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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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Airport Accelerator Recruits Fifth Group

The San Diego International Airport (SAN) is seeking the fifth cohort for its Airport Innovation Lab, a startup accelerator program that it launched in 2018.

The 16-week program gives startups mentorship and opportunities to test their products in a 3,500-square-foot space at the airport’s former commuter terminal. To date, a total of 16 companies, organized in four different cohorts, have participated in the Airport Innovation Lab accelerator program over the last two years.

Touchless Solutions

For this cohort, the airport is seeking companies that provide “touchless solutions” that allow contactless movement of passengers throughout the airport such as passenger identification, security, concessions point-of-sale, among others.

“COVID-19 taught us a lot about the need to create a safe environment for all that move through SAN,” said Kimberly Becker, president and CEO at the Airport Authority. “Our airport had to pivot and address the changing needs as county health and safety measures continued to be imposed on all businesses and public entities. We are looking for innovative ideas that can help shape the travel experience of the future as we continue to adapt our systems and procedures at SAN to reduce the spread of the virus.”

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Airport leadership also provide startups with guidance and connections, which can be critical in gaining business in a highly-regulated airport environment.

Its fourth group started in March earlier this year before pandemic stay-at-home orders were imposed by local government. The group participated in a full-virtual program and were able to test their solutions at SAN during the late summer and fall months.

Potential Partnership

At the end of the program, successful innovations have the opportunity to be deployed at San Diego International Airport, with the possibility to be rolled out to other airports and analogous businesses, such as shopping malls, convention centers and other transportation hubs.

Jonathan Spangler, CEO of Ciari Guitars said his startup gained a ton from the program, adding that the airport’s forward thinking has benefited many startups focused on the airline and air travel ecosystem.

In total, three San Diego-based companies including GoApron (formerly ParkConnect), Nuvve, and NXT Robotics have been selected to enter into contract negotiations with the Airport Authority but have not been activated at SAN.

Innovators for the fifth group will start the program with the virtual format until COVID-19 restrictions are eased. Startups have until Oct. 4 to apply, with the program starting in November. n

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