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Got tech to slash aviation emissions? Salesforce, JetBlue and Qantas want to know

The Sustainable Aviation Challenge is calling for companies to share their innovations by Oct. 2.

Green airplane illustration

Image via Shutterstock/Petrmalinak

Salesforce and a group of other companies — including Deloitte, JetBlue, Qantas Airways, Breakthrough Energy and sustainable fuel provider World Energy — on Thursday launched an initiative to accelerate the work of entrepreneurs in aviation.

The sector touches pretty much every business — either as a logistics enabler or as a source of corporate travel services. Aviation contributes an estimated 2 percent of global emissions annually, and the initiative recognizes that any company working toward net zero needs a strategy for it. 

The new Sustainable Aviation Challenge collaborates with the First Movers Coalition, a group of close to 70 corporations interested in spurring innovations that reduce emissions in "hard-to-abate" sectors such as aluminum, aviation, chemicals, concrete, direct air capture, trucking, shipping and steel. The effort was launched in late 2021 by the World Economic Forum and the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

The new alliance is being coordinated by Uplink, another World Economic Forum program that provides resources for innovators — it has so far handled close to 50 other challenges related to plastic, the ocean, water and more.

The market for low-carbon alternatives to jet fuel is immature: As just one example, revenue for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) was about $460 million in 2022 but is projected to explode to $21 billion by 2030, if the technology can live up to demand.

The Sustainable Aviation Challenge encourages entrepreneurs to submit proposals through Oct. 2. This isn’t just about SAF — it will consider propulsion technologies such as hydrogen and batteries, supply chain improvements and existing technical or business model innovations that could be applied to aviation.

Jamila Yamani, director of climate and energy at Salesforce, said the "top innovators" identified through the program will benefit from networking opportunities, brand building support and exposure to potential customers. They’ll also be included in the First Movers Coalition supplier database. "Of course, one metric is supporting viability of these ventures such that they can become suppliers for First Movers Coalition members, but that’s not the only way to measure success," Yamani said. 

Other measures could include getting innovators to commercial scale for their product or service more quickly, and building local supply chains and infrastructure that can deliver these technologies more readily, Yamani said.

The group plans to announce the selected companies later this year, although no specific date was given.

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