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Elaine Harding

Elaine Harding on augmenting aerospace

By Elaine Harding

Founder, AugmentAero

Innovator, entrepreneur, aerospace tech enthusiast, and astrologer – Elaine Harding navigates the high-tech industries in which she specialises with problem-solving dexterity.

As well as her notability in the world of aerospace through her company Capilaux – working with the likes of Airbus and Boeing and operating a hub in Miami – Elaine has previously owned and exited successful start-up, Safe2Stay.

Now, applying AI and augmented reality technology to the aviation sector to help address skills challenges, Elaine’s aerospace tech startup AugmentAero, is about to take off.

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How are you developing tech to help address the skills challenges of the aerospace industry?

A big problem in the aerospace industry is that there's so much regulation: Engineers are given piles of paperwork to carry out time-consuming tasks and accessing important information is difficult with aircraft manuals that are up to 4000 pages long.

All I can say is we are developing a very exciting solution that could completely transform the industry.

I get asked a lot how I went from Recruitment one day to AI the next: I got very lucky when I was speaking at an event on International Women's Day and met Dame Wendy Hall. She is on the United Nations high-level advisory board for the safe use of AI and was one of the very first contributors to what we know the internet to be today. She’s amazing.

I was able to arrange a Zoom call with her to discuss some of my ideas and with her support, I've now got five amazing master’s students from the University building a very exciting MVP.

In conjunction with the University of Southampton and three worldwide aircraft maintenance businesses, we have just applied for the Bridge AI grant funding of £1.2 million which means we will be fundraising up to £500,000 from Angel or VC investors early in the first half of 2024.

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What do you think the potential is for AI and AR to make an impact within the aerospace industry?

Over the next 10 years, AI and AR will completely change the way that everybody works, not just in aerospace.

AI is going to accelerate hugely over the next few years – the impact will be of the same scale of how the Internet and computers transformed the way we do things.

Everyone should be learning about AI.

What is unique about working with aerospace companies, and what do you enjoy about it?

The reason I chose aerospace is because I love to travel and when I started my own business, I’d already gotten some exposure to aerospace.

The aerospace industry is a wonderful community filled with people from hugely diverse backgrounds and you make friends all over the world. I spent a month in Miami at the beginning of the year, that was really fun and was very good for the business.

It’s such an interesting industry and there’s always so much to learn. I’ve learned to really embrace it and enjoy the process of learning something new everyday.

"Over the next 10 years, AI and AR will completely change the way that everybody works, not just in aerospace."

Can you tell us about your work as a consulting astrologer?

This is a bit quirky but I love it. I’m working on a project doing Molly Bloom’s astrology. She ran the worlds largest high stakes poker game, and she had a movie made about her called Molly’s Game so she’s a really interesting person to use as a case study for astrology. I reached out to her on Instagram and picking her up as a client was pretty cool.

I’ve also studied how Steve Jobs’ career aligns with his birth chart. I do quite a lot of business astrology because I love business and combining astrology and business can be quite fun. If anybody wants to have a conversation with me about astrology, I’m there for it.

It can be very handy to have in your toolkit as an entrepreneur – if you want to know when’s a good time to launch a product, join forces with a business partner or start business then I can give them advice as to when’s a good moment for that to really work for them.

I also appreciate that not everyone believes the spiritual stuff around astrology but I’ve had clients where regardless of their beliefs, they seem to have gotten something from the process.

But what do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Wakeboarding, paddleboarding, water sports, and yoga – I’m a big Yogi because I am hectic otherwise; I like to keep active and busy.

I travel a lot and really love to explore new places and meet new people. I am lucky to have lots of friends from all over the place and so a great time for me is one-on-one meaningful conversations with friends while out on some kind of adventure.

Have you had any mentors who’ve guided and inspired you throughout your career?

Absolutely. One of the reasons I’m here is because I’ve got so many mentors who have been pivotal in my career; I wouldn’t be anything without them and proactively seek them out.

I’ve got loads of influences, many in business and am all for learning and collaborating with others wherever possible.

As a technophile, what are three apps that you use every day?

I use my astrology app so I can see what the stars are up to. Podcasts – I consume loads of business content across lots of different industries as well as listening to astrological content. And the third has got to be WhatsApp.

"The aerospace industry is a real community filled with people from hugely diverse backgrounds and you make friends all over the world."

Elaine Harding - Founder, AugmentAero