Why lead engineers, from aerospace to nuclear fusion scale-ups, met in Lisbon to share development secrets for a faster engineering future | Iteration22

Panel with Livingston Holder, Daria Stepanova, Dan Brunner & Marco Witzmann

Engineers, CTOs and tech leaders met in Lisbon to discuss how collaboration between disciplines can speed up and improve the development of highly complex products, and turn science fiction into reality. 

We’re all facing very similar problems!

Ben Anstey, Volta Trucks

Contents: how engineering will develop in the next ten years


In 1960, James Kip Finch wrote that “The engineer has been, and is, a maker of history”

And it’s arguable that, given the various existential problems the world faces today, it is more urgent than ever for engineers to make history. And do it fast! 

This is one of the reasons why CTOs & head engineers in a wide variety of engineering-centric industries – from small satellite builders, to nuclear fusion solvers – met at Iteration22 in Lisbon to rethink and reimagine the way that complex engineering is done.

Through keynote speeches and interrogative questioning, the 2 day conference format provided a platform for the sharing of ideas, experience, and processes.

One of the key takeaways of Iteration22? There is much more that unites engineers from different industries, than divides them.

Even though we heard from people that are:

  • Attempting to solve the problem of nuclear fusion for limitless and clean energy
  • Developing the largest habitable volume in space
  • Creating electric logistics for cleaner and greener cities
  • Removing Space debris from orbit to continue humanity’s exploration of the cosmos
  • & many more descriptions of projects that are turning science fiction into reality

It became clear that the problems that are faced in complex product development are universal, and there is much that can be learned from the collective sharing of successes and failures. 

Let’s find out what happened during Iteration22…

Venue – Tejo Power Station, Lisbon.

The power station on the river Tejo, the venue for Iteration22

The antiquated Tejo Power Station that sits on the edge of the Tejo river in Lisbon, steeped in engineering history, became the backdrop for Iteration22. 

With the original (and giant) machinery – installed in 1908 – still intact, the building felt like a pertinent place to put forward revolutionary ideas of an engineering future. 

To enter the Iteration22 stage, speakers and participants had to snake through the ground floor of the power plant, passing by old lamps made of mercury, analogue circuit boards that once controlled the city’s power, and giant high pressure boilers – relics of an engineering history that now help to inspire the engineers of tomorrow. 

Meeting at iteration22 amongst the turbines

Day 1 – Radian Aerospace & Reusable Orbit Vehicles to Commonwealth Fusion Systems & Limitless Energy 

Former USAF payload astronaut Livingston Holder, who is now the founder of Radian Aerospace, was the first keynote speaker at Iteration22, and opened by describing it as “a truly extraordinary event, the first of its kind.”

During a brief history of rocketry, Livingston introduced the Tsoliokvosky Formula and how it is used to develop Radian’s idea of building the world’s first reusable orbital aerospace vehicle.

Livingston’s final message of his presentation, ‘the rockets will change, but the physics will not’ was a nod to how equations like Tsoliokvsoky’s remain a reliable constant whilst radical changes and developments happen to hardware in this daring world of technological innovation. 

See More Iteration22 Videos

Ben Anstey, the Director of Electrical Systems and Digital Experience talked us through the journey at Volta Trucks, who are aiming to ‘go from big idea to global business in 6 years’. Those that work in complex product development, and especially in the automotive industry, might balk at the idea of such rapid development. Ben said:

What we intend to do from start, at the beginning of 2021 when fundraising was raised, to launch which is at the tail end of this year [2022], is deliver a product end to end, validate it into a high volume manufacturing environment, in 2 years

Ben prefaced this bold claim by mentioning that “those that work in automotive will see this timeline as aggressive and somewhat reckless”. Ben’s disclaimer that safety underpins everything that is done at Volta Trucks, gives comfort to those assuming that well-being will be traded-off for time.

More keynote speeches from day 1 at Iteration22

  • Bill Tandy, Chief Engineer @ Gravitics How to Engineer a Next-Generation Space Station 
  • Skyler Shuford, Founder & COO @ Hermeus – Tech and Money Aren’t Enough 
  • Isabel Franco do Carmo, CTO @ Innovative Charging Solutions – Leading Teams to Develop Complex Products
  • Federico Giusto, Systems Engineer @ ispace – Moonshot Technology
  • Dan Brunner, CTO @ Commonwealth Fusion Systems – How to Succeed at Concurrent R&D and Design to Reduce Time to Market 
  • Panel Discussion: How to Structure 10x Development Teams

MBSE white paper

Day 2 – Joe Justice & organizing teams in Elon Musk’s companies to Hyperloop TT & developing high speed intercity transport

Joe Justice, the CEO of WikiSpeed and the creator of the concept of eXtreme Manufacturing, took the stage (virtually) with a talk titled: Everyone Must be a Chief Engineer. 

The intention of Joe’s keynote speech was to summarize lessons learned from unconventional workplaces and teach company chiefs “How to take a company that runs in a normal way, and move it towards the way that Elon Musk runs a company.”

Joe recounted tales from his time at SpaceX and Tesla and described the various methods and working practices of the Musk companies that allow for fast, iterative product development and enable for industry-changing impact. 

Day 2, and indeed Iteration22, ended with the 3rd panel discussion of the conference. The conversation, hosted by Valispace’s Marco Witzmann, was centred around the question, ‘How should hardware engineering evolve in the coming 10 years?’

Panel with Livingston Holder, Daria Stepanova, Dan Brunner & Marco WitzmannMarco was joined on stage by Dan Brunner of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, German Orbital Systems CTO, Daria Stepanova, and Radian Aerospace founder Livingston Holder.

The panel considered how technology and process improvements, combined with new ways of collaborating across industries and sharing knowledge between people will lead to an explosion of engineering output that is similar to the transformation of the software industry that happened in the late 90’s and beyond.

After the panel talk, the participants moved to the rooftop of the Museum of Architecture, Art and Technology for drinks, dancing and last minute discussions under Lisbon’s setting sun. The rising full moon underneath Lisbon’s famous bridge signalled the end of the inaugural Iteration22 and ispace’s Federico Giusto could be heard telling people ‘that’s my office’ whilst pointing at the lunar marvel in the sky.

Conversations had in those final two hours confirmed one of the events main takeaways: there is much more that unites engineers than that divides them, no matter what engineering vertical they exist in.

For hardware engineering to make rapid improvements in development speed and turn science fiction into reality much quicker, speaking to other engineers that are also trying to engineer the impossible is a good start.

More keynote speeches from day 2 at Iteration22

Frederic C. Baker, CPO @ ClearSpaceThe ClearSpace Adventure

Kiwook Jung, Senior Manager of the Blueprint Digital & Analytics Team @ Northvolt Blueprint as an Enabler to Fast and Cost-efficient Scale-up for Gigafactory

  • Daria Stepanova, CTO @ German Orbital SystemsRockets Will Not Wait
  • Johannes Norheim, Postdoctoral Associate @ MIT – Shaping the Future of Technology with Modelling and Roadmapping
  • Marco Witzmann, CEO @ Valispace – Why Modularized Product Development is the Holy Grail of Hardware Engineering
  • Alexandre Zisa, VP Programs @ Hyperloop TT – Product Development Approaches for Complex Systems
  • Panel Discussion: How to Pick the Right Tool Stack for the Job


Dan Brunner – “Sometimes it’s very lonely being an engineering technology leader at the top of an organization and it’s great to have an event where we all come together to talk about our common successes and issues”

Daria Stepanova – “What made me very excited about Iteration22 is that the audience consists mostly of engineers and tech leads and we are able to share our pain points our solutions and methods we are using from different kinds of projects starting from small satellites, transportation and even nuclear fusion – and that’s awesome.”

Ben Anstey – ‘It’s been really interesting to see, no matter what the industry, that we’re all facing very very similar problems, and we’re going about facing them sometimes in the same way, but often in completely different ways and you can get some learnings from that, and some ideas that we can take back to our own operations”

Think one sprint ahead – register for Iteration23

Registration is already open for next year’s Iteration. Register today and join the community of forward thinking engineers and doers and help bring forward the development of tomorrow.

Apply for Iteration23!

Book a Valispace demo