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Salesforce, Deloitte, WEF Calling on Startups Ready to Fuel Sustainable Aviation

The challenge seeks next-generation aviation solutions including alternative fuels and propulsion technologies; and innovations in feedstock, engineering, and physical and market infrastructure.

Today, Salesforce, Deloitte and a coalition of aviation and energy companies launched a call for game-changing solutions to support the decarbonization of aviation.

The Sustainable Aviation Challenge — supported by Airbus, Breakthrough Energy, Boom Supersonic, JetBlue Ventures, Qantas Airways Limited, and World Energy — calls for solutions that decarbonize aviation, such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and alternative-propulsion technologies; and builds on WEF’s Airports of Tomorrow initiative, launched earlier this summer. The initiative is a collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s First Movers Coalition (FMC) and its UpLink innovation platform to scale and commercialize advances in sustainable aviation.

WEF’s UpLink platform — launched at Davos 2020 in partnership with Salesforce and Deloitte — has run more than 48 challenges across critical areas of the UN Sustainable Development Goals; to date, Uplink has selected over 400 “Top Innovators” with solutions related to health, food, freshwater, ocean, plastics, education, climate, resilient cities and more.

“UpLink helps scale world-class innovations by creating bridges between entrepreneurs and the support they need from investors, partners, industry leaders and experts,” says John Dutton, Head of UpLink and Member of the Executive Committee. “The Sustainable Aviation Challenge offers a unique opportunity to connect promising startups with the ecosystem required for achieving net-zero aviation — thus driving action for the SDGs.”

While air travel plays a vital role in connecting people and driving the global economy, the aviation industry contributes to roughly 2 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

SAF — a non-fossil-based fuel produced from renewable resources, organic materials or waste feedstocks — could play a major role in decarbonizing aviation by significantly reducing emissions. Yet, despite a promising lift on both the innovation and investment fronts, SAF is still expensive and not yet widely available. In support of this initiative, Salesforce has purchased SAF sourced from World Energy; from United Airlines, as part of the EcoSkies Alliance; and from JetBlue, as part of the airline’s Sustainable Travel Partners program to help stimulate a market for low-carbon alternatives to traditional jet fuel.

“Accelerating climate technology innovation is essential to decarbonizing aviation — one of the hardest-to-abate sectors,” says Adam Klauber, World Energy’s VP of Sustainability and Digital Supply Chain. “World Energy is excited to support the Sustainable Aviation Fuel UpLink Challenge. Winning startups will be World Energy's future partners, helping propel the aviation industry to new heights.”

The challenge also invites next-generation aviation solutions including alternative-propulsion technologies such as hydrogen and batteries; as well as innovations in feedstock, engineering, and physical and market infrastructure.

“To meet our climate goals, we must bring disruptive clean technologies to market at scale,” says Suzanne DiBianca, EVP and Chief Impact Officer at Salesforce. “Together with our partners, Salesforce thoughtfully approached this sustainability challenge as a way to support and foster innovative ideas from ecopreneurs who aim to help decarbonize the aviation industry.”

Proposals will be accepted from August 24 through October 2, 2023; and “Top Innovators” will be announced later in the year. Selected ventures will receive support for their commercialization and deployment efforts; as well as assistance with brand building, visibility and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

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