Projections for Aerospace from a Startup Perspective

We asked entrepreneurs in our network what they thought the future of aerospace could look like.

Gabriela Matic
Jul 27, 2020 · 7 min read

The past few months have had a massive — and likely long-lasting — impact on the aerospace industry.

Companies are already dealing with the economic effects of COVID-19 and projects have been postponed or even cancelled. Even before the pandemic and global lockdowns, the aerospace sector was under pressure to meet environmental targets and this pressure is now more urgent than ever. The aerospace industry has to react to this existential crisis and change; and innovation needs to happen faster.

Over the last few months, we’ve spoken to some of the startup founders, both in our cohort and the wider ecosystem, to see what their perspectives are and what they project for the future of aerospace. Some of these statements have been sent through a couple of months ago, but we’ve included them for posterity and to see if the founder’s predictions have already have come true!

Top row (l — r): Dr. Olivia Stodieck, Martin Oughton, Ian Cornwell, Puneet Badrinath. Bottom row (l — r): Evangelos Pappas, Chris Ganje, Tim El-Sheikh, Francisco Inglés

“The future of engineering simulation in aerospace applications looks bright. The first reason for this is that most modelling and analysis jobs can be done remotely, which was already the case before the COVID-19 crisis, with teams working across different countries and using off-site servers. The second reason is that significant cost reductions can be attained by using simulation to guide the design of tests and by running simulated parametric design studies instead of repeating physical tests. As simulation tools become more accessible and more performant, these benefits will also become more attractive to small businesses. The increasing use of free open-source simulation tools such as OpenFOAM and the trend towards SaaS are likely to reduce simulation costs in the long term. Lastly, automation in simulation is increasing, which allows engineers to focus on decision making, reducing the probability of errors, and accelerating the design processes. There are still many opportunities for improvement though, such as the development of multidisciplinary analysis capabilities for complex aerospace systems that are truly fit for purpose, which is one of our areas of expertise. Our aim is to help engineers make the most out of simulation tools now and in the future. We are confident that the industry will eventually recover from one of the biggest crises its history.”

Dr. Olivia Stodieck, CEO, DaptaBlade LTD (June 2020)

“Life will return to normal. Liverpool will win the League, England will win the six nations, Face mask and hand sanitiser sales will return to pre covid level and latin countries will say hello and greet by kissing again — centuries of culture will not be overturned by three months of isolation. However, I do hope our respect for all the key workers that kept countries moving will remain.

“I expect all this to happen in quite short order with current isolation measures in place for at least another month followed by a gradual easing and 6–9 months to get the economy back to near pre-crisis levels of activity. This is in part thanks to the unprecedented disruption being matched by similarly unprecedented government stimulus packages.

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” Conan the Barbarian, 1982

“I expect some good to come out of this too. There had been a slow trend emerging for less focus on unicorns and sky high valuations but on sustainable business models, however the market was very frothy. Now that all the froth has been blown off I expect that this will be a dominant force. Stallions will be the new cool. This is good news for us because I think we have a sound and scalable business model in a huge global market but a +$1BN valuation would have been hard to see, even with the rosiest view.

“Forget disruption, this is a revolution. For many industries technology has been a nice to have but never must have. Now we are in the grips of a generational event and change has been forced onto all of us. This will accelerate wider spread acceptance of new ways of working. Slack had always backed a shift from inboxes to channels, they felt it was inevitable, that process just got fast forwarded by 18 months and the same will be true for others as well with accelerated acceptance of novel solutions.

“The status quo had always been our biggest barrier. At Plyable we expect that C19 will fast forward the adoption of new technologies and processes even in the traditionally slow moving manufacturing sector. We have already seen some evidence that the challenges in scaling ventilator production have highlighted pain points that solutions like ours can solve. We expect that our platform will become even more compelling in the future. Customers will be more price sensitive, and industrial machine owners will be keen to maximise utilisation and return on their assets in a world where for a while there is likely to be oversupply. As well as the marketplace, our SaaS technology delivers efficiencies and enables previously human centric processes to be automated and delivered on-line, which now will be more relevant than ever.”

Martin Oughton, CEO, Plyable (April 2020)

“Our pipeline has dropped off a cliff, it’s not just work stopping it’s uncertainty amongst all of our clients and prospects, invoices are getting delayed and paid late and the answer to everything is “I don’t know”. We’re speaking to people we know well who are saying that they can’t even commit to being in the job in a month let alone talk about work. Oil & Gas, renewables, construction, aerospace are all facing huge lay-offs, price cuts and spend freezes and I expect this to continue long after the end of lockdown, one client told us that nothing was off the table to get cut and they’d had mass layoffs, we expect more of the same.

“The one upside (and it is a small one) is that what we do is transformational and it’s hard to get people to transform when it’s business as usual, it’s definitely not business as usual at the moment so at least initially people seem receptive to change.

“Start-up wise, I expect a generation of UK start-ups to get wiped out and others to just survive and have to start building again post COVID. It’s easy to rationalise that the start-up world has a high mortality rate anyway but good teams would usually get recycled to start new things if their ideas fail and that’s much more unlikely in the current (and potential future) climate. If I was thinking of starting another business today I’d certainly be thinking that there are extremely limited areas of potential, so the risk is not just the companies that get wiped out but the founders who may get taken out of the entrepreneur gene pool.”

Ian Cornwell, CEO, KrakenIM (April 2020)

“The challenges of business continuity across all sectors have propelled immersive technology from the realm of early adopters to early majority. COVID-19 was probably the black swan event the pushed AR/VR across the chasm. Over the next 6–18 months, restrictive travel norms will result in the adoption of greater collaborative augmented and virtual reality technologies in travel intensive sectors.”

Puneet Badrinath, Founder, Fabrik (May 2020)

“We are shifting into a new normality, but we don’t expect any new dynamics to be shown before the Q1 of ’21. After that, we are expecting all the companies to focus 110% in their digital transformation and data-focused strategies.”

Evangelos Pappas, CEO, Ocyan (May 2020)

The global coronavirus crisis highlights the importance of accurate and timely information in decision-making. Our ability to make informed decisions based on clear insights can be inhibited by the sheer volume of information, the breadth of sources, and the mixture of structured (less) and unstructured (more) data. Leading companies and governments already leverage AI to gather and interpret high-quality information at scale. In the future widespread adoption of AI-powered business intelligence will be central to how organisations of all sizes accelerate innovation, identify risk, and drive growth.

Chris Ganje, CEO and co-founder, AMPLYFI (May 2020)

“During 2020 the companies are more awake than ever about two things: 1/ the importance of cost savings and 2/ the potential of the use of data for strategic decision making. OBUU TECH is expanding between different countries and sectors, applying its STOCKWATCH technology in new scenarios like airport systems maintenance, telecom infrastructure deployment, nuclear fusion and mining; and studying the benefits of integration with sectoral data platforms.”

Francisco Inglés, Co-Founder OBUU TECH (May 2020)

“The lockdown revealed a critical problem that we observed with most enterprises and smaller teams, and that is their limited access to their internal data and their related in-house specialist applications. Team productivity tools, such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others, only solve general day-to-day team activities, but not the specialist needs of their work. Hence, we predict that most enterprises will start looking at the options of adopting remote working models and further migrating to cloud-based services. But the most notable change we will see is the broader adoption of specialist AI and automation tools which will, unfortunately, result in significant job losses.”

Tim El-Sheikh, CEO, Nebuli (May 2020)

For more information about the programme, please contact the ATI Boeing Accelerator team:

Gabi Matic — |
Wil Benton — |
Ksenia Kurileva — |

Aerospace Xelerated

Accelerating the aerospace sector.