Airbus is launching an innovation hub that the aerospace group says will act as a fulcrum for nurturing new technologies, engaging with start-ups, and developing activities to support its recovery from the Covid pandemic. The Airbus Scale unit, which was announced on November 3, is intended to complement the company’s existing incubator units, including the Silicon Valley-based Acubed, the Airbus China Innovation Centre in Shenzhen, and the Airbus UpNext technology demonstrator unit.
According to Airbus, the new unit will build on the experience gained in both internal and external innovation work over the past seven years through its BizLab initiative. The company says Airbus Scale will seek to stimulate entrepreneurial initiatives by the group’s own employees (so-called "intrapreneurship"), as well as partnerships with external start-ups.
“Pioneering sustainable aerospace will be a collective challenge, and innovation is at the core of it,” said Airbus’s new chief technical officer, Sabine Klauke. “By setting up Airbus Scale, we will use our internal knowledge and know-how to scale up new companies from underutilized assets. We will also look outside to seek, and inject into Airbus, start-ups that have relevant technology for our future zero-emissions ambitions.”
Airbus Scale will take a twin-track approach. Internally, it will identify corporate innovation opportunities that should be brought to market and perhaps spun off as separate businesses with external investment. At the same time, the company will seek to partner with later-stage start-ups to mature and develop technological innovations.
The approach taken by the BizLab was to call for internal ideas and external early-stage start-ups that were then "accelerated" in-house. Instead, Airbus Scale will now focus its energy on already advanced internal concepts and in some cases developed technology that does not have a direct application within the group but that could have a viable path to market externally.
The Acubed unit in California was closely involved in the early stages of Airbus’s ambitions in eVTOL aircraft development. It was responsible for building and testing the Vahana single-seat technology demonstrator that, along with the larger CityAirbus model, led to the recent announcement of plans for the larger CityAirbus NextGen aircraft. Multiple former Acubed workers and other Airbus employees have gone on to found and join advanced air mobility startups.
Airbus Scale will be a self-financed unit of the European aerospace group. Over the past three years, Airbus has invested around €3 billion annually in research and development work.