“Le Journal de l’Aviation: How do the principles of open innovation translate into aerospace research?
Marko Erman: In this sector it’s easy to create open innovation, with Technology Research Institutes (TRIs) or innovation centres, for example. With this type of stakeholders, it can be defined as multi-partner collaborative research. Depending on the subjects, we’re located at different points on the value chain: parts manufacturer when it’s an aircraft programme, systems integrator when we’re talking about air traffic management. I’ve reorganised the R&T governance to make it cross-disciplinary, by saying that aircraft technology doesn’t just belong to aeronautics, but may interest other professions within the group. We’ve also institutionalised our cooperation with the academic world to avoid duplicating or scattering projects. For example, we have a unique framework agreement with CNRS. We’ve also created networks with start-ups. Thales is, alongside Airbus, one of the founding members of the aeronautic incubator Starburst Accelerator .
What is the advantage of turning to start-ups for a group like Thales, which already has 25,000 researchers and engineers dedicated to innovation?
A great advantage! By accompanying an incubator like Starburst Accelerator, we can find innovative technologies or services that we couldn’t have brought to life within the group. Such an incubator, with its international network, helps us to choose from the 300,000 start-ups that are born every year, 100,000 of them in China alone. Once we’ve made that selection, we can work together on proof of concept. I must say that with Starburst we have a very high transformation rate, of around one third. We also work with some platforms at Saclay, the spin-offs in France.