Sixth Sense is all about looking to the horizon and around corners, exploring the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. But that’s not to say we don’t also recognise the need to look back from time to time to reflect on what we’ve achieved so far.

No different from the learning journey of our Sixth Sense startups, each cohort teaches us something new, serving as a vital jumping-off point to iterate, optimise, and evolve — taking the programme to the next level. 

So as our third challenge focused on sustainability and digital reality in manufacturing draws to a close, let’s take a moment to reflect on our third cohort – Zaptic, Flexxbotics, Acerta, Launchpad, RVmagnetics, TOffeeX, Dessia, and Rafinex – as well as the dynamic Sixth Sense Summit in London this year.

We sat down with Milan Kocic, the head of Sixth Sense, to get his take on the key learnings, reflections, and insights from our third pioneering programme and what’s in store for the next chapter.


What are your main reflections from the third cohort?


Milan: At Sixth Sense, we use this “one plus one equals three” expression to underline how we help Hexagon and startups join forces to create more value for both companies and for customers. 

Our third cohort exemplified this approach more than ever, with many of the startups embracing the programme’s core purpose: connecting the dots between Hexagon and their transformative solutions—building a joint idea. 

Sandy Reid, Zaptic’s CEO and co-founder, underscored this at the Sixth Sense Summit, highlighting how Sixth Sense opened doors to explore synergies between Zaptic’s technology and Hexagon’s manufacturing solutions. 

We’re now looking for ways to lay the foundations for these strong connections from day one; hosting a pre-cohort pitch day to get to know cohort members better, as well as improving post-cohort efforts to create better value for both Hexagon and startups afterwards.


What kind of impact has Sixth Sense had over the last few years?


Milan: I think the best ratification of Sixth Sense’s impact is the fact that many different divisions within Hexagon are now asking to launch their own cohorts. There’s also a great deal of interest from inside the organisation about many of our start-ups and where there might be opportunities for collaboration. 

This has been exemplified by the number of partnerships our finalists from across the cohorts are forging between Hexagon and other industry leaders. 

One of note is the landmark partnership between Hexagon and the winner of our second cohort, GelSight. Another is that of ETQ – a part of Hexagon and the leader in enterprise quality management solutions – and Augmentir, also from our second cohort. 

Interest in our cohort members’ technology shows in other ways, too, with cohort two members Threedy securing $10.4 million in a recent Series A investment round and CASTOR landing a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority. 


What makes Sixth Sense different from other accelerator programmes?


Milan: I think Sixth Sense’s point of difference is very simple: it has a distinctly transparent, collaborative and human element to it. 

We are building relationships between people. We are honest about whether we think something is going to work or not. And we aim to deliver a positive impact on both companies through a growth, collaboration and curiosity mindset. 

It’s this unique model and approach that resonates with people and makes us different from other programmes. Because of this, I think everybody comes out happier. 

Regardless of the outcome, I’d like to see startups walk away from Sixth Sense feeling better than they did when they entered the programme, equipped with new tools that benefit their business in the long run. 


What are your main reflections from the Sixth Sense Summit in London? 


Milan: After this third iteration, I think we now have a good blueprint of what we want to create with the Sixth Sense Summit. What the London summit highlighted, more than ever, was the golden thread that binds the fabric of our programme and mission: the power of bringing innovators and entrepreneurs together to discuss the future. 

With a packed agenda of lively discussions, the London summit convened an impressive group of people from startups, businesses, and Hexagon departments alike. I was particularly pleased to see our series of thematic roundtables broaden the horizons of discussion. 

Exploring the challenges and opportunities of an evolving manufacturing landscape, these roundtables were led by Elaine Warburton OBE, Russ Shaw CBE, and Ana Avaliani. They focused on topics including female representation in manufacturing, the current fundraising climate for startups, and how we can better harness the entrepreneurial potential of spin-outs.

It was also great to see Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s Global Internal Communications Manager, Natalie Tellis-James, join us on the day, and I was equally delighted to read her article afterwards, sharing her experience at the summit and how she “ended the day with a true sense of excitement.

All told, the summit provided experts with a unique platform to come together and discuss what the industry’s future might look like—and, crucially, how everyone can contribute to it. What’s more, it was also a fantastic opportunity to connect our cohort members with potential investors, commercial opportunities, and partners—roll on 2025! 


Looking ahead, what’s next for the Sixth Sense Programme?


Milan: To take Sixth Sense to the next level, our next phase will see the programme evolve at both ends of the spectrum: zooming both in and out. 

Zooming in, we’ll be looking at how we can focus cohorts on more specific challenge areas, generating more targeted outcomes rather than the broad approach we’ve taken thus far.

Zooming out, we’ll be looking to replicate the success of our manufacturing intelligence cohorts across more divisions at Hexagon, as well as even broader, with external partners.

We started Sixth Sense with two main goals: one was to bring outside innovation so we could accelerate what we do, and the other was to help facilitate culture change. But culture change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an ongoing journey over many years. 

We are only two and a half years in, but watch this space. Implementing change may take time, but we’ll continue with patience and persistence, and I look forward to talking again in another two and a half years to see where this journey has taken us.

All of this outside interest from other parties indicates that the appetite for Sixth Sense is only growing. The journey is really only just getting started, and the future looks incredibly bright.