While someone might not immediately make the connection between aviation and the energy transition, United Airlines understands the importance of more sustainable fuel — and has put its money where its mouth is.
According to an International Energy Agency report, the aviation accounted for 2 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions last year. Earlier this year, United Airlines launched a fund that called for collaboration across the industry.
After only five months, the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund SM increased to nearly $200 million and added new financial partners, airlines, and more. The fund takes on funding from its 13 limited partners and exists separately from United's core business operations.
Andrew Chang, managing director of United Airlines Ventures, says it's his job to accelerate the airline's mission to decarbonize operations. He explains that working together on the fund is the key for advancing sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF.
"We all recognize that we may compete in our core business, but with the importance of sustainable aviation fuel and given that it's an industry that doesn't exist — you can't compete for something that doesn't exist — let's collaborate and work together to explore technologies that can directly or indirectly support the commercialization and production of sustainable aviation fuel," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.
United Airlines also recently signed an offtake agreement with Cemvita Factory, a Houston biotech startup that's working on SAF. Chang discusses this partnership on the show, as well as explaining how he works with other startups and what he's looking for.
The offtake agreement and the fund are just two examples of how United is building to a more sustainable future. As Chang explains on the show, the aviation industry hasn't evolved too much over the past three or four decades.
"It's been a challenging market," he says, blaming the ever-evolving macroeconomic conditions for providing challenges for the airline, taking away its focus from new technologies. "But I think we are at a point where the industry is in a healthier place, the sector has consolidated, we are supported by our consumers, and we are now empowered with the financial and strategic capital to think ahead."
This article originally ran on InnovationMap.