A shark, said Woody Allen, will die unless it moves forward. Aerospace development cycles are necessarily long but, as competition intensifies, companies have to get from ideas to business fast. Airbus BizLab and Airbus Helicopters I³ accelerators are injecting the required speed.
The Head of Airbus BizLabs is Bruno Gutierres, who also is on this global aerospace business accelerator’s screening committee
BizLab is Airbus’ new business accelerator and a hive of activity. Looking for all the world like they are fresh off the red-eye flight from San Francisco, project groups in t-shirts, skinny jeans and sneakers engage in earnest conversation. There’s a buzz of creativity in the air. If the scene has the look and feel of a start-up, it’s one the team deliberately chooses to project.
Bizlab’s centrepiece is the Agora, a mini-amphitheatre where company intrapreneurs, in the jargon, have 10 minutes to pitch their idea to a steering committee. These early-stage projects are on a six-month acceleration path to maturity – or obscurity.
That gamble is hard-wired into the BizLab philosophy: Director Bruno Gutierres cheerfully acknowledges that seven out of ten projects will fail. “Getting it right first time is important if you’re building a new aircraft,” he says, “but in the start-up world, be wary of instant success.”
BizLab is open to value creation within and without the aerospace eco-system. By bringing together the two worlds, the goal is to gradually introduce start-up logic at Airbus while getting access to the newest technologies and ways of working.
Many fledgling aerospace businesses struggle to turn tech into revenue. Some are unable to develop a viable commercial proposition, others struggle to access customers or face long certification. “It slows the pace of innovation,” Gutierres says. “By taking inspiration from outside, BizLab is a step towards remedying that situation.”
Tomasz Krysinski, Head of Research and Innovation
“The best innovation processes are very selective. You have to gather many ideas, evaluate their potential, then abandon most in favour of acceleration for the few projects that will generate high value.”
Head of Research & Innovation at Airbus Helicopters
“Processes tend to stifle invention as they encourage repetition, as opposed to rupture.” For Airbus Helicopters creator Tomasz Krysinski the idea matters more than what you do with it. As Head of Research & Innovation he drives the Division’s I³ methodology - Innovation, Idea, Incubation. It’s a system conceived to incubate ideas outside of Airbus Helicopters' standard processes and nurse them towards commercialisation.
I³ makes use of strict quality gates to assess projects quickly, studying the business case and technical readiness.
It is a pragmatic process defined by the uncompromising spirit of I³'s 40 team members. Their biggest success to date is the full-scale X³ demonstrator, a prototype high-speed rotorcraft which set a new speed record in 2013. But the facility has developed and modified smaller components too, covering the waterfront of helicopter design.