. The first footprint on Mars and lives of the crew thereon will captivate and inspire generations and it is this project that Marais is part of. She is one of 50 men and 50 women selected as part of the Mars 100, 100 people that have been chosen from a pool of 202,586 applicants to proceed to the next round and are one step closer to becoming the first humans on Mars.

The #Africa4Future Aerospace Accelerator is the first of its kind on the African continent and post the application deadline on 30 November, 10 startups will be selected to join the programme which kicks off on January 15th. Selected teams will receive access to industry-leading experts, feedback from top engineers, a showcase at the Paris International Airshow in 2019 and a potential opportunity to launch a collaboration project in partnership with key Airbus departments. The selected teams will also receive space within MEST Incubators across Africa during the programme.

InnoCircle spoke to Dr Adriana Marais on the link between the #Africa4Future initiative and the Mars mission.

“This is an era of rapid change but also an era that we should be extremely excited to be living in,” states Dr Adriana Marais, “With improved technology comes the capacity to do things that have never been done before. We are the group of humans that will witness the first journey of humans to Mars and the first establishment of an off-world settlement on the surface of the planet Mars before 2030.”

The Foundation for Space Development, where Dr Marais is Director, is planning an overwinter research expedition to Antarctica in 2020. Antarctica is the perfect simulation of a Martian habitat where explorers will experience real isolation and harsh living conditions. Each explorer will need to contribute to the research community. Projects will range from the kind of tech needed to survive in hostile environments and extend to research, wellness and entertainment. Technologies will involve the production of the basic human needs like power, air, water management systems, efficient food production in harsh conditions, drones to explore the environment and secure communication capabilities.

“Exploration drives innovation and that’s exactly what thinking around startup ideas in the Aerospace industry are going to simulate,” adds Dr Marais, “New knowledge, new growth and new ideas. We need the creative thinking borne of an idea of surviving in a harsh environment. This out-of-the-box thinking is exactly what we need to explore and also what we need to create a brighter future here on Earth.”

She adds: “The Indian Space Agency in 2015 launched a Mars orbital mission for $100 million, which involved a super drone that orbits around the planet, doing imaging of the atmosphere rather than the surface. In this way, developing countries are proving that we can do space cheaper and better than before.”

The perfect platform to test Aerospace ideas is, of course, the #Africa4Future Accelerator. This joint accelerator program betweenAirbus’ global aerospace accelerator BizLab and Make-IT in Africa, a programme by the German Agency for International Cooperation(GIZ), will be implemented by MEST and InnoCircle, two organisations with a significant presence and deep knowledge of entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa, this year.

For this second edition, the call is on African tech startups that are actively working on solutions related to unmanned logistics and remote sensing technology, including automation and drones, electrification, blockchain, artificial intelligence, data analytics and material composites and manufacturing.

“The multidisciplinary approach to identifying challenges and the recommended solutions in Africa – the combination of aerospace technology with agriculture, health or data analytics, opens the world for more cost-effective solutions to global problems in all sectors,” adds Karen Eksteen, co-founder of InnoCircle.

“Our experience in working in the global tech startup scene in combination with a strong African network and a solid understanding of the African Tech ecosystem, is a good match for the objectives of Airbus Bizlab and the GIZ. They understand the potential of Africa as an emerging market for Aerospace technology and sought local implementation partners. Our unique value proposition in combination with the infrastructure of MEST Incubator, a ten-year-old Pan-African initiative, made us a perfect fit,” states Ellen Fischat, co-founder of InnoCircle.

“I look forward to following the progress of this programme, because I think it’s going to be an excellent way to have some insight into the amazing innovations in the Aerospace field happening around the continent. I look forward to seeing more of this,” concludes Dr Adriana Marais.