How can airports set up incubators unit to create a space for innovators to solve airport problems based on challenges placed on them from different departments? Then, using the resulting solution, partner (in terms of equity) with the innovators. Help them form companies that the airport can partner with. Then market to other airports.
Airports have various problems to solve on a daily basis that involves providing greater safety and security, more resilient revenue sources, greater efﬁciencies of processes, and long term planning and implementation. Solutions are often missed as the people who work at airports are concerned with daily operational issues and their own work. They have little time for "out-of-the-box" thinking. Often, new ideas are ignored because they are untried, or bureaucracies slow the processes of making decisions such that solutions are never found. Examples of such problems include the following:
- Crowd control in airports, especially now we have issues such as COVID-19 requiring social distancing for health reasons
- Truck congestion on land side for cargo
- Better passenger numbers predictability to allocate resources
- Collecting revenue from ad hoc foreign ﬂights that use the airport
- Gun detection among traveling passengers
- Space management on ramp
- Airport technology to determine sick passengers
- Selling according to real needs in concessions and retail
- Data collection and dashboard reporting - an efﬁcient system to collect data from stakeholders like airlines
-I mplementing cargo community systems
- Best staff training for leadership for creating resiliency in airport, etc.
Integrating innovation into the airport human resource infrastructure, would allow a small group of bright, well selected people usually from outside the industry and a mix of graduates and experienced people, to work with the airport. The airport would be their laboratory and the staff as their resources. Since the airport is paying them a small stipend (or not, the consultants should come up with different models for airport to adapt based on their own structure), their true gain is ﬁnding viable solutions that allows them to form companies and partner with the airport. Again, consultants would decide based on their research the feasibility, where this is done, both in the USA and abroad) The company will share equity according to an agreed share with the airport which will become part of the airports non-aeronautical revenue. The incubators would be rotated and for a limited time, so that we can weed out tailed ideas and bring in new needed solutions. We would allow new entrants based on competition to ensure we got Hugh quality people.
Airport Incubators would bring in new ideas to solve problems (some of which are listed above) airports are having, and bring revenue to airports as some of these ideas may be able to be replicated in other airports. It would also be an important tool to help modernize U.S. airports to catch up with Europe and Asia.
A guidebook on different models to set up this structure, including legal framework, insurance requirements, spacing, their backgrounds, how to mange, and measure performance of such an entity, and how to implement what they produce in a legal and mutually beneﬁcial way to create incentives to innovate.
The guidebook should also suggest areas U.S. airports have fallen short and suggest projects for the Incubators to work on. They will determine this from their interview with airports. Suggestions could include:
- Automation and robotics – to ensure resources are used most efﬁciently
- Data analytics and the Internet of Things – to look at opportunities for gathering real-time information within the airport and enable it to make better decisions on operators. They could look at data on consumer behavior to gauge habits and preferences so relevant products and services can be created.
- Non-intrusive security technologies – Incubators could help Airports look at how they can reduce stress and improve the passenger experience through better security processes.
- Smart infrastructure management – look at how sensors and IoT can help improve processes.
This list is only indicative of the expectations and not prescriptive
The consultants would have to study:- airports and or non-airport incubators to look at best practice, structure and success
- examine legal frameworks where this could presently work well
- recommend new or adjusted legal framework to make it work well
- suggest Human Resources framework, insurance, and any other mechanism on implementing program
- suggest performance measurement tools
- suggest incentives to attract the best and brightest minds to this program
- consider and report on any other item/theme/concern around this topic that the project approach omitted
- suggest problems and innovations to for incubators to start working on
- the guidebook should be applicable to large medium and small airports.
- the guidebook should consider different management structures of airports - government state or city run, authorities, private, management company, etc.
- the consultants should study international programs like:
- Changhi Airport's Living Lab
- Marriott's TestBed Accelerator
- IAG Group Hanger 51 accelerator
- EasyJet Founder's Factory
- Delta Air Lines' The Hanger
- Munich Airport LabCampus
among others that the consultants may thing relevant
It is estimated the project would cost about $450,000. Rough estimates of costs include:
- $ 200,000 - Professional fees for a team or company (based on experience from previous projects I have evaluated and seeing their cost proposal)
- $ 40,000 international travel and/or communication to examine other incubators at selected international airports, e.g. short list attached in the approach include both domestic and international (may have to be curtailed or travel to only the most successful incubators to gather information on what they are working on and how airports in US can replicate them)
- $ 20,000 for travel and research in U.S.A among airports and other businesses (less expensive and may include most study of airlines like Delta, or non-aviation related business incubators/accelerators
- $ 20,000 for travel and meeting of panel and evaluators
- $ 100,000 for research, subcontracting, printing, researchers, university student support, etc.
- $ 70,000 miscellaneous
There has never been a guidebook on airport incubators commissioned by ACRP. However, there may be some other research tangential to the topic:
- TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Research Report 186: Guidebook on Building Airport Workforce Capacity
- ACRP Report 20: Strategic Planning in the Airport Industry
- ACRP Report 16: Guidebook for Managing Small Airports
There are many non-airport related studies and incubators mostly in the U.S.A., to take examples and pull some research from.