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View From The ATI: Not Just Another Accelerator

Rachel Power, the ATI’s Head of Strategy for Innovation & Engagement, reflects on the ATI Boeing Accelerator‘s first month.

By Rachel Power

05 November 2019 12:00:AM
Read time: 5 minutes

Rachel Power, the ATI’s Head of Strategy for Innovation & Engagement, reflects on the ATI Boeing Accelerator‘s first month. The accelerator is a three-month programme, aimed at world-class startups creating industry 4.0 and sustainability-enabling technologies, with the potential to bolster the growth and competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry.

We are coming to the end of month one since the launch of the ATI Boeing Accelerator, and what a month it has been. So far, we’ve:

  • moved into the new office at Public Hall
  • onboarded the new accelerator team
  • launched a new website
  • had over 100 applicants
  • had over 120 office hours with startups

The pace won’t calm down for month two, with our first investor event scheduled on 5th November, international roadshows (look out for the team in Portugal and France), applications closing on the 15th November and selection day for Cohort 1 on 21st November.

It would be easy to get distracted from why we set up the accelerator, but we won’t. Having designed and participated in accelerators across financial services, defence and IT sectors, I would like to think I know a thing or two about accelerators.

So, when it came to designing the ATI Boeing Accelerator with Boeing Horizon X and GKN Aerospace, we made sure everyone was aligned on driving commercial outcomes for startups, not generating revenues for the accelerator or grabbing equity. The ATI is not-for-profit and aims to deliver innovation – so is this accelerator.

To enable this to happen, the programme was structured so that:

  1. We set ourselves up to build an ecosystem, not just an accelerator

The aerospace startup ecosystem does not exist in the same way it does for Fintech, Health Tech or Ad Tech. If you google “aerospace startup” or “aerospace VC”, you get a few media articles but there is very little in terms of support infrastructure or financing. But behind the scenes £100s million are being invested globally.

From my own research, £881 million was invested in commercial aerospace alone last year, and that only includes the publicly disclosed investments.

We want to open the hidden aerospace opportunities to startups, investors and corporates and create a new aerospace community who support each other.

We have deliberately brought our fantastic delivery partner, Ignite, onboard to support the creation of this ecosystem. Ignite have vast experience in not only designing and developing accelerators but building the ecosystems to support them, particularly in Northern Ireland and the North East.

  1. Our metrics for success are metrics for the success of the startups

Traditional accelerators must make profit to survive, and this usually results in charging startups to partake or taking in excess of 7% equity. As the ATI Boeing Accelerator is supported by the UK government and aerospace industry (in the form of Boeing Horizon X and GKN Aerospace), the accelerator does not need to make a profit and can focus on enabling commercial successful startups.

This opens our sponsors to a wider pool of talent and innovative technologies.

We measure ourselves on the growth of the startups – sales, investment, new market entry, impact etc.

  1. Our sponsors aren’t just sponsoring for the sake of good marketing

Boeing Horizon X and GKN Aerospace are not just sponsors – they are co-designers of the programme. They help shape the programme to ensure they can support proof of concepts for the programme problem statements (in the case of Cohort 1 – Industry 4.0 and Sustainability). They support due diligence of applicants so that they can support the success of the startups from day one, and bring meaningful mentors with diverse skillsets who are committed to finding commercial opportunities for participating startups.

  1. Each cohort has a guaranteed proof of concept budget

Before the programme starts, each sponsor has a committed minimum “proof of concept budget” for the cohort. This budget is essentially competed by the startups, so there is guaranteed commercial outcomes. I can’t tell you how much it is, but it is in the region of £XXXk…

  1. Investment is structured for the benefit of the startup, but only if they want to take it

Boeing Horizon X, the venture capital arm of Boeing, are kindly offering all startups accepted into the accelerator £100k structured as an uncapped SAFE note. This is not compulsory and has no cap on valuation. Startups can still partake without taking the SAFE. So, we are structured to support the startups long term as they need us, rather than collecting equity for the sake of collecting equity.

  1. Diversity it is not just an aspiration, it is built into our programme

The accelerator team is a mix of genders, ethnicities and beliefs. Unusually for a manufacturing sector, 75% of our leadership is female and 10% of applications have come from a female decision maker or founder (I’ll discuss this more in my following blogs). Experience in the team comes from an array of industries – aerospace, health tech, music tech, defence and finance  – with skills in engineering, investment, innovation and startup growth, to name but a few. Inclusion and diversity drives new ideas and creativity.

To bring new talent and innovations to aerospace, diversity is a must – it is not optional.

  1. Collaboration is key

Creating an aerospace startup ecosystem cannot happen in a silo, it needs to be a collaboration between industry, investors, startups and more. As a core principle, the ATI maintains a neutral position. The ATI has an open attitude to new collaborators coming to the accelerator and other ecosystem activities.

In the future, we hope the accelerator can bring more cross-industry collaboration from the automotive, marine, space, energy and defence sectors. The more disruptors like Uber and Ocado developing air transport technologies, the more opportunities there will be for our aerospace startups.

As we move forward, we will continually revisit these principles to ensure we are delivering the most to the budding ecosystem and our startups. We are wide open for feedback, learning and growth opportunities as we push forward on this journey, so please engage to help it thrive.

You can find out more about the ATI Boeing Accelerator and how to get involved by clicking here.