JetBlue Technology Ventures’ Amy Burr on investment in green transport

On April 20, JetBlue Technology Ventures announced that it became a limited partner in the $6.8 billion investment fund TPG Rise Climate. This venture capital investment is the 38th made by the capital arm of JetBlue since its creation in 2016.

Travel Weekly Airlines Editor-in-Chief Robert Silk spoke with Amy Burr, President of JetBlue Technology Ventures, about this investment and the organization’s strategies related to supporting the greening of aviation and the global innovation in the travel industry.

How much will you invest in TPG Rise Climate?

We generally do not publish how much we invest. We will make a capital injection over a six-year period. And we plan to pay a large check each year. The amazing thing about this fund structure is that we’re here to be an investor, but we’re also part of their coalition that aims to be thought leaders in this space.

So, we’re part of this amazing group of companies joining as limited partners to talk about sustainability issues, think about solutions, and think about the next generation of technology that will matter. For example, we are already talking about having a small sustainable aviation fuel coalition.

Do you expect Rise Climate to make significant investments in greening aviation?

Not just green aviation, but green transportation, of which aviation is a very big pillar. That’s why we’re really interested in the fund. And because a few other very large airlines, Delta being the most obvious, are also involved, we’re very confident that they’re taking the decarbonization of aviation very seriously.

Can you provide an overview of companies working on aviation emissions solutions in which JetBlue Technology Ventures is already an investor?

The first is Joby Aviation. They are building an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (Evtol). We have Universal Hydrogen, which helps understand how to implement hydrogen in the aviation industry.

We just invested in Electric Power Systems, which is modular battery power for electric aviation. They will be the battery that will allow electric planes and Evtols to fly efficiently. They also do quite a bit of infrastructure around charging. We also invested in Air Company, which is a direct air and fuel capture company. What they do is capture carbon from the air and turn it into several types of alcohol and fuel type products.

Are there also companies that the JetBlue Ventures technology fund has invested in that are doing work that is tangential to decarbonization?

I6 is a company that digitizes the entire refueling process for the airline industry. One of the benefits of I6 is that you are much more precise in how much fuel you need and actually put on the plane, and therefore it really helps an airline fine-tune their fuel economy .

The other really exciting company we’ve invested in recently is called Beacon AI, and they’re working on an AI helper tool for the cockpit. The joking description of this is that they are R2D2 for a modern day pilot. What their tool will do is help determine more efficient routes and ways to avoid overburning jet fuel.

What are some of JetBlue Venture’s non-climate priorities?

An area that is above all the customer journey. We’re thinking about how we can improve the entire customer journey from the moment you leave home to the moment you return.

We also focus on next-generation aircraft operations and enterprise technologies. How can we improve things like technical operations, the way we operate at the airport or security? Also, can some big tech companies help JetBlue do its job better? Think cybersecurity and fraud protection, as well as customer support and self-service technology.

A third axis consists of reinventing the accommodation experience. The way we think about this particular theme is: how is hospitality changing over time? How will technology enable a more seamless experience for a customer? How is the short-term rental market changing the way people think about where and how they stay?

Finally, we focus on innovations in loyalty and revenue distribution. So how can we have the next generation of loyalty programs using emerging technologies?

* This article originally appeared on Travel Weekly