Accelerate and innovate

AMMay20Features - Boeing1
AMMay20Features - Boeing1

Dr Neil Calder talks to Gabriela Matic, the programme director for the ATI Boeing Accelerator, about what the ATI Boeing Accelerator initiative actually involves and how it is making an impact on the aerospace sector.


The ATI Boeing Accelerator is a three-month programme for world-class startups building industry 4.0 and sustainability enabling technologies, with the potential to bolster the growth and competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry. The accelerator offers a £100K equity investment per startup, plus first-hand access to Boeing, GKN Aerospace and ATI strategists and technical experts, and a wealth of other perspectives and connections.

The programme team: Johanna Campion, Wil Benton, Gabriela Matic, Ksenia Kurileva

The programme is delivered by Ignite in partnership with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Boeing and GKN Aerospace. The ATI came to Ignite because they had the experience in running successful accelerator programmes, and launched the programme with the sponsorship of Boeing and GKN Aerospace to encourage industry collaboration and to support startups that can truly accelerate the growth and competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry.

“Through the programme, our sponsors get direct access to innovation as it happens and learn how to work with startups productively and successfully,” Matic explains. “The first programme was intended for startups creating enabling technologies for industry 4.0 and sustainability and with the potential to bolster the growth and competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry. In the mobilisation phase, we spend a lot of time with all of the programme stakeholders to learn what kind of startups they want to work with and what kind of innovation can really make a difference for their businesses. There was a particular interest in innovative operations, manufacturing and logistics/supply chain startups.

“After opening applications in October 2019, we received 268 applications involving participation from 37 countries in just six weeks. From this group of 268, we down-selected to a shortlist of 30 startups who were interviewed during our Selection Day in November. From the 30, we selected our first cohort of nine companies, all of which are between the Seed and Series A stages of investment and have demonstrated some traction in either aerospace or an adjacent industry.”

The first cohort of companies comprised:

Anomalous — Edinburgh, Scotland (UK): Anomalous provides intelligent inspection software, making inspection in aerospace faster and more accurate.

Authentise — London and Philadelphia (UK and USA): Authentise delivers data-driven process automation software (with a workflow management engine and platform of manufacturing-related software modules) for additive manufacturing industries.

Circulor — London, England (UK): Circulor provides traceability in supply chains, tracking the provenance of raw materials to demonstrate responsible sourcing, to track carbon production in the supply chain and identify fraud.

Gravity Sketch — London, England (UK): Gravity Sketch empowers enterprise teams to collaborate and create in three dimensions by building intuitive multi-platform tools to radically improve the efficacy and efficiency of developing 3D products.

Intellegens — Cambridge, England (UK): Intellegens has a unique deep learning tool that can train deep neural networks from sparse or noisy data typical of experimental data sets.

Kraken IM — Middlesbrough, England (UK): Kraken IM helps companies develop strategies to collect and manage their engineering data and makes software that ensures that this information is available from their supply chains.

Perpetual Labs — London, England (UK): Perpetual Labs bring unparalleled efficiency to Engineering Design and Manufacturing via their secure, scalable and highly available Software as a Service product.

Plyable — Oxford, England (UK): Plyable uses the latest in AI and machine learning technology to create proprietary software that automates the design and manufacture of composite tooling, allowing customers to go from CAD to component automatically.

Septillion — Dunfermline, Scotland (UK): Septillion provides a secure blockchain-powered provenance platform for authenticating physical assets and verifying the genuine provenance and ownership of products throughout the supply chain and beyond.

Gary Elliott (ATI), Brian Schettler (Boeing HorizonX), Nicola Bates (Boeing HorizonX) at Selection Day

The first cohort acceleration period took place between January and April 2020 and so has just come to an end. The programme offered a £100k equity investment per startup from Boeing HorizonX Ventures which was structured as an uncapped SAFE - Simple Agreement for Future Equity. Alongside the financial investment, cohort member companies had first-hand access to strategists and technical experts from the sponsoring organisations. They were also provided with deskspace in central London for the duration of the programme, mentoring, networking, paid proof of concepts (POCs) with both Boeing and GKN Aerospace, and a number of other perks to help the startups run and grow their businesses. Both sponsors and the ATI spend considerable resources working with the startup founders and helping them shape their technologies, product and businesses over the course of the 12-week programme.

The accelerator’s operating costs are partly borne by government through the ATI and part industry funded through the programme’s sponsors. Boeing, as the programme platinum sponsor, also has the opportunity to invest into the companies on each cohort. This investment of approaching £1m is part of a wider Boeing HorizonX Global Ventures portfolio that includes European and Australasian companies.

Inspection software specialists, Anomalous pitching on Selection Day

Due to the current COVID-19 situation, the practical support for these nine startups has been extended and the programme team is working hard to support the founders in these difficult times.

Matic concludes: “As with the Ignite Accelerator, once you are part of this investment community you need never leave. There is an infrastructure in place to stay in touch with the companies to make sure they don’t just fall off a cliff edge after the formal programme comes to an end. This is particularly relevant within the aero sector with its long sales cycles.

“By sponsoring the programme, the ATI, Boeing and GKN Aerospace are creating and developing the UK-based ecosystem of aerospace startups, where our goal as a programme is to build and nurture a community of companies that develop innovative solutions that solve clear needs for the UK aerospace industry.

“There are lots of startup accelerators accessible to the UK, but we think startups should apply to the ATI Boeing Accelerator because our programme is Europe’s first accelerator specifically intended for early-stage and Series A aerospace companies. It provides significant investment through Boeing’s global VC arm and access to their procurement teams, and builds a curriculum of content to help with the needs of each company. We’re working with the government, industry and the broader technology ecosystem to bring everyone together.”

The first cohort programme finished just as the COVID-19 restrictions started. The Accelerator is hoping that a second cohort programme can be run early in 2021. These plans have been put back somewhat due to the necessary current social distancing requirements.

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