With a career spanning more than 30 years at Embraer, Antonio Campello leads innovation teams based in Silicon Valley and in Boston to seek disruptive innovation, explore business opportunities in the future of air transportation and procure partnerships that will enable new business models and technologies.
In this conversation, he talks about the company’s role in the global aerospace industry, the partnership with Uber to launch small electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles and how Embraer became Brazil’s largest manufacturer of high-tech products.
BayBrazil: What has motivated Embraer, a successful 50-year-old company, to go beyond its core business and join the development of urban mobility solutions? Was the creation of EmbraerX mainly a result of the eVTOL project?
Campello: Innovation is part of our DNA, and it is not limited to the technological development of aircraft. We have a long history of innovation and the ability to find unexplored business and product niches. EmbraerX, a wholly owned Embraer subsidiary, exists to build disruptive businesses, considering that transportation will probably be disrupted by the exponential growth of new technologies as well as the development of new business models. The eVTOL project was born inside EmbraerX to alleviate a mobility problem in worldwide congested cities, which impact the quality of life of a significant amount of people
BayBrazil: The development of eVTOL concepts has been made through a cooperation with Uber and other companies to explore business opportunities. Why is this global partnership important?
Campello: Regarding the Uber Elevate Network, we share the vision that on-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, improving the quality of life for people who live in congested urban communities. Massive economic development in urban centers has led to population densification to an extreme that causes continuous congestion of roadways, despite the expansion of alternative transportation, such as trains, above or below ground.
Urban air mobility can be leveraged by using the eVTOL (electrical Vertical Take Off and Landing). However, the entire ecosystem has to be developed, which demands a significant integration among ride-sharing platform, aircraft manufacturer, infrastructure for vertiports, air traffic management, certification authorities, etc.. As the leading manufacturer of commercial jets with up to 150 seats and a major player in business aviation, in addition its important role in defense and security, Embraer is one of the most experienced partners in this space and Uber recognizes and values Embraer’s ability to bring affordable, yet advanced flight systems to much smaller aircraft.
BayBrazil: One of the key design drivers of eVTOL is to be affordable. Still, there are many high costs involved in an aircraft, including investments in the ecosystem. Will it be a real alternative for cars or just cheaper than helicopters? Is there any price target for a ride?
Campello: An eVTOL is actually a very different machine from a helicopter, and no one anywhere in the world has built and certified an operational eVTOL, yet. Meanwhile, in this new century, Embraer has been creating more new aircraft than anybody else, and we are recognized for designing very safe aircraft with top performance and availability. And yes, eVTOLs are a real alternative to cars because they will not be restricted by roadway paths. The price target should be very affordable.
BayBrazil: Is there any estimate of the market size for the eVTOL? Will Brazil be one of the pioneer countries to benefit from this technology? Which countries may benefit the most?
Campello: Considering the number of congested cities in the world, a very significant demand is expected for eVTOLs. There are many companies trying to design and build an eVTOL. Down the road, the market will recognize the market players that are most qualified to be the most competitive. Beyond all of Embraer’s engineering capabilities, a clearly recognized advantage that we have one of the most agile certification capabilities in the aerospace industry. Embraer has developed and certified 15 aircraft in the last decade, more than any other manufacturer. We are confident that we are very well positioned to be competitive and we believe that we can deliver true innovation to this new market, just as we did in commercial and business aviation, as well as defense and security, over the last decade alone.
Two cities are slated for eVTOL launch, according to the Uber Elevate initiative: Dallas and Los Angeles. After validation of the experimental aircraft and associated ecosystem, more cities will be added to the launch list, based on criteria that will enable deployment of an eVTOL ecosystem in each community. Brazil’s major cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, certainly have the potential for early eVTOL deployment, but the pace of the ecosystem development in each city will ultimately determine a timing of availability.
BayBrazil: How will the investment in EmbraerX’s technology development bring a contribution to Embraer in the long term?
Campello: Annually, Embraer invests almost 10% of its revenue in innovation. Nearly half of Embraer’s revenues—and profits—come from innovations implemented in the last five years, but we don’t want to stop at incremental innovation. Exponential innovations through disruptive business models will allow us to grow at accelerated rates.
BayBrazil: Are there other disruptive products and services in EmbraerX’s pipeline? Can you share some?
Campello: The eVTOL project is only one of EmbraerX’s initiatives. We have other projects under development, which we will launch when the moment is right.
BayBrazil: EmbraerX has one of its innovation teams in Silicon Valley. What is its mission and how has it been working with startups?
Campello: While we are attentive to important innovation hubs around the world, we are prioritizing the Silicon Valley and Boston, where we have established a presence to seek disruptive innovation and explore business opportunities in the future of air transportation.
We want to integrate with the Silicon Valley and Boston communities and create value for transporting people and cargo through the world’s largest innovative ecosystems. Innovation teams at each site are interacting with startups, investors, academia, and corporations procuring partnerships that will enable new business models and technologies.
BayBrazil: Embraer is one of the top leaders in global aviation technology. Tell us about the company’s journey to get there. Besides forward-thinking leadership, what else was important in Embraer’s global path?
Campello: It is self-evident that the aerospace industry is global—and highly competitive. This means that for any company in this value chain, whether it’s a small component maker or the aircraft manufacturer who leads the chain and controls the entire process from conception to production, being global is a prerequisite for survival. To be competitive on a global scale, Embraer combined its capacity to innovate and to develop quality products with an increasingly competitive production process, and the company is now the highest aggregate value exporter in Brazil.
Embraer’s history is evidence that it is possible for a company to insert itself in global value chains. But, this demands preparation to compete, by investing in innovation, researching and applying the most advanced technologies and resources, increasing productivity and reducing costs.
Embraer’s success is directly linked to its DNA of innovation. Out of more than 18,000 employees around the world, 6,000 are dedicated to innovation. The company invests nearly 10% in new technology research, new product development, and new industrial processes. This figure is well above average across industries.
The return on Embraer’s continuous investment in innovation is reflected on its balance sheet, where close to 50% of Embraer’s revenues and profits have derived from its investments in innovation and hundreds of international patents have been filed.
In fact, Brazil’s largest manufacturer of high-tech manufactured products is Embraer. The Company has been driven by innovation since its inception.