Boeing invests in tech companies Upskill, Zunum Aero

Boeing invests in tech companies Upskill, Zunum Aero

Forms new innovation cell, Boeing HorizonX, to uncover and accelerate emerging technologies, business models.

April 24, 2017
Edited by Eric Brothers

The Boeing Co. has made investments in two early-stage technology companies through the ventures arm of a new group called Boeing HorizonX, an innovation cell focused on accelerating potentially transformative aerospace technologies, manufacturing innovations, and emerging business models.

Boeing HorizonX has made a venture investment in Washington, D.C.-based Upskill, a provider of enterprise software for augmented reality wearables focused on enhancing productivity, quality, and safety in manufacturing, field service, and logistics. Boeing has been working with Upskill for more than two years to evaluate the use of its technology across multiple locations nationally. Aerospace Manufacturing and Design recently featured Upskill’s wearable technology used by Boeing in Smart glasses transform aircraft production.

Additionally, Boeing HorizonX is partnering with JetBlue Technology Ventures to invest in Zunum Aero, a Kirkland, Washington-based company pursuing the development of alternative propulsion aircraft, with potential for performance and efficiency improvements in a range of aerospace applications.

“Our ability to identify, shape and harness game-changing innovations wherever they are developed is key to sustaining and growing our leadership in aerospace,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president, and CEO. “Boeing HorizonX is tasked with ensuring we are fully engaged with opportunities from early-stage companies, market trends, and emerging technologies while also fostering more rapid and effective internal innovation.”

Steve Nordlund is leading Boeing HorizonX, taking the role after serving as vice president of strategy for Boeing Defense, Space & Security. Prior to his strategy role, Nordlund led Boeing’s Autonomous Systems division. He has led strategy and business development organizations in both defense and commercial airplane business units at Boeing and helped launch venture-backed Insitu Inc., which Boeing acquired in 2008, that developed the ScanEagle and Integrator unmanned aerial systems.

Boeing HorizonX will have three focus areas: making targeted investments in new ventures and startups; seeking unique business opportunities for the company's aerospace technology; and assessing disruptive innovations and business strategies.

“The Boeing HorizonX team will build on Boeing’s advanced technology and depth of aerospace expertise in design, development, and manufacturing while bringing in outside perspectives and leveraging the speed and agility of a wide range of companies and research organizations,” said Greg Smith, chief financial officer and executive vice president of Corporate Development & Strategy at Boeing, the group in which Boeing HorizonX will operate.