The AIR Pass program has been developed for startup companies, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with strong, sustainable growth ambitions and a passion for growing Australia's aviation and aerospace entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The program is designed for early-stage ventures that have a sense of their product-market fit potential and are looking for prototyping and technology support to assist in the delivery of a minimum viable product (MVP).

Project submissions are currently closed. However, more details on the assessment criteria and method of application for future rounds are found below.

Program benefits you can access

Prototyping and technical support

Fortnightly one-on-one sprint review for rapid prototyping, guidance from technical entrepreneurs and support from engineering specialists

Financial support

Access to up to A$50,000 equity-free seed funding for assistance in the development of an MVP or product related engineering

Networking and promotional support

Connection to industrial mentors, customers, suppliers and key organisations in a supportive ecosystem through the AIR Hub network

How we support you

For up to six months, our design and engineering team will guide and support you to rapidly design and analyse your technology and product. The AIR Hub can leverage the significant research and development expertise of Swinburne and we can connect your team with the right expert to help you solve the technical challenges you are facing. By maintaining a short project duration with clear and focused goals we can accelerate and support your own technology development program. Your AIR Pass project can also be leveraged to support further funding opportunities, whether they be grant focused or capital raising.

The intensity of the prototype sprints is designed to help you get beyond words and promises – reducing "talking" and maximising "doing". Your project should be achievable with a clear focus and deliverable and could form part of a larger internal technology development program. 

AIR Pass case studies 

The AIR Pass team has completed a number of successful AIR Pass programs, spanning the breadth of Australia's aviation industry. View the below case studies to learn more about past AIR Pass programs. 

Accelerating success for aerospace ventures
Dovetail Electric Aviation

Accelerating success for aerospace ventures

Learn about Dovetail Electric Aviation's AIR Pass program.
Collaborating to bring automated manufacturing to UAS platforms
Innovaero Pty Ltd

Collaborating to bring automated manufacturing to UAS platforms

Learn about Innovaero Pty Ltd's AIR Pass program.
AIR Hub's access to facilities and assets

The AIR Hub has supported Boeing and Quickstep and is working with major players and SMEs across the aviation and aerospace sectors. The program has access to many facilities and assets at its disposal, including:

  • automated carbon-fibre composite manufacturing facilities
  • additive manufacturing and machining facilities
  • structural testing, impact and material characterisation facilities
  • surface coating and characterisation facilities
  • robotics and electronics facilities
  • engineering design and support services in a range of disciplines

Applying for AIR Pass

Our true north is to grow Australia’s entrepreneurial presence and recognition in the global aerospace and aviation industry. We want to support ventures to build and lead innovative aviation and aerospace products with Australia as home base. We are looking to support your early-stage ideas and products that have the essential ingredients to be a viable venture and have some aptitude for growth in scale of operations.

We consider ventures that align with the AIR Hub’s goals and major research themes of digitalisation, aircraft structures, UAM / AAM, and net zero aviation.


Startups and SMEs will be considered if they:

  • Fit within the AIR Hub’s research priorities of digitalisation, aircraft structures, UAM / AAM, and net zero aviation
  • Are based in Australia, with preference given to companies with employees and operations in Victoria
  • Can show that their technology and product fits a clear market need and has potential customers
  • Can frequently engage with the AIR Hub’s project delivery team during the duration of the AIR Pass project
  • Are committed to growth and creating a viable venture that involves Australia as a base
  • Have clarity about what they hope to gain from the program and have an achievable plan.


You must have a company registered in Australia.


The prototype engagement is expected to take place over six months and will require your staff to be available either in-person or virtually during that time.

The AIR Pass program is currently closed for submissions. 

No, the program is only open to proprietary limited (Pty Ltd) companies as we are looking to develop robust and high-growth businesses.

Yes. We believe we can provide help to any company that has not yet raised more than A$1 million (if you do not otherwise have sustainable revenues). SMEs that have an existing established business are encouraged to apply if they are looking to start a new product venture.

Possibly. Some startup accelerators focus on customer discovery and development, problem articulation, building a board and investment pitching. The AIR Pass focuses on making your immediate customers delighted with a prototype.

It is important that your problem is well-articulated to ensure the construction of a prototype makes sense. However, we accept this is an iterative process. If you can dedicate a serious concerted effort to your prototype development during your AIR Pass program, we will consider your application.

We are interested in engaging with SMEs that have a new venture within their existing business.

Yes, your company must be based in Australia. Preference will be given to those companies with employees and operations based in Victoria, or to those companies in active discussions with Victorian Government bodies about relocation to Victoria.

Yes. However, your team must be actively involved with the AIR Pass technical team during the duration of the project and assist in management of the project. 

The application process is:

• You complete and return the initial expression of interest form. The application will be assessed as received

• We will score your application and if it scores highly, we will invite your project team for an interview, where project deliverable and timelines will be discussed in depth

• After the interview, projects that are assessed as achievable will move to the contract drafting phase, where a detailed budget and project schedule will be prepared and agreed

• After final agreement of the project’s deliverables, schedule, budget, and the relevant terms and conditions, the contract will be signed, and the AIR Pass program will commence.

AIR Pass focuses on ventures that fit within our scope and resources of a six-month time frame and up to A$50,000 funding. If you have a bigger mission, please select a critical feature that must be demonstrated to achieve customer or investor buy-in as your proposal for your six-month project.

Interested in future rounds of AIR Pass?

Please submit a completed PDF version of the initial expression of interest form to

Frequently asked questions

Engaging customers at every stage of your venture is essential. Engineers frequently wonder if something can be built; however, the deeper question from a venture success standpoint is: does anybody care?

From a glass-half-full standpoint, we believe that your time is extremely valuable, and you can be extremely valuable when working inside a productive environment that unlocks that potential. So let’s get you working with customers that care!

Every project in the AIR Pass must have a customer touch point. This can be a demonstration, a trial or a pilot of your product. Talking about the solution to the problem and dropping a functional prototype down in front of your early customers elicit two entirely different responses! This program is focused on the latter.

There are no better application reviewers than the customers themselves. We ask for customer references in the application process to let them do the selling for you. Are they willing to get on the phone to complain about the problem your venture solves? Do they believe in you and your ability to solve the problem? Have you mapped out your innovator, early adopter, early and late majority, and laggard customers within the market? These are the essential questions that lead to a venture with purpose and the questions we ask when assessing your application.

Half the seed funding is provided up-front, while the remainder is paid at the mid-way point. The prototype support funding is provided approximately two months in advance. Continuous engagement will unlock further funding. 

We may award a fraction or the full amount of the funding based on what your prototype project needs. The maximum limits are A$150,000 for prototyping support and A$50,000 for other startup activities that help you focus on your mission.

We will work together on the budget calculation. If the calculation indicates a smaller figure, we will provide a smaller award.

Please assume a standard market rate for services from facilities accessible through the AIR Hub, such as the use of CNC machines. We will also work with you on your budget if your EOI is successful.

If you have questions on specific Swinburne's facilities or capabilities, we can help facilitate access to those.

The startup seed funding can be spent on things that support your company to grow. This includes but is not limited to labour, travel, training, equipment, licences and professional fees (e.g. accounting and legal).

Yes. The money is to be used to pay for non-prototyping expenses, so your company can make the most progress possible during the program.

If you already have access to a private workspace, we recommend you continue to use that. If you do not have a private workspace, we can arrange a working location for you.

You can propose a project utilising work arrangements that best suit you. The projects are intentionally limited to a maximum six-month duration to encourage progress and reinforce the idea that startups are inherently unsustainable without customers. We want you and your team to make a concerted effort to bringing your venture to customers. 

No. The money from AIR Pass is a grant (not a loan), so you do not have to pay the money back. Even if your business does not succeed, we do not expect you to return the grant.

No, but we do expect founders to give back to the community in two ways. Firstly, we want you to grow an incredible and sustainable business! Secondly, we have some expectations that you will be involved in Australia’s aviation and aerospace ecosystem. This may involve attending networking events, participating in advocation and being a mentor or guest speaker.

Swinburne aims to help change the game in the Australian aerospace startup ecosystem by establishing ongoing relationships with ventures that push boundaries to take the sector forward (e.g. companies with moonshot visions to develop new technologies that will lead to ongoing work, research and talent pipeline for Australian engineers).

No. The maximum project length is six months. This is intentional to encourage your focus and maximise your practical thinking (and doing) for a customer in a constrained environment.

Yes, but only if the results of your first grant are compelling.

We realise there is risk in early-stage commercial and technological development. The timeframe and budget have been set to mitigate these risks. There are no clawbacks or payback terms associated with AIR Pass funding.

Have a question about AIR Pass?

If you would like to know more about AIR Pass, please send your query to

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