Boeing's latest $50m investment in a fund that will support aerospace and defence startups is part of a series of similar corporate-backed deals that come against a backdrop of growing geopolitical tensions.

Boeing has invested $50m in a new venture fund, the latest in a series of corporate-backed defence and aerospace-related investments, which are at record levels this year.

The US aircraft maker’s investment will help launch its corporate venture arm AEI HorizonX’s second fund, which plans to raise $250m to support startups in areas such as aerospace, green technologies and security.

Growing geopolitical tensions have piqued investor interest in the aerospace and defence sector. Corporate investors have participated in deals that Global Corporate Venturing projects to be worth more than $2bn in 2022, a record level that is already higher than last year’s total.

The war in Ukraine, increasing tensions between western governments and China, and the growing threat of cyberattacks against critical infrastructure have galvanised the private sector’s involvement in the industry.

Recent investments by corporates include US defence and aerospace company Raytheon’s launch of a new investment arm, RTX Ventures, in April. Its first investment was in hypersonic aircraft developer Hermeus.

Booz Allen Hamilton, a US defence-focussed consultancy, launched a $100m corporate venturing unit in July. It will invest in startups across defence, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

Nato, the transatlantic military alliance, is also launching a €1bn innovation fund that will invest in early-stage technologies that can be used for both military and commercial purposes.

“The future of aerospace is digital, sustainable and autonomous,” said Marc Allen, Boeing’s chief strategy officer, in a press release. “This new Fund II builds on the foundation we have with Fund I and positions us to significantly expand our strategic access to disruptive technologies critical to shaping and realising that future.”

AEI HorizonX was formed as Boeing’s corporate venture unit in 2017. The $5bn fund is now managed by AE Industrial Partners, a private equity firm.

The fund’s portfolio consists of 51 global investments, including AI and machine learning startups, and companies targeting reductions in the aviation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.