Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) – a Corporate Partner of the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub – has launched a third ‘Call4Startups’ as part of its ‘Runway to the Future Acceleration Program’. In this interview, Alice Tosti, Acceleration Program & Open Innovation Specialist, shares a deep-dive into how ADR is empowering the next generation of disruptors with the opportunity to embark on an eight-month journey to develop a Proof of Concept, testing their solution within the ADR Innovation Hub at Rome Fiumicino Airport.
The third edition of ADR’s ‘Call4Startups’ is based on six main challenges:
- Smart operations & processes: solutions that facilitate terminal and operator processes.
- Infrastructure management & development: solutions that support the continuous improvement of the airport through the management and development of infrastructure.
- Passenger experience: improving the passenger experience to ensure an increasingly pleasant and smooth journey for passengers.
- Net zero target & sustainability: contributing to the net zero goal through technology, process management and social sustainability.
- Commercial opportunities: new business opportunities by exploiting new technologies and customising the offer.
- Disruptive solutions: open call dedicated to startups which have high-impact technological solutions without any thematic constraints.
Tosti explains that the message to startups is: “Are you ready to define the airport of the future?” ADR is specifically seeking startups in Seed, Series A, and Series B stages. The deadline to apply is 22 March 2024 and international startups can do so by following the instructions provided here. During the two months following the opening of applications, ADR’s Innovation Team will also be supporting startups with online webinars dedicated to broadening the scope of each of the proposed challenges and for registrations.
“We’re looking for pioneer startups which have strong passion for revolutionising the travel experience and shaping the next generation of airports,” says Tosti. “We will be delighted to welcome strong and developed solutions into our infrastructure and achieve full roll out of their innovative services within our airport and smart city after the pilot test. Our programme is designed to be international, aiming to set the future standards for the aviation industry with a worldwide reach, so we aim to define innovative solutions which can be implemented in each airport.”
“Kickstarting a journey of innovation and excellence”
During the project period of eight months, selected startups will have the opportunity to develop a Proof of Concept inside the ADR Innovation Hub at Fiumicino Terminal 1, testing the solutions within the unique context of the airport. They will be supervised by members of the ADR Innovation Cabin Crew, a team of specialists who will support them in the development of their projects in each area of expertise.
“In the airport environment and more specifically in the Innovation Hub, innovation really takes place when startups meet with the members of our Innovation Cabin Crew,” Tosti shares. “Dedicated business mentoring provides the knowhow necessary for the startup to correctly and successfully apply the technology and, thus, develop a valuable innovation project. Through enhanced customer experience, optimised operational efficiency, optimised business performance, and a commitment to sustainability, the projects kickstart a journey of innovation and excellence.”
A budget of €80,000 will be assigned to each startup and, as in the two previous editions of the ‘Call4Startups’, in the event of a positive outcome, they will also have access to potential business opportunities of up to €2 million, contributing towards shaping the airport of the future.
The programme includes not only financial support in the realisation of the projects, but also engagement from ADR’s corporate partners, such as the Silicon Valley-based Plug and Play Tech Center and Airports for Innovation – the network of airports launched by ADR, dedicated to innovation.
“Moreover, one of the main upgrades for this year is that we have launched ADR Ventures our Corporate Venture Capital firm born to empower the next generations of disruptors in aerospace, sustainable travel, hospitality, and passenger experience,” Tosti explains.
An impressive 50% conversion rate from PoC to implementation
In the initial two editions of the ‘Call4Startups’, ADR successfully identified and collaborated with several innovative startups. “In the first edition, from 96 applications, we selected 10 startups that implemented their solutions at Fiumicino Airport,” Tosti notes. “Following a rigorous testing phase, we commercially launched the services of five out of the 10 startups, officially integrating them as providers for Aeroporti di Roma. In the second edition, with 116 applications, we chose 13 international startups currently undergoing the final testing phase.”
Indeed, the notable successes include engaging with over 600 startups in the last two years, achieving an impressive 50% conversion rate from Proof of Concepts (PoCs) to implementation, and testing 23 PoCs.
Some of the exciting innovation projects that ADR is testing right now include:
- Two autonomous wheelchair solutions directly inside Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.
- Developing a real-time monitoring dashboard for airside operations through Artificial Intelligence algorithms by using aircraft positioning data.
- An innovative solution which can provide passengers a real-time view on the boarding gate status of their flight.
- Sensors to monitor the proper disposal of waste in bins through Artificial Intelligence algorithms.
- Biometric technology that facilitates access to dedicated corporate services for ADR employees.
FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub: “a crucial role in successfully fulfilling the need for collaboration and driving positive change”
Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) is a Corporate Partner of the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub, which Tosti adds is characterised by an innovative approach, aiming to bring together all partners and prospects. “Given that many of us are engaged in similar needs and challenges, and certain technologies require collaboration across multiple touchpoints, so the FTE Hub plays a crucial role in successfully fulfilling the need for collaboration and driving positive change.”
If you’re interested in joining the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub and playing an active role in our unique digital transformation and innovation community, please contact us here and we will be happy to share more information.