Rome–Fiumicino International Airport Leonardo da Vinci has launched a business accelerator and innovations hub.

Start-ups from all over the world will be able to develop projects and prototypes directly in the terminal buildings, working alongside airport experts and passengers Around 100 start-ups took part in the first Call for Ideas, with ten selected and a further three businesses added by ADR (The Aeroporti di Roma Group, which operates the airport).

Unique in Europe, according to ADR, the Innovation Hub will focus on the development of solutions for airports and is based in a 650m2 metre facility at the centre of Terminal 1.

The Hub will host young start-up teams from Italy and around the world. They will benefit from both ADR’s direct investment and the full support of a special in-house team of 30 innovators created by the Group. Known as the “Innovation Cabin Crew”, the team will help the start-ups test their services in the field, working closely with experts and passengers. The acceleration period within the airport, lasting six months on average, will enable start-ups to finalise their projects and help bring them to market. Participants will also benefit from the international Airports for Innovation network of which ADR is a member, alongside Aena’s Spanish airports and the airports of Athens and Nice.

ADR’s innovation programme, which involves a €50m investment, took shape around a year ago with the launch of the first Call for Ideas. This aimed to identify start-ups 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 start-ups, with 96 (62 from Italy and 34 from elsewhere) submitting applications. Support was provided throughout the selection process by Plug and Play, a private early-stage investor in Silicon Valley. Aeroporti di Roma is also working with LVenture Group on development of the start-ups’ 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.

A new Call for Ideas will be launched before the end of November this year.

Image: Aeroporti di Roma