And the Winner is...
I promised a write up of the Aviation Week and Space Technology (AWST) Innovation Challenge, and here it is. You will have to excuse my repeated use of two words throughout this post, innovation and honored. I hope you’ll understand as we experienced a pretty serious case of (as the kids call it) “geeking out” for much of the week.
Innovation. This word was on the forefront of business last week, especially during the Aviation Week and Space Technology’s Innovation Challenge events. BridgeNet was a finalist in the Software category and we won the category! We were honored to accept this award for our Volans 3D software from Aviation Week’s President Gregory Hamilton and Editor-in-Chief Anthony Velocci. Our founder and president, Paul Dunholter, accepted the award on behalf of everyone that worked on Volans. If you’ve met Paul, you know he is our very own innovation challenge, constantly game changing with, well, innovation to carry out.
What is the Innovation Challenge you ask? Aviation Week defines the Innovation Challenge as:
Aviation Week's Innovation Challenge recognizes and promotes the groundbreaking work being done by tiered suppliers within the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry. Nominees were judged on the basis of value provided to primes and subcontractors through:
• Design innovation that changes product size, weight or capability
• Simple alternatives to a complex and costly product design
• Technology breakthroughs that provide new or substantially improved performance
March 7, 2012 was the day of the Innovation Challenge Roundtable. We heard keynote speakers discuss innovation, its place in aerospace and defense industries, as well as troubles we face keeping innovation alive. The not so great news is that as budgets shrink, many times innovation pays the price, as it is typically overhead. The great news is that as humans we can’t help but create and innovate, we seem intent on finding funding for our ideas and striving to bring them to market. Some in the room had truly sacrificed everything in the pursuit of an idea; their attendance as an Innovation Challenge nominee was a testament to perseverance.
We spent the day in a Roundtable with other Innovation Challenge nominees, as well as AWST Laureates. And here goes the word honor. I really felt like a fish out of water in the room with decorated luminaries of the industry, including past Laureate winners, as well as this year’s Laureate nominees. I tried to simply be quiet and listen, as there was a lot of experience in the room from industry, academia and government. This high level discussion resulted in some valuable best practices we can all learn from, including finding creative ways to preserve innovation (how can we tie it to ROI?) at every point of the supply chain and keeping lines of communication open from the CEO to the front line employees and back.
I feel like I’m overusing the word honor, but it really was an honor to be in a room with people that are so dedicated to aerospace and defense. Many people in the room cite landing on the moon in 1969 as when their love affair with aerospace started. Personally, a flight on TWA when I was nine years old cemented my need to look skyward every time I hear an aircraft. That could also explain my affinity for red. The roar of the engines on takeoff resonated with me; to this day kids (well, I guess they are adults now) I attended elementary school with ask me if I work in aviation. Apparently I freely shared my passion with anyone that would listen! The Innovation Challenge pushed me to become involved with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program at my daughter’s elementary school. I look forward to fostering the next generation of kids ready to geek out in aviation.
Additional information on the Innovation Challenge can be found here.