Apr 6, 2017 | By Tess

American aircraft manufacturer Boeing has announced the launch of HorizonX, its new venture capital division that will be geared specifically towards investing in innovative tech startups. HorizonX will reportedly be looking to several areas of interest for its investments, including 3D printing, self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

The small venture capital arm of Boeing will be headed by Steve Nordlund, who was previously in charge of drone company InSitu before it was acquired by Boeing in 2008. According to Nordlund, HorizonX will be seeking to invest “tens of millions of dollars” a year into startups and companies with innovative tech visions.

Along with the launch, HorizonX has already announced its first two investments: Zunum Aero and Upskill. Zunum Aero is a Seattle-based company that is developing small electric-hybrid aircraft with the goal of reducing the costs of travelling to regional airports.

Concept images from Zunum Aero

The company, which is in its early stage of development, has also received support from JetBlue Technology Ventures, the venture capital arm of JetBlue Airways. Its plan is to develop short-haul hybrid aircraft that will be used regionally to carry passengers on popular routes, such as between Boston and Washington D.C., and San Francisco to Los Angeles. Zunum Aero says it expects to fly its first hybrid-plane by 2020, and that its technology has the potential to fill a “vast regional transport gap” and will cut back on travel times.

Upskill, for its part, is a software company based in Washington, D.C. that is using smart eyewear and augmented reality to assist workers in manufacturing, logistics, and field services with complex tasks. Boeing has already worked with Upskill, and has seen positive results; it managed to cut the time it takes to wire its planes by up to 25% by using its Skylight software program.

According to Nordlund, Boeing’s aim is not necessarily to profit directly from the companies it is investing in through HorizonX, but rather to promote the advancement of technologies it can benefit from accessing, such as 3D printing, autonomous cars, wearables, etc. “These are all starting to converge and have the potential to fundamentally change how we operate inside and outside of companies,” he commented.

At present, the investment amounts for the two companies have not been disclosed and Nordlund has stated that there are no plans as of yet for additional investments. HorizonX is expected to seek out tech companies that are capable of bringing their products and technologies to market within the next five to 15 years.

The new venture capital division is also expected to back a global business services unit that Boeing is preparing to launch this year. HorizonX will be based out of Boeing’s Chicago headquarters and is being run by a staff of 30 to 40 people.

 

 

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