Our Asset Company Aeroporti di Roma today inaugurates the Innovation Hub, the first startup accelerator in the heart of an airport

Our Asset Company Aeroporti di Roma today inaugurates the Innovation Hub, the accelerator of operating enterprise in the heart of the airport, with unique characteristics in Europe
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17 Oct 2022
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There’s a robot that delivers food and beverages to passengers anywhere in the airport and another, powered by solar energy, that moves autonomously cleaning the terminals as it goes and, once at rest, turns into a comfortable bench to sit on.

Then there’s a self-driving wheelchair, capable of transporting travellers with reduced mobility from the terminal entrance to their gate. There are also new and untested solutions that use artificial intelligence to make security checks and baggage handling faster and more efficient, and others that make aircraft turnarounds more sustainable, cutting C02 emissions. These are just a few of the projects developed by Italian and international startups working at the Innovation Hub located within Leonardo da Vinci airport, an initiative launched by our Asset Company Aeroporti di Roma as part of its open innovation strategy for airport services and operations.

Unique in Europe, the Innovation Hub is nothing less than a business accelerator, focusing on the development of innovative solutions for airports and located in a 650-square meter facility in the middle of Terminal 1 in the country’s number one airport. The Hub will host young startuppers from Italy and around the world. They will benefit from both ADR’s direct investment in their startups and the full support of a special 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 closely with experts and passengers. The acceleration period within the airport, amounting to 6 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.

ADR’s innovation programme, which currently comprises of a €50M investments’ program, took shape around a year ago with the launch of the first Call4Ideas. 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 throughout the selection process by Plug and Play, the leading private early-stage investor in Silicon Valley, with a portfolio of over 40,000 startups, including 21 “Unicorns” worth in excess of US$1bn. Ten startups were selected at the end of the first Call: all were created around 5 years ago and most of their founders are aged under 30. These were joined by a further 3 startups with whom ADR has been working recently. Aeroporti di Roma is also working with LVenture Group on development of the startups’ projects.

All the startups’ projects were presented today during the official opening of the Innovation Hub, attended by the Chief Executive Officer of Edizione, Enrico Laghi, our Chairman, Giampiero Massolo, and the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of Aeroporti di Roma, Claudio De Vincenti and Marco Troncone. The Innovation Hub also hosted a discussion on the topic of innovation with the startuppers in attendance. This was led by the Chairman of Edizione, Alessandro Benetton, together with the Managing Director, Co-Head EMEA of Plug and Play, Omeed Mehrinfar, and Chiara Piacenza, Scientist, ISS Science & Utilization Planning at ESA.

The second stage of the Innovation Hub’s acceleration programme will soon involve further startups following a new Call4Ideas to be launched by the end of November this year.