Connecting researchers and leaders from different fields – and challenging their assumptions in the process – creates the kind of environment innovation needs. This spirit is visible at Airbus Leadership University, Airbus DS' Space4Ideas lab and the Group's Innovation Nursery.
Airbus has launched its ambitious multi-site Leadership University. Its main campus, located opposite the A380 final assembly line in Toulouse, will open its doors in the autumn of 2016. The University aspires to combine leadership and innovation, reaching out to entrepreneurs to pass on their experience and taste for risk to all leaders across the Group.
One of these entrepeneurs is Kristy Anamoutou, Innovation Manager for the Leadership University. “You have to love experimenting if you want to get out of your comfort zone, even if that means failing sometimes,” she says. Anamoutou's own inspiration comes in part from the arts scene – particularly the world of design and hip hop and how it creates solutions.
Ulrich Kuebler (right)
Head of Innovation at Airbus Defence and Space
Creativity has a home at Space4Ideas, a facility dedicated to free thinking at Airbus Defence and Space’s Les Mureaux facility near Paris and scheduled for replication in Germany and the UK.
“Not everyone can travel to California, but we can educate people here by connecting with innovators in Silicon Valley or wherever else, learning lessons and opening up to new ideas,” says Ulrich Kuebler, Head of Innovation at Airbus Defence and Space.
On offer: the quiet room and floor-to-ceiling whiteboards. “Ideas start to link together when you draw on the walls,” Kuebler says. Most of all, Space4Ideas is about providing a different environment. Teams developing future concepts such as Adeline – a reusable launcher – and a multi-satellite dispenser have made regular visits to the Space4Ideas.
Kuebler and his team have also recently begun to work with Startupbootcamp, one of Europe’s largest business accelerators. “It brings access to a huge pool of talent working on the future of energy and transportation. As a partner, Airbus gets a look at the brightest ideas and can send in mentors to expose them to the start-up environment,” he says.
Airbus pushes the boundaries of creation by fast-tracking the brightest ideas through a network of nurseries.
Did you know that Airbus has already nurtured over 20 internal start-ups? Since 2008, the Chief Technical Office’s (CTO) Innovation Nursery has provided coaching and funding to accelerate ideas. “Research and technology is invention. Innovation is the application of invention to create value,” says nursery head Otto Gies.
The nursery looks at left-field ideas that have no obvious application to the Group’s core business of making things fly – yet.
The Airbus Innovations team who developed Deckfinder, a system to improve landing on ships which was born in the Nursery.
HAPS Zephyr is a high-altitude pseudo-satellite with drone functionality. It looks like a glider and, being solar powered, offers airborne coverage of a defined area for future medium- and long-term missions. The CTO nursery funded its development as a start-up initiative. Today, several countries and research institutes are showing great interest in the services that can be deployed from this technology demonstrator and Zephyr has entered Airbus Defence and Space’s product line.
Speetect is a rapid detection method for bacteria in water, developed as a CTO start-up. The objective is to speed up water monitoring in galley or lavatory facilities of commercial aircraft. The market for Speetect’s sensor-based approach stretches to any sector in which water is used in industrial processes. Pilot projects are ongoing and serial production starts later in 2015. Now, the search for an external partner is underway.
Deckfinder has become the standard in the field of Precision Approach and Landing Systems (PALS). Originally developed to make landing at difficult airports easier, the technology was successfully reworked for a different application: rotorcraft and drone Vertical Take-Off and Landing capability for ships, a notoriously difficult manoeuvre.
APWorks – a 100% Airbus subsidiary – provides consulting and engineering services to external customers for state-of-the-art technologies developed within Airbus Innovations. It bridges the gap between R&T development and serial production. Besides the commercialisation of technologies such as the DeltaN FS® friction-stir welding system, APWorks offers its deep expertise in Additive Layer Manufacturing (3D printing) to industries such as automotive and robotics.