Airports Authority of India’s Startup Policy aims at leveraging the startup ecosystem in the country to promote innovation infusion at airports
The aviation sector in India has been clocking double-digit growth rates for a few years. The Vision 2040 document unveiled at Global Aviation Summit 2019 by the Civil Aviation Ministry anticipates that India will have over 1.1 billion annual air passengers by 2040, almost five times the current passenger load. All this poses the need to not just add several new airports but also requires a major overhaul in the efficacy of existing airports. Moreover, as the new age passenger has ever-growing needs, airports today do not only serve as transit zones but also add up as retail and entertainment venues.
Delighting the passenger by ensuring a seamless travel experience, besides being a great source for retail and entertainment is a major priority for airports today. In this context, airports are always competing for new ideas to reign inefficiency, boost sustainability and provide better passenger experience. The Airport’s Authority of India (AAI) is making more out of this situation by creating opportunities under the newly-launched ‘Startup Policy’ of AAI – Innovate for airports program.
To make innovation a cornerstone of its efforts and to improve performance and delightfulness of Indian airports, AAI has come up with this brilliant platform leveraging innovation already existing in the market, refining them to suit the airport – environment and adopting them across airports in the country. Some of the world’s leading airports like Singapore’s Changi Airport already have a dedicated programme for working with startups and the importance of this new policy cannot be overlooked. From providing easy hassle free luggage check-in at the doorstep to advanced analytics tracking passenger flow for better resource planning, the potential is limitless.
India is blessed with the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem with over 15,000 startups registered with the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP). AAI’s new policy on startups will help stimulate innovation in the aviation sector while also making AAI airports. The world’s best and future ready. The policy not only makes procurement from startups easier but also establishes a system of co-development through an “Idea to Proof of Concepts” grant of `2 crores, while also increasing the potential of pilots at existing airports. The startups will also receive technical and business mentorship from AAI.
Major focus sectors
AAI, in order to operationalise the policy, has already launched a Grand Challenge Innovate for airports programme in association with Invest India and Startup India of DIPP. Hosted on the StartupIndia platform, the challenge calls for applications in eight focus sectors. The focus sectors are airport operations, logistics, robotics, renewable energy, IT & data analytics, Air Navigation Services (ANS), security solutions and passenger delight.
Aiding the innovators
An evaluation committee comprising of AAI, StartupIndia, Incubators as well as external experts will be picking the winners. Winners will receive funding, technical and business mentorship as well as a pilot opportunity at existing airports. AAI has also created 10 Champion Airports, with spaces to sit and work for startups, to promote innovative ecosystem catering to local airport challenges.
AAI’s recently set-up Civil Aviation Research Organization (CARO) at Hyderabad will provide researchers access to relevant equipment as well as mentorship support for Applied Research. While this will tremendously boost in-house research capabilities within AAI, it will also serve as a fulcrum for interactions with startups and other innovators towards driving improvements in Air Navigation Services (ANS) and airport operations.
The popularity of air travel is growing at a rapid pace among Indians, aided by the emergence of low-cost airlines as much as the speed of travel. This is leading to increased work towards managing passenger traffic, cargo, the vehicle for pick-up & drop, trolley management, baggage handling and cleanliness among the other key issues. Thus, AAI is welcoming innovations and startups from both within AAI as well as from outside to work with AAI to build, design and deploy cutting-edge innovative solutions across different verticals of the airport.