With the launch of a game-changing new industry-acceleration space at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Volusia County civic leaders Cici and Hyatt Brown are promoting innovation, creating high-paying jobs and bolstering Florida’s advanced technology workforce to benefit future generations.
The Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology, supported by the couple’s remarkably generous $25 million gift, which was matched by Governor Ron DeSantis and the State of Florida, firmly establishes Daytona Beach as a key player in the rapidly growing commercial space arena. With the 105,000-square-foot expansion of Embry-Riddle’s Research Park, the university is poised to take its economic development efforts to a whole new level, thanks to the Browns. Already, however, those efforts have exceeded expectations — reinforcing what the Browns saw as a wise investment in the future of their community.
In 2021, for example, Embry-Riddle’s Research Park generated $137 million in total economic impact in Florida — up nearly 50% compared with 2019, an independent economic assessment concluded. Since the 2017 opening of the Research Park’s cornerstone facility, the “MicaPlex” (John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex), Embry-Riddle’s Research Park has directly created more than 120 jobs with an average salary exceeding $78,000, thanks to some two-dozen affiliated companies. Since those jobs, in turn, support additional business enterprise, Embry-Riddle’s Research Park actually supports a total of 700 jobs, both directly and indirectly.
Beyond the numbers, business success stories abound at the university’s Research Park and will further multiply following the launch of the Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology. One tenant, Reamonn Soto, CEO and founder of Sensatek Propulsion Technology and an Embry-Riddle graduate, is commercializing a big idea to save gas turbine operators millions of dollars annually. The company develops wireless sensor technology to increase the operational reliability and performance of jet engines and high-temperature process flow applications. Like other Research Park entrepreneurs, his innovation has created well-paying new jobs in Volusia County. It has also garnered more than $5.5 million in funding.
With every business win, Sensatek is rocketing into multiple business arenas, including the global space economy. That’s a good place to be: Estimates vary, but Morgan Stanley’s Space Team says that global space industry could increase to more than $1 trillion in annual revenue by 2040. Cici and Hyatt Brown have ensured that Volusia County benefits from all of that economic progress, by affirming Embry-Riddle’s status as a leading aerospace innovator.
One example of that innovation is EagleCam — a miniature satellite camera system that will soon become the first American satellite to touch the moon’s surface since the Apollo Days. Developed in the university’s Space Technologies Laboratory, EagleCam will deploy from Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C Lunar Lander spacecraft and capture the world’s first third-person shot of an extraterrestrial landing. The system will also gather key information about the lunar environment and terrain, to inform future missions, including the first demonstration of WiFi communication on the moon’s surface. Having delivered the EagleCam hardware, Embry-Riddle student and faculty researchers are now working on a multi-camera system that will fly aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, launching on a Falcon 9 rocket, with the goal of capturing video of the first-ever commercial spacewalk.
To promote more such innovation and job growth, the Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology will complement Embry-Riddle’s other successful industry platforms, including cybersecurity and safety centers. The unique Research Park ecosystem promotes transformational ideas. Equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation, the new center will allow entrepreneurs like Mauricio Toro, CEO and co-founder of TECHFIT Digital Surgery, to keep driving Volusia County’s economy forward. To date, Toro has invested millions into the local economy, while selling surgical implants to help people on Earth. Someday, he may offer biotechnology solutions for space, too.
Supported by visionaries like Cici and Hyatt Brown, Embry-Riddle is working to position Daytona Beach and the state of Florida as the place to be for aerospace innovation. At the Research Park, Embry-Riddle is accelerating innovation to create high-paying jobs, while cultivating a talented workforce to serve industry.