‘Innovation Lab in the Sky;’ Top Innovators Deliver Solutions to Tech Talent Challenges While On Board Transatlantic British Airways Flight

22 Concepts Developed In Under Five Hours During Inaugural “UnGrounded” Flight

LONDON – June 13, 2013 – British Airways announced that its inaugural “UnGrounded Innovation Lab in the Sky” landed in London today, bringing an all-star line-up of innovators together from leading companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft, LeanIn.org and IDEO.  The flight also featured venture firms like Innovation Endeavors and Andreessen Horowitz, as well as organizations such as Clinton Global Initiative to participate in the world’s first innovation workshop held at 30,000 feet.


More than 130 Silicon Valley tech leaders took to the skies to collaborate, ideate and create concepts and solutions to global talent challenges impacting innovation, entrepreneurship and the economy around the world.

In just under five hours, this trailblazing group developed 22 concepts aimed to help people with STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, and math) find opportunities to utilize their talent and drive global innovation.

Flight participants explored the STEM challenge from four key angles – “fostering women in STEM”; “expanding STEM”; “meeting U.S. demand for STEM talent”; and “growing local STEM opportunities in emerging economies.”

Out of the 22 concepts developed on the flight, flight participants collectively selected one winner in each of the four exploration categories.  The winning concepts will be announced and presented by UnGrounded passengers to the United Nations ITU Committee at the DNA Summit in London on Friday, June 14.

“Understanding the opportunities and challenges facing the technology industry, especially from a talent perspective, is critical to the continued growth of global innovation,” said Simon Talling-Smith, Executive Vice President of the Americas for British Airways. “Through UnGrounded, we had the opportunity to tap into some of the world’s most brilliant minds and demonstrate how ideas can accelerate when the right people come together.”

The UnGrounded Experience

The UnGrounded in-flight experience was developed in collaboration with global design and innovation firm IDEO.  Together, British Airways and IDEO transformed a British Airways Boeing 747 into a highly collaborative and creative workspace in the sky.

Before boarding the flight in San Francisco passengers were addressed by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who reinforced the importance of the cause for local development. The innovators were then placed in groups and tasked with attacking the STEM challenge as part of a competitive team on board the flight.

Donning brightly colored hoodies designating their teams, flight passengers set right to work as the flight began its journey across the U.S. towards London.  For five hours, passengers filled the aisles of the airplane, keeping it abuzz with energy, as they brainstormed, debated, conceptualized, illustrated and ultimately co-created tangible ideas for ‘hacking’ the STEM challenge.

The Passengers

Hand-selected for their unique background and experience, participants on board UnGrounded ranged from entrepreneurs to seasoned business leaders, venture capitalists, designers and scholars. Participants included:

Peggy Abeywardena, Head of Girls and Women, Associate Director, Commitments, Clinton Global Initiative

Gina Bianchini Co-Founder of Mightybelland LeanIn.org

Gerald Brady, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank

Kimberly Bryant, Black Girls CODE

Andrew D’Souza, COO, Top Hat

Gary Fowlie, United Nations ITU

Marguerite Hancock, Associate Director, Stanford Business School

Van Jones, President and Co-Founder, Rebuild the Dream

Duncan Logan, CEO, RocketSpace

Claudia Fan Munce, Managing Director, IBM Venture Capital Group

Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects

David Raskino, CTO, Microsoft Global Start-Up

Tiffany Shlain, Filmmaker and Founder, The Webby Awards

Megan Smith, VP of Google[x]

Whurley, Co-Founder, Chaotic Moon

Will Young, Director of Zappos Labs, Zappos; General Partner, Vegas Tech Fund

…and many others.

Hyperlinks to Additional Info:

UnGrounded Website

Full UnGrounded Participant List

UnGrounded Photos

UnGrounded B-Roll

For more information visit www.ungroundedthinking.com, like us on Facebook, or follow us @BritishAirways and join the #BAInnovate conversation.

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