AIR Pass Information Session

Held on 28 July 2022, this webinar provided an overview of the AIR Pass program and application process.

View the recording

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, have identified and engaged their innovator customers, and are looking for prototyping and technology support to achieve a demo, trial or pilot program with their first or next customer.

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

Up to A$150,000 in prototyping support for demonstration to early customers and up to A$50,000 equity-free seed funding for non-prototyping activities 

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 Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) and engineering team will guide and support you to rapidly design, build, test, analyse and demonstrate prototypes to your customers. By maintaining a short project duration with a clear customer touch point, we ensure your project remains customer-focused. This feature is critical to building a productive business and obtaining future funding (grant or investment) in Australia.

The intensity of the prototype sprints are also designed to help you get beyond words and promises – reducing "talking" and maximising "doing". Your project can be small and discreet with a clear customer demonstration. It can also involve completing a critical feature of a larger product solution and demonstrating it to a customer. This will help you find out the real viability of your product, clarify your path to growth and enhance your investability.

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 demonstrate understanding and ownership of your product's business case, and that care deeply about solving your customer's problems.


Startups and SMEs will benefit most from the program if they:

  • fit within the Air Pass program’s venture viability assessment (otherwise they should highlight this as a key weakness with a plan to address this during the program if their application is successful)
  • can show some validation of the product-market fit by:
  • collating early customers together to agree that a problem clearly exists and believe that you are competitive enough to solve it, or
  • introducing an early minimum viable product that has been tested with customers, or
  • gathering extensive insight through existing industry expertise or quality customer interviews
  • have passionate customers who will readily get on the phone to complain about the problem or advocate for your proposed solution and be happy to purchase it
  • can frequently attend Swinburne University of Technology’s Hawthorn campus in-person to engage in prototyping and program's events at short notice
  • are willing to focus and adapt rapidly to change
  • deeply care about the problem, the customers and their experiences
  • are committed to growth and creating a viable venture that involves Australia as a base
  • remain tenacious in the face of adversity
  • are open, honest and vulnerable about successes and failures
  • have clarity about what they hope to gain from the program


You must have a company registered in Australia.


The prototype engagement is expected to be done in-person.

Closing dates for applications in 2022 are:

  • Round 1 (closed) – Monday 8 August, 5pm AEST
  • Round 2 (closed) – Monday 5 September, 5pm AEST
  • Round 3 (closed) – Monday 10 October, 5pm AEDT 

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. We are passionate about growing Australia’s entrepreneurial participation in aviation and aerospace. One of the best ways to gain customers is to have local access to a portion of the market, so ideally you should have at least some customers based in Australia.

Hardware prototyping and testing is best done in-person, so you must frequently participate in-person at Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus to move your prototype along. If you are not based in Melbourne, you must demonstrate how you can participate in-person. 

The best way to engage with Swinburne, uphold a high level of project progress and maintain alignment of expectations is by regular in-person interaction. If you believe your prototype development can thrive using another mechanism, please let us know and we can discuss it further. 

Yes. However, your team must be actively involved in solving the problem you have identified. In most cases, this requires technical expertise, but we are willing to hear about the circumstances where this does not apply. We can help connect you with technical expertise during the project.

The application process is:

  • You complete and return the initial expression of interest form. The application will be assessed in the present round. Applications submitted after the round closing date and time will be assessed as part of the following round.
  • After the round closes, we tentatively evaluate:
  • the venture viability assessment
  • our capacity to support you
  • your venture's future potential
  • If your application meets our guidelines, we will send you a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and a detailed questionnaire to learn more about your venture and your proposal. In the detailed questionnaire, we ask for the contact details of your reference customers.
  • We will score your application and if it scores highly, we will invite your project team for an interview.
  • We will present your scored application and interview to our panel for final selection.
Venture viability assessment

We ask eight questions to determine your venture viability when starting from the Australian context:

  1. Does the venture have access to a local market with more than ten innovator segment customers?
  2. Is the product five to ten times better compared to the expected short- or medium-term improvements of existing solutions with few or no compromises to get early customers to try it?
  3. Can we imagine the venture monopolising the initial starting market segment (i.e more than 60 per cent market share)?
  4. Does the product differentiate the venture from international competitors or alternatives?
  5. Can the current team build the entire product?
  6. Are there mechanisms for the venture to fund the first few prototypes?
  7. Can the prototypes be built, tested and demonstrated in six months?
  8. Is there a technological innovation and has that been secured?

The program will be open with perpetual rounds until the funds have been committed. We are expecting to complete between four to eight projects.

It is possible we could commit all projects in the first round, so we propose that you apply for the earliest round possible if the program is of interest to your venture. The rounds have been designed to minimise delay between waiting for the round to close and your project being approved.

AIR Pass focuses on ventures that fit within our scope and resources of a six-month timeframe and up to A$200,000 funding. If you have a bigger mission, please select a critical feature that must be demonstrated to achieve customer buy-in as your proposal for your six-month project. The requirements for a clear customer touch point are still essential.

Your project does not need to focus on the capabilities of the Swinburne-CSIRO National Industry 4.0 Testlab – we encourage projects with broader focus. However, it is beneficial if your focus fits within Swinburne's total capabilities as we are looking to establish an ongoing relationship with your venture.

Ready to apply for 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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