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Boeing’s Ventures Moving To Cortex

(courtesy Ventures)

Boeing Defense, Space & Security's start-up arm, Ventures, is moving to Cortex, the innovation and technology district in the Central West End. 

"We’re really looking forward to being part of the St. Louis’ rapidly growing hub of innovation, entrepreneurship, start-ups, and technology research," said Ventures' Vice President Tim Noonan.

Noonan said about 20 full-time employees will move from the current location on Boeing's Hazelwood campus to Cortex. Ventures will take up about 7,500 square feet in the @4240 building. Cambridge Innovation Center, one of the nation's leading business incubators, is also slated to move into Cortex this year.

Boeing began Ventures about two years ago in an effort to grow business outside its expertise in airplane and defense production.

"We’re breaking the myth that Boeing can’t start up," Noonan said.

He pointed to its partnership with a Montreal-based company, RER Hydro, to commercialize hydrokinetic turbines. Boeing worked with the smaller company to test the technology, then signed an agreement in 2012 for exclusive rights to market and sell the turbines around the world.

"That’s an example of taking someone else’s intellectual property, adding to it only the things Boeing could add, and finding a commercial opportunity," Noonan said.

He said Ventures’ focus will be primarily on developing ideas brought by Boeing engineers. Noonan said he expects the team to manage about three to five start-up ideas per year.

"We’re going to spend a lot of time working on refining this method for accelerating ideas quickly and finding pathways to either scale them or pivot to another market," he said.

Another reason Boeing started Ventures is to attract the best talent to Boeing. Noonan said younger employees are asking for different contracts that allow them take risks and work with others to develop ideas.

"At Boeing we want to grab these employees, and we want to help them find a path to start new businesses," Noonan said. "We think it’s an essential ingredient to our future."

Cortex’s President and CEO Dennis Lower said Ventures’ move to Cortex is important in helping St. Louis prove itself as a technology hub.

"It really continues to validate the direction that we’ve been going the last couple of years, which is to create an environment where established companies and emerging companies can interact with each other,” Lower said.

He said Cortex is in talks with a number of companies that could move into space adjacent to Ventures. It’s all a part of a trend in the last decade for open innovation instead of closed research and development within established companies.

"We’re looking to facilitate synergies between established companies as well as with the start-up companies to create as many creative collision points for those companies to interact and form new companies," Lower said.

The move is also helping the @4240 building fill quickly. Lower said the building is 80-85 percent occupied with leases that are signed or soon to be signed.

Manifest Digital, the largest independent digital agency in the Midwest, announced Friday it will take more than 16,000 square feet in @4240.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.