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How is the Air Force looking to spend its $60 billion R&D budget?

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Dr. Will Roper, the man in charge of the purse strings for the Air Force’s $60 billion research and development and acquisition budget, oversees some 550 programs for the Air Force.

It’s a huge responsibility that has massive implications for the future of the American military, and as the priorities for the military’s air and space command shift, Roper says that acquisitions will require an emphasis on working “at a pace that today’s technology, trends and threats require.”

The keys to the future of Air Force acquisitions will be agility and flexibility, Roper told an audience last month at the Air Force Association 2020 Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference, according to an Air Force report. “If you look at the world in which we live today, we must be agile,” Roper told the audience. “There are too many possible futures for us to pick one and build a force that’s geared to defeat it.”

That sentiment should give developers of new technologies $60 billion worth of reasons to pay attention when Roper joins us at TechCrunch’s Sessions: Space event this December 16-17.

Roper has placed an emphasis on what he calls digital engineering to create internal manufacturing capabilities within the Department of Defense and develop new defensive capabilities and offensive weaponry for a 21st century battlefield.

As the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics — and principal adviser to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force for R&D, test, production and modernization efforts within the Air Force — Roper has a view into where the military is racing ahead to meet the challenges of the battlefield of the next millennium.

In Roper’s view that could encompass the presence of weaponized artificial intelligence, persistent drones, or even genetically edited bioweapons or human augmentation, he told his virtual audience in that September presentation.

For Roper, the first order of business is to find a way to get the military innovating faster than consumer technologies — a task made that much more complicated by the lack of bureaucratic constraints private companies enjoy compared to their military counterparts.

“The last area that we have to have strategic agility is in being able to computerize or virtualize everything about our development and production, assembly, even sustainment of systems, so that we can finally get past the tyranny of the real world and take learning and feedback into the digital one,” Roper said in his September address.

The Air Force is already turning to digital-first design with its eSeries of hardware, which has already notched a huge win with the design, assemblage and testing of its Next Generation Air Dominance aircraft — designed to replace the FA-18 Hornet.

Roper comes to his position in the Air Force after what has already been a long and storied career in the military. He previously served as the founding director in the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office. First created in 2012, the SCO was designed to imagine new applications for existing government and commercial systems. During his tenure, Roper. grew the budget of the SCO from $50 million to $1.5 billion.

Under the program Roper developed new concepts like hypervelocity artillery, multi-purpose missiles, autonomous fast-boats, smartphone-navigating weapons, big-data-enabled sensing, 3-D printed systems, fighter avatars, and fighter-dispersed swarming micro-drones.

The breadth of Roper’s vision about the capabilities that the U.S. will need to compete in a 21st century combat scenario will likely be one of the subjects we discuss — as well as the role Roper sees for startups in developing those technologies.

Those contributions could come through participation in programs like AFVentures, which paid out nearly $800 million to companies for programs like the Air Force’s flying car program, as well as the nation’s space launch program.

“This is how we provide our forces the capabilities they’ll need to win on the unpredictable, rapidly evolving innovation battlefield in this century by fundamentally changing how we build and acquire systems and with whom we build them, so that no matter what our adversaries do in the future, we will have the agility to overmatch and win,” Roper told his audience in September. “Then we will innovate faster, we will adapt quicker and ultimately stay ahead to disrupt and win.”

To hear Roper’s thoughts on the future of the Air Force’s technological innovations, you can grab a ticket to get exclusive access to watch this session (along with many others) live (with access to video on demand), network with the innovators changing the space industry, discover the hottest early-stage companies, learn how to score grants for your space company, recruit talent or even find a job.

Get an early-bird ticket for just $125 until November 13. And we have discounts available for groupsstudentsactive military/government employees and for early-stage space startup founders who want to give their startup some extra visibility.


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Eat Just to sell lab-grown meat in Singapore after gaining “world first” regulatory approval

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Eat Just will start offering lab-grown chicken meat in Singapore after gaining regulatory approval from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). The cell-cultured chicken will eventually be produced under Eat Just’s new GOOD Meat brand through partnerships with local manufacturers and go on sale to restaurants before it is available to consumers.

No chickens were killed to obtain the cell line used to produce Eat Just’s cultured meat, global head of communications Andrew Noyes told TechCrunch. Instead, the process starts with cell isolation, where cells are sourced through methods that can include a biopsy from a live animal. After the cells are cultured, they are transferred into a bioreactor, fed with a proprietary mix of proteins, amino acids, minerals, sugars, salts and other nutrients and then harvested after they achieve enough density.

While there are plenty of other companies working on lab-grown meats using various techniques, Eat Just describes the Singapore government’s review and regulatory approval as a “world first.” The company said that during the approval process, it went through 20 productions runs of cell-cultured chicken in 1,200-liter bioreactors to prove the consistency of its manufacturing process. Eat Just also said no antibiotics were used and that its cultured chicken has an “extremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological content than conventional chicken.”

Noyes said the company is already working with a restaurant to add its GOOD Meat chicken to their menu, and hopes to announce a launch date soon.

In Eat Just’s announcement today, chief executive officer Josh Tetrick said, “Singapore has long been a leader in innovation of all kinds, from information technology to biologics to now leading the world in building a healthier, safer food system.”

The government is currently engaged in an initiative, called “30 by 30,” to produce 30% of the country’s food supply locally by 2030. Spearheaded by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), the initiative was prompted because Singapore currently imports over 90% of its food, which makes it vulnerable to export bans or the logistics issues highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact. As part of “30 by 30,” the SFA and Agency for Science, Technology and Research has made $144 million SGD in research funding available.

Eat Just, whose other products include a plant-based egg substitute, announced last month it is partnering with Proterra Investment Partners Asia to launch a new Asian subsidiary. The partnership includes a factory in Singapore that received support from the government’s Economic Development board.

There are several factors driving demand for cultured meat and plant-based protein in Asian markets. The first is concerns about the safety of meat from slaughterhouses that gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic also highlighted vulnerabilities in the production and supply chain that can be potentially be avoided with lab-produced meat and meat alternatives.

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Apple releases its ‘Best of 2020’ App Store winners and most downloaded apps of the year

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Apple today released its highly anticipated annual list of the best apps and games of 2020. As in previous years, App Store editors selected the winners based on factors like the app’s quality, creative design, usability and use of Apple technology, among other things. The “Best of 2020” winners this year include a number of apps that helped people transition to a life spent at home. For example, home workout app Wakeout! won iPhone App of the Year, while Zoom snagged the top spot as the iPad App of the Year.

Disney+, which helped families keep kids entertained during coronavirus lockdowns, won for Apple TV App of the Year. The streaming service had just won “best app” in Google Play’s User Choice category, announced on Tuesday alongside its other Play Store winners.

Image Credits: Wakeout!

Top games of the year highlighted our collective need for escapism, often to fantasy worlds. This year, the list of game winners included Genshin Impact (also a Play Store “best game” winner) for iPhone Game of the Year; Legends of Runeterra as iPad Game of the Year; Disco Elysium as Mac Game of the Year; Dandara Trials of Fear as Apple TV Game of the Year; and Sneaky Sasquatch as the Apple Arcade Game of the Year.

Image Credits: Fantastical

Meanwhile, productivity app Fantastical won as Apple’s Mac App of the Year, a reflection of our new work-from-home lifestyles.

A relaxation and sleep app, Endel, won Apple Watch App of the Year.

Image Credits: Endel

It’s not surprising to see another relaxation app win a top app of the year accolade. Google just awarded sleep app, Loóna, the title of best app of 2020 on Tuesday, as well.

2020 has been a tough year filled with stressful events, including not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but Trump’s impeachment and November’s contentious U.S. presidential elections, the biggest stock market crash since ’87, protests and riots over racial injustice, wildfires in Australia and the U.S. West, the Weinstein verdict, Brexit, the deadly Beirut explosion, violence in Delhi, the Hong Kong protests, locust swarms in East Africa and deaths of prominent figures like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kobe Bryant Chadwick Boseman and others.

As Apple explained in its announcement, apps are a reflection of culture. And this year, they reflected people’s focus on self-care and mental health, remote work and learning, staying connected with family and friends, interactive and social gaming, and more.

Image Credits: Pokémon GO

Apple selected a handful of apps to reflect these “app trends,” including self-care app Shine, remote learning app Explain Everything Whiteboard, family messaging app Caribu, charitable giving app SharetheMeal and the revamped Pokémon GO, which shifted to support indoor gaming.

“This year, more than ever before, some of our most creative and connected moments happened in apps. This was thanks to the amazing work of developers who introduced fresh, helpful app experiences throughout the year,” said Phil Schiller, Apple Fellow, in a statement. “Around the world, we saw remarkable efforts from so many developers, and these Best of 2020 winners are 15 outstanding examples of that innovation,” he added.

Image Credits: Apple

This year’s “Best of” winners will receive the first-ever physical App Store Best of 2020 award, featuring the App Store logo set into 100% recycled aluminum, with the winner’s name on the side.

Apple also unveiled the most downloaded apps and games of the year, which, unlike its “best of” editorial selections, are a showcase of real consumer demand.

Not surprisingly, these lists included remote work must-haves like Zoom and Gmail; a number of escapist games and, not coincidentally, pandemic simulator Plague, Inc.; the viral hit Among Us! ,which even AOC live-streamed; kids’ “metaverse” platforms like Minecraft and Roblox; and the usual set of top social apps — this year led by TikTok, not a Facebook-owned app.

The most-downloaded apps and games of 2020 were, as follows:

Top Free iPhone Apps

  1. ZOOM Cloud Meetings
  2. TikTok
  3. Disney+
  4. YouTube
  5. Instagram
  6. Facebook
  7. Snapchat
  8. Messenger
  9. Gmail
  10. Cash App

Top Paid iPhone Apps

  1. TouchRetouch
  2. Procreate Pocket
  3. Dark Sky Weather
  4. Facetune
  5. HotSchedules
  6. AutoSleep Track Sleep
  7. The Wonder Weeks
  8. SkyView
  9. Shadowrocket
  10. Sky Guide

Top Free iPhone Games

  1. Among Us!
  2. Call of Duty: Mobile
  3. Roblox
  4. Subway Surfers
  5. Ink Inc. – Tattoo Drawing
  6. Magic Tiles 3: Piano Game
  7. Brain Test: Tricky Puzzles
  8. Brain Out
  9. Coin Master
  10. Cube Surfer!

Top Paid iPhone Games

  1. Minecraft
  2. Plague Inc.
  3. Heads Up!
  4. Monopoly
  5. Bloons TD6
  6. Geometry Dash
  7. NBA 2K20
  8. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  9. The Game of Life
  10. True Skate

Top Free iPad Apps

  1. ZOOM Cloud Meetings
  2. Disney+
  3. YouTube
  4. Netflix
  5. Google Chrome
  6. TikTok
  7. Amazon Prime Video
  8. Gmail
  9. Hulu
  10. Google Classroom

Top Paid iPad Apps

  1. Procreate
  2. GoodNotes 5
  3. Notability
  4. Duet Display
  5. Teach Your Monster
  6. LumaFusion
  7. Affinity Designer
  8. Toca Hair Salon 3
    9: Toca Life: Hospital
  9. Toca Kitchen 2

Top Free iPad Games

  1. Among Us!
  2. Roblox
  3. Magic Tiles 3: Piano Game
  4. Ink Inc. – Tattoo Drawing
  5. Call of Duty: Mobile
  6. Subway Surfers
  7. Dancing Road: Color Ball Run!
  8. Tiles Hop – EDM Rush
  9. Mario Kart Tour
  10. Save The Girl!

Top Paid iPad Games

  1. Minecraft
  2. Monopoly
  3. Bloons TD 6
  4. Plague Inc.
  5. Geometry Dash
  6. The Game of Life
  7. Five Nights at Freddy’s
  8. Human: Fall Flat
  9. Stardew Valley
  10. Terraria

Top Arcade Games

  1. Sneaky Sasquatch
  2. Hot Lava
  3. Skate City
  4. Sonic Racing
  5. PAC-MAN Party Royale
  6. SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit
  7. Oceanhorn 2
  8. Crossy Road Castle
  9. WHAT THE GOLF?
  10. LEGO Brawls

 

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Extra Crunch membership now available to readers in Israel

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We’re excited to announce that Extra Crunch memberships are now available in Israel. That adds to our existing support in:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Argentina, Brazil, Mexico
  • UK and select European countries
  • Australia

Sign up for Extra Crunch membership here.

Use the code ISRAEL122020 during checkout for an additional 25% off an annual or 2-year plan. The discount code expires on December 11, 2020.

Israel has always been of interest to TechCrunch. It’s home to one of the hottest startup scenes in the world with endless successful companies emerging from the region. From 2018 to 2019, over $1.4B in funding went to Israeli cybersecurity startups. Startups like Check Point, CyberX, and Illusive Networks have helped reimagine cybersecurity, while companies like Lemonade have disrupted the insurance industry. Whether it’s robotics or hardware startups, there’s no shortage of diverse interest with Israeli startups.

We’ve also had the pleasure of hosting several in-person events in Tel Aviv over the years, and we’ve loved meeting the talented startup founders and investors in the region. There are a number of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the startup scene here, but the passion and enthusiasm of the founders in Israel is near the top of the list. 

Thanks to everyone who voted on where to expand. If you’d like to see Extra Crunch memberships available in your country, let us know here.

Join Extra Crunch by heading here.

What is Extra Crunch?

Extra Crunch is a membership program from TechCrunch that helps you spot technology trends and opportunities, build better startups, and stay connected. It features thousands of articles, including weekly investor surveys, daily private market analysis, and expert interviews on fundraising, growth, monetization, and other work topics.

We’d love to have you join our growing community of founders, investors, and startup teams.

Committing to an annual and two-year plan will save you a few bucks on the membership price and unlock access to TechCrunch event discounts and Partner Perks. Extra Crunch annual membership gets you 20% off tickets to virtual events like TC Sessions: Space. The Partner Perks program features discounts and savings on services from DocSend, Crunchbase, AWS and more.

You can sign up or learn more about Extra Crunch here.

Don’t forget to use the code ISRAEL122020 during checkout for an extra 25% off an annual or 2-year plan. The discount code expires on December 11, 2020.

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