January 2021

Gabi Matic is the Programme Director at ATI Boeing Accelerator, a three-month programme for world-class start-ups building industry 4.0 and sustainability enabling technologies, with the potential to bolster the growth and competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry.


 Under the current environment, which is hitting aviation hard, what do you see as the biggest challenge for start-ups?

Start-ups are used to facing challenges! However, I think the main challenge for them at the moment is to stay alive and survive this period. Projects will highly likely be delayed or even cancelled and the industry will need time to recover. Founders also need to make sure they keep questioning any assumptions they might have about their client’s priorities. Those priorities will most likely have changed when COVID hit and being able to react to that change and tweak one’s solution can make the difference between just surviving this or getting out on the other end successfully.

I think that there are – and will be – new opportunities for start-ups because of this changing world. The status quo of industries like aviation has always been a barrier and that ‘normality’ does not exist anymore. Everyone needs to innovate a lot faster than anticipated in 2020 and start-ups can really help with that.

What has been the feedback from companies who are willing to offer sponsorship/support, how have you pitched it to them?

This programme was put together by the Aerospace Technology Institute and Boeing. Our corporate sponsor is GKN Aerospace and we recently welcomed Rolls-Royce as a programme partner. The programme team and I design and deliver the accelerator itself, using experience from our time at leading European accelerator Ignite.

All of our partners want to work with truly innovative start-ups that will make a difference to their businesses. We had nearly 300 applications for the ten places on our first cohort and the quality really spoke for itself. These ten start-ups are in the process of beginning their commercial relationships with one (or more) of the programme stakeholders – bringing start-up innovation and expertise to real-world areas of interest that our partners have. For our next cohort, we’ve had a key thematic focus on sustainability, and we have scouted some incredibly innovative start-ups to match with our partners. We’re really excited about the start of the programme and to see how the partners and start-ups can work together!

I think what makes this programme so attractive to our partners is the fact that the accelerator is truly trying to bring key industry players together with start-ups and, through these collaborations, we hope to see real industrial change. The upcoming programme is focused on sustainability-related solutions – which is a big challenge for this industry that is striving for zero carbon emissions by 2050. We have seen world-leading research in novel fuel systems, new approaches to manufacturing and supply chain management through to COVID-response solutions to help get the industry flying again. We also know that our partners are working on their operational resilience so that they can come out of this pandemic stronger than before. The programme is helping them with that by giving access to great innovation in this space.

What help will Boeing offer during the process?

As the programme’s platinum sponsor, Boeing’s investment arm offers a £100k equity investment (structured as an uncapped SAFE note) to each start-up in the cohort. The Boeing HorizonX Global Ventures team and colleagues from a range of business units around the world are actively involved from the application process to the 12-week programme itself.

They work hard to find opportunities for the start-ups internally and offer mentors and resources for our founders throughout the accelerator. Our Boeing HorizonX Global Ventures champion (and the day-to-day Boeing programme lead) also has entrepreneurial experience which makes her the perfect connector who understands both sides of the relationships between start-ups and corporates.

What is the goal of this programme, and how do you think it benefit will be for the industry in both the short/long term?

The ATI Boeing Accelerator is a start-up accelerator programme designed to support the growth of start-ups in the UK’s aerospace ecosystem. By supporting these innovative early-stage technology businesses, the programme aims to bolster the growth and competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry. Through the programme curriculum, founders get support to scale their businesses and learn about the value the UK aerospace industry can bring to their companies. Our inaugural cohort has (so far) gone on to secure a further £8M in funding, created 50+ new jobs, and engaged organisations including Rolls-Royce and Chevron Technology Ventures.

How would you like to see the Accelerator programmes develop?

We would love to see this initiative grow well beyond just a couple of accelerator programmes a year. Our vision is to support start-ups in different stages of development – both across the UK (not just in London) and further afield. The programme stakeholders have already seen a real industrial benefit to being involved in this programme; POCs are already well into development between Cohort One and the stakeholder group and with the follow-on funding figure continuing to rise we’re seeing ROI on the investment side of things, too.

With our experience of designing and delivering the Ignite accelerator programmes, my team and I have worked hard to create start-up ecosystems all over the UK and we would love to see the same happen for start-ups in aerospace and its adjacent industries. Strong ecosystems foster real innovation and growth, and we’d love to bring more start-ups and industry partners to the table. In our experience, programmes like this only deliver real value to industry if the industry as a whole is involved so we’d be really excited to continue to expand our sponsor and partner relationships and bring in new businesses on the corporate side of things!