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Leonardo Da Vinci marks European first with launch of Innovation Hub, a business accelerator at the heart of the Airport

17 October 2022

Fiumicino, Monday, 17 October 2022 – 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.