Leonardo da Vinci Airport launches innovation hub

Leonardo da Vinci Airport is marking a European first with the launch of its new innovation hub, hosting startups from Italy and around the world.

Designed to accelerate business, the hub will focus on the development of innovative solutions for airports, hosting startups from Italy and around the world in a 650sqm facility in the middle of the airport’s Terminal 1.

The initiative has been launched by operator Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) as part of its open innovation strategy for airport services and operations.

The startups will benefit from both ADR’s direct investment, as well as the full support of a special in-house team of 30 innovators created by ADR, dubbed the ‘Innovation Cabin Crew’.  They will help the startups test their services in the field, working closely with experts and passengers. 

ADR’s innovation programme, currently comprising a €50M investment programme, took shape around a year ago 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 saw 96 startups (62 from Italy and 34 from abroad) submitting an application, with 10 selected. These were joined by a further three startups with whom ADR has been working recently. Support was provided throughout the selection process by project partners Plug and Play, the leading private early-stage investor in Silicon Valley and LVenture Group.

The projects being developed at Fiumicino include both advanced robotics solutions – with ‘machines’ capable of activating themselves when areas of the airport need cleaning, delivering food and beverages to travellers or transporting passengers with reduced mobility in total comfort – and process innovations able to boost, and in some cases revolutionise, the efficiency of certain airport operations such as security checks, aircraft turnaround, baggage transport and reclaim and airport wayfinding.

The acceleration period within the airport, amounting to six months on average, will enable startups to finalise their projects, help bring them to market and exploit the international ‘Airports for Innovation’ network of which ADR is a member, alongside the Aena group’s Spanish airports and the airports of Athens and Nice.

Speaking at the official opening of the hub on 17 October 2022, Chairman of Edizione, Alessandro Benetton, commented: “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, projects and willing to take a risk…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 internationalising our know-how.”

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