SEATTLE (Reuters) – Boeing Co. TO FORBID said on Wednesday it launched a venture capital arm and invested in two tech startups, a further sign of the importance big companies place on keeping up with rapidly changing technology for product design and manufacturing.
Boeing’s new division, known as HorizonX, has invested in Upskill, a Washington, DC-based software company that uses Google Glass-like goggles to help assembly workers with complex tasks such as creation of wiring harnesses for Boeing airliners.
He also invested in Zunum Aero, a Seattle-area company that is working on hybrid-electric planes aimed at reducing the cost of flying to regional airports. Zunum also received funding from JetBlue Technology Ventures, a New York-based unit of JetBlue Airways Corp. JBLU.O.
Boeing and JetBlue aren’t the only ones taking stakes in promising tech companies. General Electric Co. GE.N The venture capital arm has invested in a previous Upskill funding round, and Airbus has had a venture capital fund since 2014.
Boeing isn’t aiming to profit directly from companies, but rather to gain access to technology used in autonomous vehicles, machine learning, additive manufacturing and wearable devices, said Steve Nordlund, Boeing vice president who leads HorizonX.
“These are all starting to converge and have the potential to fundamentally change the way we operate inside and outside of business,” he said.
Upskill’s software platform, for example, brings data typically stored in books into worker tools. The system can be used in manufacturing, field service and shipping and warehousing logistics, and the company’s revenue growth is triple digits each year, chief executive Brian Ballard told Reuters .
“Imagine working on a car and not having to leaf through the paper manual,” Ballard said. Typical systems pay back in a few months. Upskill has worked with Boeing for two years and has moved from pilot testing to production.
Boeing declined to specify investment amounts, “but this initiative represents a multi-year commitment by Boeing to spend tens of millions of dollars annually to advance innovation and complement our research and development efforts,” the CEO said. spokesperson Chaz Bickers.
Nordlund was previously vice president of strategy for Boeing’s defense, space and security businesses and helped launch drone maker Insitu Inc, which Boeing acquired in 2008. He also worked in sales at IBM. IBM.N and was director of information at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by James Dalgleish