Boeing Seeks Fresh Thinking with Open Innovation

Published Oct-23-19

An artificial intelligence-based platform to help airline pilots with situational awareness and decision-making.

Boeing Corporation, United States

The Story:

Boeing Seeks Fresh Thinking with Open Innovation An ever-increasing number of companies are coming to the realization that it doesn’t matter how great their R&D departments or how creative and innovative their workforce, there are huge benefits in working with external knowledge sources. Among them are solving problems, discussing ideas to help target research activities and accelerating innovation.

Boeing Innovation Contest

One of those organizations engaging with open innovation is the Boeing Corporation. In 2018 the American multinational sponsored its first innovation contest to encourage participants to look to the skies to bring new thinking to industry challenges.

The open innovation event was open to university students from selected universities in the United States. Before entering the competition some of these institutions hosted pitching sessions for participants to select and improve on the ideas submitted to Boeing.

During the first round of the competition, participants were tasked with coming up with ideas to advance the way we think about air travel in three areas: Disruptive Mobility, Passenger Experience and Operational Efficiency.

“Their solutions were innovative and intuitive. I was impressed with how quickly they took on new ideas, worked with people they had never met before and turned out meaningful results,” said Kourosh Hadi, an Engineering Director in Commercial Airplanes’ Product Strategy and Future Airplane Development team.

From this round, twelve winners were selected to take part in phase two which further whittled down the submissions to a top eight. Those teams who were not selected to go any further in the open innovation competition were invited to choose which team to join to help them refine their concept.

Selecting the Winner

The contest's third and final phase was an in-person pitch event to Commercial Airplanes Engineering. The overall winner was a team of students from the University of Washington, Cornell University and Georgia Tech. Their proposal was for an application of artificial intelligence in flight decks, an integrated, automated and intelligent personal assistant to help with situational awareness and decision-making.

Talent Spotting

In addition to receiving lots of big ideas, Boeing also sees value in hosting open innovation competitions to help them to spot the innovative talent of the future.

“There is a pipeline of skilled engineers out there, but there is a real competition to attract them. We are working to engage with these students early in their academic career so we can help them see that Boeing is the place they want to build careers,” added Hadi.

Such was the success of Boeing's first innovation competition that they decided to host another one in 2019.

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