Companies invest billions in R&D to stay competitive and innovative in today’s global economy. And yet a surprising number of products that result from this R&D never make it fully to market because of lack of resources or focused attention. With experience in a wide range of industry sectors, Catalyze Dallas’ team widens the aperture for monetising these technologies on a broader scale.
Q) Firstly, please provide an introduction to the company?
Catalyze Dallas creates scalable businesses that commercialise intellectual property and products sourced from aerospace, global defence, and industrial companies, monetising significant investments in R&D, and accelerating innovations into new commercial markets.
Defence contractors are seeking ways to retain access to (for defence purposes) and accelerate the development of many closely held innovations that are strategic yet underfunded. We facilitate the acceleration of these strategic projects by supporting defence company opportunity capture, which we couple with our operational capability and shared services platform to reduce the risk of spin out. This creates high value by giving purpose-built aerospace and defence products new life and increased revenue streams through rapid commercialisation.
Q) What areas of the aircraft are your products most suitable for?
Currently, Catalyze Dallas has two affiliated operating companies, Alpine Advanced Materials and Metro Aerospace. Alpine is a leading materials applications company that designs and manufactures lightweight custom-engineered parts and products, while Metro specialises in additive manufacturing for aerospace and defence, transportation, and industrial solutions.
Q) And what do they consist of?
Alpine’s flagship HX5 military aviation-grade thermoplastic nanocomposite developed by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is used in high-performance components in the world’s most demanding aerospace, defence, space, and outdoor applications. In aerospace, Alpine’s advanced materials and part designs are ideal for replacing aluminium in anything non-structural that would benefit from lightweighting without loss of strength or performance. These include galleys, seats, cabins, latrines, as well as electronic enclosures and racks and other non-structural elements of the aircraft.
Metro Aerospace holds the exclusive global rights to design and supply Microvanes and other additively manufactured drag-reduction technologies to enhance performance and reduce fuel for both military and commercial operators.
Q) What benefits do they offer over and above traditional offerings?
Alpine recognises that lightweighting is one of the keys to reducing carbon emissions in aerospace – every gram saved translates to less fuel paid for and more distance travelled. With a high strength-to-weight ratio, thermal stability, environmental resistance, and manufacturing flexibility, Alpine’s HX5 can be injection moulded, formed, extruded, or machined like aluminium, allowing aerospace component manufacturers to make complex but strong shapes.
Metro’s additively manufactured parts for performance improvement and sustainment are currently used by fleets across five continents. One example is Microvanes, which are surface mounted on the aft body of rear cargo airframes to reshape tail section airflow, reducing the significant amount of drag created on aircrafts like the C-130, C-17, L-100, and KC-135. They have been proven to reduce fuel consumption, carbon emissions, and engine wear through lower turbine inlet temperatures (TIT), allowing fleets to extend time on mission, increase both range and payload capabilities, and reduce refuelling.
Q) Are there any customer success stories you can relate to?
Alpine’s HX5 has now been implemented on more than 25 independent designs as over 120 customers have engaged with the company. Stronger and lighter, HX5 is furthering more environmentally sound solutions as Alpine ensures more audiences know about it, design with it, and use it in place of traditional metals or carbon-filled peak.
The year it was founded, Metro Aerospace was awarded Aviation Week’s prestigious 61st Annual Laureate Award for Defence, Supplier Innovation. Today, Microvanes have proven to be the single most cost-effective improvement for rear cargo aircraft with airdrop capability. We not only accelerated the C-130/L-100 programmes, but, through Metro, also accelerated the market availability of Lockheed’s next design for the C-17.
Q) How easy is it to get your products through stringent and rigorous testing and accreditation procedures to certify it for flying aircraft?
With HX5, we’ve taken the last year as an opportunity to explore the characteristics of the advanced material with rigorous testing to aid in further certifications of actual manufactured components. We now have data on extreme radiation exposure, EMI shielding, UV resistance, and plating to help add to the body of evidence on its superior handling.
Because of our agile model, once we launched Microvanes through Metro, within six months we achieved AS9100 certification and began delivering on orders. It soon became clear there were significant benefits to spinning out the technology with Catalyze Dallas after we also achieved FAA certification on the L-100 commercial variant quickly.
Q) What have you been doing to get through the pandemic crisis?
One of the interesting things we’ve observed since launching in 2014 is that when times are hard for other businesses, they actually present real opportunities for us. Heightened pressure on the bottom line makes the prospect of spinning out technology for aerospace and defence companies more appealing. In the midst of Covid, our model has struck a chord. We’ve probably had more conversations about potential spinouts in the last six months than ever before.
Q) Do you think companies should be using this pandemic enforced downtime to effectively ‘reset’ and look at how efficiently they are running their businesses?
Yes, absolutely. While we always aid our clients widen their lens for evaluating commercial viability, this last year has been particularly active. With companies having the time, incentive, and need to take a closer look, the pandemic has been a great opportunity for us to help our clients find ways to accelerate the go-to-market for their promising innovations.
Q) What kind of industry landscape will we be faced with when everything gets back to normal?
Air travel is already starting to return. As it does, there will continue to be a focus on reducing emissions and fuelling green initiatives – this is exactly where our focus and ultimately our products shine and are purpose-built. We see this pandemic as a temporary purchase slowdown, but as we come out of it, we expect strong results in our commercial aerospace initiatives.
Q) Would you say that your long-standing partnerships - both with the client and supplier – have brought huge benefits, particularly as trusted relationships can lead to a better way forward for all?
The last few years have yielded many new opportunities with our partners who are making a general move towards turning their underutilised or purpose-built assets into commercial off-the-shelf products. Further, we grew closer to our clients and our suppliers during the pandemic as we shared best practices and supported each other.
Q) Finally, where to next for your company?
This is a year of economic discovery, recovery, and development, and we’re excited about the potential. For Catalyze, the field of innovations is ripe for harvest. As aerospace, defence, and industrial companies examine technologies that may not be serving their bottom lines, we expect our portfolio of affiliated companies will expand. As for our operating companies, the prospect of proliferating solutions for improving performance and reducing the carbon footprint is bright.