FINN talks to Dr Christian Suttner, Managing Partner at Starburst, an aerospace start-up accelerator.

Dr Suttner told FINN: “Aerospace is one of the slower industries to jump on ‘outside innovation’ and the start-up train.”

However, he added that this is starting to change.

Pivotal years

Suttner said: “The OEMs have taken the lead, and many Tier 1s have followed. MROs are on the, I’d say, more lagging side. Only the leading airlines and the airline MROs are really active. Some of them are really active doing something; many are watching.

“But now, many of the solutions start-ups can provide are coming to a maturity stage where it really becomes relevant for all of them.”

He added: “A good example is MRO drone inspection of aircraft. That started in 2015. Only the leaders in the field were working with start-ups at that time. It’s being spread now, and also maturity-wise, these solutions are now in a stage where I would say 2019 and 2020 are the pivotal years where it’s going to really br mass adoption. I’d say in 10 years, all these individual inspections will be done by drones.”

Scouting for success

Starburst has ‘scouted’ over 4,000 start-ups which have high potential in the aerospace industry. These are then filtered down based on demand and maturity.

Suttner said: “Obviously, for corporates it’s not relevant if somebody just came up with a business plan. The corporate partners we have need demonstrators or at least prototypes that [are ready to be] tested.”

He added: “This is our sweet spot – filtering the huge amount of start-ups that are around down to what’s actually relevant to our aerospace partners.”

Starburst says it has helped accelerate 215 start-ups to date.

Examples of Starburst success stories include 8tree, which has created an automated visual inspection tool to identify maintenance requirements, and Flightwatching, which uses existing data (including historic data) for real-time monitoring of the aircraft.

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