December 2004/January 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 8 
Special Features

Global exploration

Boeing active in technology research around the world


Bill LyonsBoeing strives today to work with the best technical talent and collaborate in developing new aerospace-related technologies wherever they may be found throughout the world.

It hasn't always been this way.

While Boeing has been active in all parts of the world for decades, the company until relatively recently in its 88-year history had not fully tapped into technological research capabilities outside the United States.

But as the world has changed, so has Boeing.

"We very much recognize the importance of being active in the global research and technology community," said Jim Jamieson, Boeing chief technology officer. "Even with one of the most diverse, educated and talented workforces anywhere, we know we can't corner the market on innovative ideas, or technical skills."

"Being global means building a broader theater for all of our activities, including research and technology," noted Tom Pickering, Boeing senior vice president of International Relations. "Working with global technology leaders throughout the world helps Boeing assimilate new ideas and innovative processes into our products and programs. It's a prudent strategy for the company to pursue, and it can be a major differentiator for us in a competitive marketplace."

"With a significant share of Boeing Commercial Airplanes' market coming from outside the U.S., and with Integrated Defense Systems and Connexion by Boeing also having strong international business bases, Boeing is uniquely positioned to develop and capture new opportunities in the global market," Pickering said. "We must continue to strengthen our presence overseas, improve our understanding of the global business environment and develop new methods for identifying ourselves with these markets to generate new business for the company."


During the past decade, a visible aspect of Boeing's strategy to work with capable designers and capture useful new technology from outside the United States has been the development of several international design and research centers. These include

  • Boeing Research and Technology-Europe. This Madrid, Spain-based site, the company's only R&T center in Europe, is devoted to research and development and focused on environmental, safety and reliability, and air traffic control technologies.
  • Boeing Design Center. This facility in Moscow is devoted to designing key parts and structures of commercial airplanes.
  • Boeing Technical Research Center. Also in Moscow, this site works with Russia's top aerospace research institutes on aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, prototyping, and other technologies.

At the Research and Technology-Europe center, which opened its doors in July 2002, more than 35 engineers and scientists from Spain and throughout Europe are involved in new research projects and in cooperative opportunities with research and development institutes, universities and European industries. One project, in collaboration with the polytechnic universities of Madrid and Catalonia, is concerned with the development of noise-alleviation technologies. Another research project involves the construction and testing of fuel cells for possible future use as commercial airplane auxiliary power units.

"Our goal is to work closely with the European governments, academic and technical communities on research projects of mutual interest and benefit," said Francisco "Paco" Escarti, the R&T-Europe center managing director. "Most of us understand globalization as being perceived not as a foreign threat, but as a valuable member of the local community where we operate. In our case, that means Europe."

The Boeing Design Center in Moscow is an engineering resource center set up in 1998 to tap the knowledge of the experienced engineers in the Russian aviation industry. Today, drawing the best of the best from a pool of engineers available through the Russian design bureaus and contract houses, the Boeing Design Center is working on more than 50 projects for Commercial Airplanes and IDS.

"Our Boeing people in Moscow know Boeing methods and approaches, they have the same hardware and software tools, and they are ready to fulfill any engineering assignment connected to detail design and analysis," said Sergey Kravchenko, Boeing president for Russia and the Confederation of Independent States.


Inside the company, the Phantom Works R&D unit—the catalyst of innovation for the Boeing enterprise—performs research and tracks "emerging" or "disruptive" technologies that may prove their worth 10, 15 or 20 years from now.

Recognizing the benefits of performing research both inside and outside the company, Phantom Works technologists also have been entering into a growing number of collaborative technology relationships worldwide.

"Numerous opportunities exist to tap into global technical expertise," said Miller Adams, vice president of Boeing Technology Ventures. "The international opportunities also offer complementary business benefits, which include in some cases access to government-matching funding and greater Boeing presence in our business units' key markets."

During the past 18 months, Phantom Works has established or strengthened international strategic technology agreements with a number of top government and private research centers. Efforts to investigate and potentially develop technology projects of mutual interest are under way with

  • Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali, the Italian aerospace research center. The initial focus has been on technology projects involving the use of Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali test facilities, including an icing wind tunnel and a plasma wind tunnel. The collaboration soon will be expanded to include areas such as active flow control and computational fluid dynamics.
  • QinetiQ, one of Europe's largest R&D organizations, based in the United Kingdom. Areas of possible collaboration involve aviation security, air traffic management, acoustics, unmanned aerial vehicles, lighting and cabin interiors, fuel cells, and lightweight materials.
  • The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa. In 2003, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Boeing inaugurated the world's first Ka-band Telemetry, Tracking and Command facility, located in Hartebeeshoek, west of Pretoria. Current areas of collaboration include computational fluid dynamics, application of composite technology to low-cost housing and optical sensing techniques.
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. With a collaborative relationship dating back to 1989, Boeing and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have been working together to develop new products and processes to advance the state of the art in several diverse engineering disciplines.


Leo DadoneBoeing also has been expanding its technology relationships with universities around the world. For example, in the United Kingdom, Boeing has teamed with Cranfield University to research blended wing/body aircraft. The company also has teamed with the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom to create the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, which is investigating how to machine hard materials better.

Boeing researchers also have been working with scientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom to investigate and develop information technology for application in a wide variety of aerospace products. Under an overarching strategic agreement signed in October 2003, technologies are being explored in such areas as information security and processing, intelligent systems and automated reasoning.

"The IT research expertise at Cambridge is internationally renowned, and we have been coming to them for over a decade with exciting and challenging projects," said Scott Griffin, Boeing chief information officer. "We continue to seek Cambridge's expertise in an area that is central to our transformation to a network-centric enterprise."


In an example of technology collaboration with other technology companies, Boeing in September signed a "joint plan for cooperation" with Siemens, the German electronics and electrical engineering company, to identify and collaborate on technology development opportunities of mutual interest.

While Siemens and Boeing have been working together to investigate certain technology areas for the past few years, the plan provides a framework for a continuation of collaborative efforts and describes the way in which the two companies currently anticipate those efforts will be conducted in the future.

"Our two companies' product lines generally do not serve the same markets, but our experience working together indicates that there is great potential for synergy in achieving mutual technology goals in a way that will benefit us both," said Dick Paul, Boeing Phantom Works vice president of Strategic Development and Analysis.

Current collaborative work areas include port/cargo security concepts and technologies, augmented reality, information assurance, and factory automation. Additional areas of mutual interest are being evaluated and may be worked on together in the future.

With the worldwide pace of technology development accelerating rapidly, it's difficult to predict the impact it will have on Boeing and the aerospace industry 20 years from now. But one thing's for sure: Boeing employees will be actively engaged in global technology development with the help of many other people throughout the world.


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