Alaska Airlines launches new venture capital arm, with initial investment in UP.Partners’ $ 230 million fund – TechCrunch

Alaska Airlines has become the latest major airline to invest in businesses with the launch of a new venture capital arm, dubbed Alaska Star Ventures, as the aviation industry turns to emerging technologies to help decarbonize air transport.

Alaska Star Ventures’ first investment of $ 15 million is in the inaugural Los Angeles-based UP.Partners venture capital fund. The $ 230 million start-up fund will focus on mobility technologies and has raised additional investment from Woven Capital, the investment arm of Toyota Motor’s Woven Planet group; Standard industries; Hillwood; and OSM Maritime.

The airline also said it will work with UP.Partners on its inaugural investments. While Alaska Star Ventures may consider additional investments in industry-focused funds, the primary focus will be on investing in stealth technologies, the vice president of public affairs and sustainability told TechCrunch. ‘Alaska Airlines, Diana Birkett Rakow.

Alaska Airlines’ intention is to invest in emerging technologies that can help it meet its goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The company has also set a shorter-term goal. to be the most fuel efficient airline by 2025 and to reduce ground services. by half by the same year. Alaska Airlines announced the non-binding targets in April, when it joined a slew of other companies by joining Amazon’s Climate Pledge.

“When we looked, what is our execution plan for this path [to net-zero], we started to realize that there were a lot of areas where technology was essential for us to achieve our goals, ”she said. “So we decided to put this investment vehicle in place to really be a catalyst to find, accelerate and advance the technologies that help us accelerate this path to net zero.”

As investments in clean technology increase, Birkett Rakow said the decision to create a fund would help the airline identify technologies that are “really applicable” to the operating environment and could be deployed in three to three. Next 10 years.

Alaska Airlines chose to contribute to UP.Partners’ first fund because of the vast experience and expertise of its two founders, Ben Marcus and Cyrus Sigari, explained Birkett Rakow. The two founded the aircraft sales service company jetAVIVA in 2006, and AirMap in 2014, a traffic management system for unmanned aircraft.

She added that the airline will secure a top spot in the rapidly changing technological landscape, while also being able to contribute technologies that might work in the operating environment. UP.Partners will also act as an advisor and occasionally co-invest with Alaska Star Ventures.

To give a hint on the types of technology Alaska Star Ventures could fund in the future, Birkett Rakow highlighted the roadmap released by the airline alongside its pledge, which established five areas of focus: increasing efficiency. operational; develop the fleet; sustainable aviation fuels (SAF); new propulsion technology; and credible carbon offsets.

While SAF and propulsion, such as batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, tend to gain the most attention – in part because they offer the most promising potential in terms of scale to combat emissions – Birkett Rakow said the new fund will also look at other types of technologies that increase efficiency or reduce unnecessary fuel consumption.

For example, Alaska Airlines recently partnered with Airspace Intelligence to launch an AI-based system for optimizing aircraft routes, which it says has reduced by about five minutes per flight.

“Although we have not made any financial investment in [Airspace Intelligence], it was a good model for us of how we have access to a technology that could make a difference, a significant difference, in our operational performance towards net zero [ … ] could really help this technology be more successful and spread, ”she explained.

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