news - AEROPORTI DI ROMA
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 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 metre 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 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 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.
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 some cases revolutionise, the efficiency of certain airport operations such as security checks, aircraft turnaround, baggage transport and reclaim and airport wayfinding.
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, the Chairman of Atlantia, 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.
“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. 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 internationalising our know-how,” said the Chairman of Edizione, Alessandro Benetton.
“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,” said Atlantia’s Chairman, Giampiero Massolo.
“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,” said Marco Troncone, Chief Executive Officer of Aeroporti di Roma. “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 and support contamination at all levels of the business, spreading an innovation culture and encouraging our people to be creative,” concluded Troncone.
“As PNPTC we are honoured to participate in the inauguration of ADR’s innovation hub. ADR has continuously set new benchmarks in their pro-activity towards innovation adoption, which was reflected in them 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,” said Plug & Play’s Managing Director and CO-head EMEA, Omeed Mehrinfar.
The second stage of the Innovation Hub’s acceleration programme will soon involve further startups following a new Call for Ideas to be launched by the end of November this year.