A lifetime ago, in mid-December, our team piled into a small conference room to lay the groundwork for a Shift issue focused on innovation and venture capital.
The magazine would spotlight an exciting new Automotive News initiative, PACEpilot, which honors groundbreaking technologies that have not yet reached commercialization. Honoree selection was underway. The plan was to reveal the inaugural class at a March event in Detroit, part of our first-ever Innovation Week.
Less than two weeks after that planning meeting, the World Health Organization received reports of a mysterious outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Unbeknownst to any of us, what would become the coronavirus pandemic — and the dawn of the age of social distancing — had begun.
We decided around March 11 that the Detroit event had to be postponed, and days later we on the Automotive News staff suddenly found ourselves writing, editing, Slacking and Zooming from home. But we were lucky: Most of the PACEpilot profiles that you’ll see in this issue were prepared before the world went into lockdown mode. And we will turn what would have been a physical event into a series of virtual ones.
That’s good, because these stories of hard work and ingenuity are a reminder of the promise of innovation. The creative spirit lives on. The seeds that have been planted, and the ones that will be sown once this crisis abates, will sprout in the soil of a changed world.
There will be challenges. Some players in mobility and technology will go from being disrupters to being disrupted and will be forced to reinvent themselves. But at least for now, there are still investors eager to work with startups. The COVID-19 crisis may even create opportunities for some businesses.
Many of history’s biggest technological changes grew out of war. The enemy is different this time, but the army of innovators stands ready to deploy.