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Project Ara's head engineer leaves Google to start Airbus' new Silicon Valley office

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Google's Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) skunkworks, the star of Google I/O last week, is a tough place to work: after two years, projects are expected to either become real businesses or die. In the case of the Project Ara modular smartphone, the deadline has been extended — but rather than keeping the team around, ATAP is bringing in some fresh blood. And that means that Paul Eremenko, Ara's technical lead, was bound to leave the group one way or another.

Poaching from Google and Andreessen Horowitz is a real Silicon Valley move

Now it's official: Eremenko is going over to global aviation giant Airbus, where he'll be running the company's new Innovation Center. Alongside Eremenko will be Tim Dombrowski, an Andreesen Horowitz veteran who is charged with managing a $150 million venture capital fund that Airbus is spinning up. In other words, Airbus is trying to tap into the Silicon Valley mojo, literally half a world away from its headquarters in Blagnac, France.

Airbus isn't the only major transportation firm to try planting roots in the heart of the Valley; Ford recently opened its Research & Innovation Center in Palo Alto, a tacit acknowledgement that Northern California has must-have talent that product-focused companies can't find elsewhere.