Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Italy has launched a business accelerator hub for startups to develop projects and prototypes.
The Innovation Hub is situated in a 650m2 facility in the middle of Terminal 1 and is intended to host new startups from Italy and around the world. They will receive direct investment from airport operator Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) and the support of an in-house team of 30 innovators created by ADR, dubbed the Innovation Cabin Crew, who will help the startups test their services in the field, working with experts and passengers. The acceleration period within the airport, amounting to six months on average, will enable startups to finalize their projects, bring them to market and exploit the international Airports for Innovation network of which ADR is a member.
ADR’s innovation program, in which the operator has invested €50m (US$48.9m), took shape in 2021 with the launch of the first call for ideas. This aimed to identify startups from across the world interested in using Fiumicino to develop their solutions in six areas of airport operation: improving punctuality, data-driven systems, process automation, energy efficiency, the passenger digital experience and omnichannel commerce. The call attracted interest from approximately 530 startups from around the world, with 96 (62 from Italy and 34 from abroad) submitting an application. Support was provided by private early-stage investor Plug and Play throughout the selection process. At the end of the first call, 10 startups were selected; all were created around five years ago and most of their founders are under 30. These were joined by a further three startups with whom ADR has been working recently. Aeroporti di Roma is also working with LVenture Group on the development of the startups’ projects. The second stage of the Innovation Hub’s acceleration program will involve further startups following a new call for ideas to be launched by the end of November 2022.
The projects being developed at Fiumicino include advanced robotics solutions – with machines capable of activating themselves when areas of the airport need cleaning, delivering food and beverages to travelers or transporting passengers with reduced mobility in total comfort – and process innovations to boost the efficiency of certain airport operations such as security checks, aircraft turnaround, baggage transport and reclaim and airport wayfinding.
Alessandro Benetton, chairman of Edizione, who led a discussion on the topic of innovation during the official opening of the hub, said, “ADR’s Innovation Hub marks a new, open approach to the way our group intends to provide strategic guidance to investees, investing significantly in innovation and sustainability and, above all, providing openings for anyone with ideas and projects and willing to take a risk. Watching young people, from both Italy and other parts of the world, working with their startups at the heart of Fiumicino Airport, engaging with passengers and talking to airport experts, gives a clear indication of how we can build the future by nurturing new skills and through exposure to a wide range of knowledge and experiences. This is how, by working closely with all our partners, we want to build a new ‘Made in Italy’, making our country more attractive to young talent and creating new jobs through investment and by internationalizing our know-how.”
Giampiero Massolo, chairman of holding company Atlantia, said, “Launching an open innovation initiative in a major airport called Leonardo Da Vinci will undoubtedly give a competitive edge to all the startuppers that are going to develop their projects here. ADR’s project, which will bring benefits for both the airport sector as a whole and large numbers of passengers, is confirmation of the Atlantia Group’s commitment to concrete, tangible investment in a growth plan based on innovation and sustainability. This strategy is shared by all our Italian and overseas subsidiaries. We wish all the Italian and international startups that will be working at the Innovation Hub the very best for the future.”
Marco Troncone, CEO of Aeroporti di Roma, said, “Leonardo Da Vinci has firmly established itself as an airport that delivers operational excellence. As a result, our new challenge is to play an active role in designing the airport of the future, helping to drive the sector’s digital and green transition. Innovation is an essential aspect of our approach to providing quality services, to sustainability and to safety, playing a key part in enabling us to implement our business strategy. The hub is a major testimony to our vision, involving significant investment in innovation-related initiatives. We aim to partner with leading international startups, spreading an innovation culture and encouraging our people to be creative.”
Omeed Mehrinfar, managing director and co-head of Plug and Play EMEA, said, “As PNPTC [Plug and Play Tech Center] we are honored to participate in the inauguration of ADR’s Innovation Hub. ADR has continuously set new benchmarks in their proactivity toward innovation adoption, which was reflected in their receiving our partner innovation award in our Silicon Valley HQ. We are excited and looking forward to all the upcoming projects and pilots between our startups and ADR, to hit even higher milestones together.”