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Three questions with an innovator – Tracey Cowan, Boeing

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October 6, 2015

This is the second time I’ve had the chance to interview one of the innovation executives from Boeing. Boeing has a long and storied history in the STL region and continues to be a leader in its own industry. This week during Venture Cafe, Tracey Cowan, director of Phantom Works Strategy, Experimentation and Ventures will discuss the connection between Boeing and the innovation community. But first, I wanted to take a few moments to chat with Tracey.

Boeing is celebrating 100 years. That is major accomplishment. Look back and look forward for us. How has innovation driven the company in the first 100 years and what does the next 100 look like? Will we make it Mars?

It’s easy to forget The Boeing Company was once a small startup that began as nothing more than one man’s hobby. Nearly 100 years later, Bill Boeing’s entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to build something better are still alive inside this huge global company. Over the years, Boeing employees have always found ways to build things better, faster, and smarter. Few businesses have accomplished what Boeing will next year as it reaches 100 years. You can expect our innovative people to create even more products and technologies these next 100 years.

Boeing is a global (possibly one day intergalactic) company with a significant presence in St. Louis. In what ways has Boeing helped shape innovation in this region?

Boeing has a long-standing presence in the St. Louis community beginning 75 years ago with McDonnell Douglas, which merged with Boeing in 2007 to form the world’s largest aerospace company. As the birthplace to some of America’s best-known aircraft, such as the FH-1 Phantom and F-4 Phantom II, F-15 Eagle and the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet, St. Louis has been the starting point for so many important innovation firsts in American aviation. St. Louis is also the headquarters for the BDS business unit, employing approximately 15,000 employees throughout the region to design, produce and support military aircraft and weapons systems. Phantom Works Ventures’ location in Cortex is another way Boeing help innovation in the region along with engaging local universities.

What are some ways the startup community can interface or engage with a company like Boeing?

Boeing has a lot to learn from the startup community, and we believe there is a lot of expertise we have to offer as well. As of last year, Boeing had 14,000 patents worldwide. There is tremendous opportunity for those in the startup community to work with us to determine applicable markets outside of the aerospace industry.

It’s safe to say that Boeing is a great community partner and a wonderful neighbor to have in the Cortex Innovation Community. Join us on October 8th as Venture Cafe is powered by Boeing.

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