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Was Apollo the greatest spin-off programme in history?

What have cordless miniature vacuum cleaners, cool suits, and cosmetics all got in common? They were all inventions that were spun off from technologies developed as part of the Apollo programme, NASA’s pioneering space initiative that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon 50 years ago this month.

Whilst cordless power tools were invented before the Apollo programme, Black & Decker and NASA collaborated on zero-gravity, extreme temperature tool development, with the ‘Dustbuster’ being a successful commercial spin-off[i].

The same cool suits that racing car drivers, nuclear reactor technicians and firefighters use today to regulate body temperature were based on the designs of the suits worn by the Apollo astronauts[ii].

And digital skin analysing software used by Estee Lauder had its origins in digital imaging technology developed by NASA.

Without the Apollo programme innovations in fields as varied as fabrics, communications, medicine and solar energy would not have been possible.

Exploring the second order consequences of the Apollo programme’s R&D efforts reveals that the true value of the Apollo programme lives on today in a variety of guises as a result of making investments in some of these pioneering technologies.

Whilst Capita has yet to reveal plans to send people to the moon, we are heavily invested in scientific research via companies such as Fera, a joint venture with DEFRA.

Fera tackles some of the world’s most challenging problems from the impact of global population growth to the need to make efficient sustainable use of natural resources[iii].

From research into food safety to pollinator R&D, just as NASA continues to derive value from commercialising scientific research, Fera is also driving innovation and commercialising its scientific research for the benefit of society.

Our commitment to science runs through all our businesses. From our cutting edge work in Real Estate and Infrastructure in areas such as low emissions and flood prevention, to the work we’re doing in deep learning and neural networks, we’re working with leading thinkers to support the next 50 years of progress.

Photo of Oli Freestone

Oli Freestone

Head of Institute, Capita

Oli heads up our Institute, which is part of Capita’s digital and consulting capability and is responsible for digital thought leadership, research and insights. He has worked across multiple industries as a management consultant, and has expertise in strategy, technology and innovation, and is a regular contributor to leading publications on these topics.

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