Boeing sees the need to cut spending on non-core businesses and puts their innovation group, Boeing NeXt, on hold. NeXt was mainly concerned with Urban Air Mobility, but had also invested in other futuristic projects. In an internal memo, head of Boeing NeXt Steve Nordlund told his team that they intend to move to a full pause as swiftly as possible. “Organizations like these only have the privilege to exist when you have a healthy core business,” said Nordlund, citing the recent 737 MAX crisis as reason for significantly cutting back funding and scope of the team. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing financial losses also require Boeing to “adapt to our new market reality,” Nordlund wrote.
Boeing NeXt was working closely together with Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences in the development of autonomous passenger and cargo eVTOL aircraft, with their first prototype making its first test flight in January 2019. Aurora remains functional as a separate subsidiary.
The innovational group was also heavily involved with developing the ecosystem surrounding Urban Air Mobility, including ATC technologies. In November 2018 it launched SkyGrid, a join-venture with SparkCognition to develop a software platform for managing and integrating air traffic with autonomous cargo and passenger aircraft.
Wisk, that has already testflown their passenger eVTOL Cora, was launched as a Joint Venture between Boeing NeXt and Kitty Hawk Corp. Last month, Eric Johnson, who had previously worked as Chief Engineer on the Boeing 777X program, was transfered from Boeing NeXt to work as Senior Vice President of Engineering at Wisk.
Boeing NeXt had also made a significant investment and promises to offer engineering, manufacturing and flight-testing resources to the supersonic business jet manufacturer Aerion.
Alison Sheridan, spokesperson for Boeing, said the company is investigating how the engagement with SkyGrid, Wisk and Aerion will continue in the future. Aurora will remain a subsidiary and will continue to work with NeXt for the remainder of the year.
There are 100 people currently employed at the Boeing NeXt Layoffs are not anticipated. Nordlund stressed that the halt should be seen as a “rest stop” until Boeing recovers.