It’s time to accelerate aerospace innovation with the Boeing HorizonX Challenge


The government’s Make in India initiative and the growth of the Indian startup ecosystem, now the world’s third-biggest, has seen many global companies view India as a source of tech innovations, which can then be locally manufactured at relatively lower costs.

One such industry is aerospace, where there is increasing demand not just for commercial fleets, but also updates and new purchases of military aircraft and parts. Global aerospace major Boeing has said it expects a demand for 2,100 new aircraft in India, valued at $290 billion, over the next 20 years. According to the company's 2017 annual commercial market outlook (CMO) for India, high passenger traffic and the growth of low-cost carriers will lead to the fulfilment for the demand.

The CMO report also states that India is expected to become the third-largest commercial aviation market by the early 2020s.

Creating opportunities

In a bid to leverage these developments, Boeing launched the HorizonX India Innovation Challenge 1.0 to discover and accelerate potentially transformative aerospace innovation from India.

“Boeing is excited about India’s potential for step-change innovation which could define the future of aerospace across the globe,” said Pratyush Kumar, President, Boeing India, adding, “We are building the future of aerospace, incubated and started right here in India by partnering with innovative companies.”

Held in partnership with Hyderabad-based T-Hub, the Challenge was aimed at attracting Indian startups to propose disruptive solutions to tackle complex challenges in the areas of autonomous and unmanned systems, advanced manufacturing, industrial IoT, analytics, and artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Boeing HorizonX functions as a pathfinder organisation for Boeing. From investment capital to technology commercialisation and improving market access, Boeing HorizonX has been turning new ideas and businesses across the globe into reality. Its Ventures portfolio is made up of companies specializing in autonomous systems, energy and data storage, advanced materials, augmented reality systems and software, machine learning, hybrid-electric and hypersonic propulsion, and IoT connectivity.

“Innovation can happen anywhere and startups around the world have the potential to bring disruptive capabilities to aerospace markets and drive our industry forward,” said Brian Schettler, Managing Director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures. “Boeing HorizonX is proud to partner with and invest in startups to help them mature and scale their products and services and create value for Boeing customers.”

A time to grow

Demo Day, which represents the finale of the inaugural challenge, will be held at the Boeing India Technology & Engineering Center (BITEC) in Bengaluru on July 30, where the graduating cohort will showcase their innovations.

The 22-week long challenge kicked off in November 2017 and was open to startups across the country. Regional outreach events at T-Hub centres were organised in Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Chennai.

Out of the more than 100 ideas submitted, 13 startups and six teams from Boeing’s research and technology centre made it to the final round of the innovation challenge. Ultimately, six finalists were selected to participate in a three-month accelerator programme at T-Hub, where they were mentored by experts from Startup India, Boeing subject matter experts and industry experts. Here’s a quick look at what these innovators are working on.

  1. Merxius: Developing a product that enables the creation of extended reality environments that can help save costs and reduce training times in aerospace manufacturing.
  2. HUVIAiR: Providing custom unmanned aircraft services and software solutions for surveying and workflow management.
  3. ZestIoT:Specialising in connecting the airport and airplane ecosystem using IoT connectivity to optimise ground handling at airports and improve on-time performance of airplanes.
  4. Boeing teams:Developing path-breaking ideas in the areas of drone market aggregation, spare parts and end-of-life aircraft parts management, and improving airplane maintenance performance.

“Within three months, Boeing HorizonX has enabled us to shape our product and refine our business development strategy through interactions with renowned mentors, class room sessions and regular progress tracking weekly reviews. The ability to get a foot in the door and create customer and mentor connections is what added immense value to us as an emerging disrupter in aerospace. Now, with Boeing supporting and accelerating our solution, we are planning to expand our footprint globally and targeting a revenue of $500 million by 2021 with our solutions,” says Vikshut Mundkur, Co-founder & CEO of HUVIAiR.

“We are happy to be working with Boeing to identify the right startups and entrepreneurs for the Boeing HorizonX Challenge,” said Jay Krishnan, CEO T-Hub. “In today’s age, innovation is fostered by collaboration rather than competition, resulting in co-creating possibilities for the future and a win-win partnership between startups and industry. T-Hub is playing an important role in bringing together the best companies and startups to work with each other, resulting in the most innovative and practical solutions,” he added.

“The Boeing HorizonX India Innovation Challenge has been the perfect platform. The accelerator has provided us with the opportunity to have our ideas and solution validated by a number of experts from both Boeing and T-Hub, allowing us to ensure that our key mechanics as a startup are in place. We hope to leverage Boeing’s support as we head towards our Go-To-Market stage,” said Amit Sukhija, Founder & CEO of ZestIoT.

As part of the final Demo Day, these startups will present their innovations to an audience comprising of potential customers and investors. The event will also showcase the talent and the innovation at Boeing’s engineering centre.

Boeing will continue to collaborate with the three external startup teams to help further their businesses. The ideas presented by the Boeing teams are under evaluation as potential future company offerings.

Speaking about the future, Vaishali Neotia of Merxius says, “We believe that innovation for the Indian aerospace ecosystem can create positive disruption that has the potential to permeate to other sectors. Boeing HorizonX provides startups likes ours the opportunity to showcase our potential to the world.”

To find out more about the innovation that Boeing HorizonX is fostering and the finalists of the Boeing HorizonX India Innovation Challenge, click here.


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