Singularity University is a Startup Incubator Variation for Disruptive Technology Companies

Singularity University is funded by firms including Google, Autodesk and the X Prize Foundation, runs a series of graduate and corporate programs, as well as conferences. Its ten week summer course is hugely popular but it only takes 80 graduates each year.

Each is expected to emerge with the seeds of a groundbreaking start-up that has the power to change the lives of one billion people within 10 years.

The programme has so far spun out about 100 companies, 50 of which have been funded. They include Getaround, a peer-to-peer car sharing scheme; Blue Oak, which aims to extract copper from landfill by using bacteria, and Matternet, which uses drones to deliver vital medicines in the developing world. Matternet may have helped inspire Amazon’s recently announced drone delivery plans.

More controversial are the firms that are already making that crossover between the biological and the non-biological, such as two start-ups growing artificial meat in the lab.

A project to create a glowing plant attracted controversy when it launched on Kickstarter this summer. It grew out of an SU spin-off that allows you to drag and drop DNA from one organism into another – in this case by adding a bioluminescent gene to a mustard plant.

Even Mr Nail finds the idea of manipulating genetic code “super-frightening” and admits that the Kickstarter format was possibly a bit of a “cowboy way” to introduce people to bio-hacking.

Disrupt or be disrupted

SU targets big business. If you have a spare $12,000 to hand you can join SU’s executive programme for a seven-day introduction to the technologies that may one day put you out of business.

You will be told how banking faces the onslaught of virtual currency Bitcoin, the leisure industry faces competition from sharing sites such as AirBnB, manufacturing faces the challenges of 3D printing, and even something as innocuous as the consumer goods packaging industry has up to 80 disruptive start-ups competing in its space.

“The execs that take part go back to their firms and they sound like raving lunatics,” says SU’s global ambassador Salim Ismail

“But you either have to disrupt or be disrupted.”

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