Safran bets on startups to build foundations for the future
Safran Corporate Ventures, the Group’s investment arm tasked with financing innovative startups, just celebrated its third birthday. The company’s chairman, Eric Dalbiès, also Executive Vice President for Strategy and M&A at Safran, reviews results to date in this interview, and examines the outlook for Safran’s strategy.
Why did you create a corporate venture capital entity within Safran?
Innovation is a pivotal concept at Safran. Our customers choose us because of our differentiating solutions, whether in products or services. That’s why we have to be able to call on top-flight expertise, both in-house and external. While we have long formed key partnerships with academia and industry, including suppliers, Safran didn’t have a sufficient connection with the world of startups… until three years ago! To remedy this situation, we had to find a way of working with these innovative small businesses, and our response was to create Safran Corporate Ventures, and give it an initial investment budget of 50 million euros. This principle is in fact very simple: provide the capital needed by these young companies to grow. When the technologies they are developing become sufficiently mature, they could be incorporated in our products and servic
What types of technologies are you targeting?
Anything that can be applied to our business sectors, in particular aircraft energy systems (electric and hybrid propulsion, embedded components, etc.), industrial processes (technologies underpinning the transition to Industry 4.0, such as additive manufacturing and augmented reality), new materials (composites, nanotechnologies, etc.), new services for airlines (to reduce fuel consumption, etc.) and new markets, such as civilian drones.
How would you summarize the results of these first three years?
Results are not measured by the number of stakes we acquire, but rather their impact on our strategy. We have been very selective on purpose, with two main prerequisites before investing: approval of the investment by Safran’s R&T and Innovation unit, and the presence of a sponsor for the subject in question, by which I mean a Group company that has signed a research partnership with the startup. Today, we have seven startups in our portfolio.
We are naturally considering expanding our investment footprint outside Europe, and also extending the scope of applications to include equipment made by Zodiac Aerospace, such as cabin layouts and onboard systems.
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