South by Southwest (SXSW) is a music, film, and interactive festival that happens in Austin, Texas every March. Since its inception in 1987, it has evolved to become a launching pad for a wide range of innovative technologies.
The rumblings of a biotech wave at SXSW is evident in the evolving programming. The presence of Craig Venter, 23andMe, UBiome, Genspace, La Pailasse, Ginkgo Bioworks, BioBuilder, Synbiota, Open BCI, Glowing Plant (TAXA), Backyard Brains, BioSynth, Caribou Biosciences, The Tech Museum, RPI, New Harvest, Perlstein Lab, JBEI, the crowdfunding platform Experiment, Bioeconomy Capitol, and more all indicate that a surge is rising.
Hugh Forrest, Executive Director of SXSW forecasts: “We see biotech as a strong area of growth for SXSW in 2017 and beyond. This belief stems from a lot of different factors. One is the explosion of wearable technology at SXSW, a lot of which has a strong connection with health and biotech. Also important is that so many of the startups we see at SXSW have a biotech focus—and as more of these startups find success in Austin, they should attract even more biotech-related entrepreneurs to the event.”
How to get involved
The bulk of SXSW programming is selected through the Panel Picker. The Panel Picker allows for the community as well as the staff and advisory board to vote on what types of programming should be accepted to the festival for the following year. For 2017 submissions, the SXSW Panel picker will be open for programming submissions from June 28 until July 22, with programming announcements starting in the fall.
Examples of bio-related topic ideas that were accepted to previous SXSW conferences include:
- “Reprogramming the Genome with CRISPR”
- “Is Your Biological Data Safe?”
- “The Future of Citizen Science”
- “Collaborative Biohacking”
- “Surviving the Red Planet”
- “Synthetic Biology: Learn, Do, and Dream”
- “Decoding Our Bodies: A New Era of Citizen Health”
- “Inner Space: Bioelectronics and Medicine's Future”
- “Why the World Needs Biological Design”
- “Teachers: The 'Secret Sauce' for Innovation in the Classroom”
If you want to participate in programming for 2017—and I hope you do—here are a few submission tips: Make sure your panel submission is diverse, and book accommodations early. With the massive influx of people in Austin for the festival, hotels fill up quickly. For more tips, visit Panel Picker support.
Perhaps it’s time to ride this wave—it’s going to be a spectacular ride! Hope to see you in March 2017!