Airbus launched its first BizLab aerospace accelerator on 9 March. The 700m2 Toulouse facility is the first in a start-up-nurturing network that will extend to Hamburg and Bangalore. BizLab provides bright ideas with resources and support to take them to market faster. Guests at the inauguration heard from experienced speakers including ‘angel’ investor Semyon Dukach, who told Airbus’ budding intrapreneurs not to fear failure – as long as they believe in success from the start.
Turning ideas into income helps companies stay ahead but in aeronautics the process can take a long time. In conjunction with ProtoSpace facilities in four countries and the Ideaspace online tool, Bizlab speeds up that transformation.
“Airbus has been a front-line innovator for years but our ecosystem is changing. We are playing in a fast-moving environment,” explains BizLab director Bruno Gutierres. “In shifting our focus to incremental innovation, we need to broaden our horizons to areas such as digitalisation, communications or nano-technology for example. It’s about creating value for customers.”
So BizLab encourages applications from both Airbus employees and the outside world, making it one of only a handful of ‘hybrid’ accelerators that put people together who wouldn’t usually work side by side. A screening committee headed by chief innovation officer Yann Barbaux evaluates each idea. Successful projects enter a six-month acceleration programme with expert mentoring.
Semyon Dukach, Managing Director of start-up investor Techstars Boston, was a guest speaker at the opening. Questioned on what it takes to create a successful start-up, he answered that “passion, confidence, and the ability to manage crazy risks” contribute in equal measure. But above all, he said, “Never fear failure. My only fear is doing nothing.”
By partnering with established accelerators such as Techstars, Microsoft Ventures or Google, BizLab widens Airbus’ innovation ‘playground’, taking the search for ideas deep into other sectors. Fifteen projects have already been selected for acceleration and one has reached the market – Airbus’ runway overrun prevention system, or ROPS. “We want the best ideas to emerge at Airbus,” Yann Barbaux says.
BizLab will bring Airbus employees closer to smaller business. By working directly with entrepreneurs, Airbus’ innovators can ‘take a look outside’, learning how to work with greater speed and agility. “In return, smaller businesses will develop a better understanding of how Airbus works, helping them to tailor their ideas to our requirements,” Bruno concludes. “The opening of the first BizLab is exciting news for the wider aerospace industry too.”
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