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Providing funding to startups helps to grow the innovation ecosystem: Limor Spector, UTC Executive Director

Huma Siddiqui
Ms Limor Spector, UTC Executive Director of Ventures and Alliances, UTC, defence news

India has emerged as one of the fastest-growing start-up nations. This growth is particularly evident in the aviation sector where start-ups are leveraging their innovation for designing technological solutions. US-based United Technologies Corporation (UTC), a company which is into high technology products and aerospace industry, a leader in India's pioneering innovation ecosystem recently announced the launch of the UTC Innovation Challenge, which had invited startups working on the computer vision technology and predictive analytics to develop new products and services specifically for the aerospace industry.

Ms Limor Spector, UTC Executive Director of Ventures and Alliances, shares details with Huma Siddiqui about the challenge for startups in the aerospace industry. Excerpts:

In partnership with T-Hub the company launched UTC Innovation Challenge. Can you provide an overview of the Challenge?

Startups that are shortlisted to participate in the challenge will receive support from technical subject matter experts and business mentors across T-Hub and UTC. Both organizations will also guide selected startup applicants through the proof-of-concept (PoC) phase, where they will receive direct access to T-Hub's ecosystem of mentors, industry experts, investors and service providers.

Computer vision technology submissions are expected to focus on computer-aided visual mapping of engine parts to help the inspection process. Predictive analytics solutions will focus on forecasting for aircraft parts by company location. Shortlisted startups will have an opportunity to pitch their solutions to a group of judges on "Pitch Day" in New York and Hyderabad in November.

And this year the criteria for the challenge included:

The product/technology should provide functionality/capability not currently available in any off-the-shelf product, or it should have a significant advantage over current offerings.

The product/technology should represent original ideas developed by the startup which are not subject to any limitations on the startup's ability to use or transfer the technology.

The startup should have at least one full-time employee who maintains standard business hours working on the technology or venture.

How does the challenge benefit the Aviation Industry?

Providing funding to startups helps to grow the innovation ecosystem. Startups that have functional technologies like computer vision and predictive analytics can apply their technology to any industry. By providing them with a specific challenge with the aerospace industry, we are encouraging startups to enter aerospace. In addition, we are providing use cases that are critical to the aerospace industry; a successful solution to our challenge will help move the industry forward.

Why is there a need for a programme like UTC Innovation Challenge in India?

As we continue on our digital journey, it's important for us to engage the startup community and bring outside thinking into our product development work that can accelerate the creation of new offerings for aerospace.

T-Hub is one of many collaborators we are engaging with to source the best thinking that can solve for some of the biggest challenges facing this fast-growth industry. Last year, T-Hub launched the Innovation Challenge with support from UTC's commercial building businesses and we are excited now to be collaborating on aerospace.

How will the challenge help UTC's group of companies such as Pratt and Whitney amongst others?

Start-ups working on Computer Vision technology will partner with Pratt & Whitney, a division of UTC, which leases aircraft engines to both airlines and aircraft leasing companies. Upon completion of the lease, engines must be thoroughly inspected to ensure that all components on the engine present at the beginning of the lease are also present and accounted for when the engine is returned. The returns process today is labour-intensive and results in delays, which cause the engine to be unserviceable until the inspection and documentation process is complete. We are looking for startups to help automate the aircraft engine leasing returns process by providing accurate picture matching to identify missing or mismatched engine parts before the engine is returned with minimal human intervention. This is designed to give the operator or lessor full visibility of any parts missing or damaged before finalizing the lease with either Pratt & Whitney or a leasing company.

The work of start-ups in Predictive Analytics will benefit both the UTC aerospace companies. UTC supplies and services many aircraft parts types including engines, avionics, aircraft interiors, electromechanical systems, and more. These parts are manufactured across hundreds of locations worldwide and need to be delivered to customers on time and on budget. At times demand can fluctuate; to ensure that product reaches customers, we need to allocate our inventory appropriately across locations. Our goal with this challenge is to accurately forecast demand by location to actively manage our inventory and reduce the amount of inventory we are required to carry at each location. We are looking for a highly accurate predictive algorithm that will account for aircraft part demand across the globe to increase transportation planning efficiency and reduce inventory carrying costs.