First five startups enter San Diego Airport’s dedicated Innovation Lab

San Diego International Airport, California, has begun the first round of its Airport Innovation Lab accelerator program, with five startups testing their ideas with the aim of improving airport parking and easing the airport experience.

The successful applicants include Baggage Nanny, FreedomPark, ParkConnect, TravelCar, and Vark. The 16-week accelerator program will culminate with a presentation to the San Diego Airport Authority, where participants will demonstrate their solutions and what they learned. In addition to gaining airport experience, the companies will have an opportunity to vie for a contract with San Diego Airport.

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Rick Belliotti, director of innovation and small business development, San Diego Airport Authority, said, “After repurposing a portion of the decommissioned commuter terminal, we sought a third-party operator to help manage the Airport Innovation Lab and finetune our processes.

“We were very lucky to get Detecon Innovation Institute on board, and they helped us cast a wide net for interested applicants. Now we are off and running, testing innovations that will improve the airport experience.”

For parking solutions, the concepts comprise an off-airport valet service and rental car valet by FreedomPark; a parking booking system (including payment and rewards) by ParkConnect; a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform enabling passengers to park and potentially rent their personal vehicles while traveling by TravelCar; and a new valet management solution by Vark.

To enhance the passenger experience, one concept is a secure luggage storage and delivery service (for arriving and departing passengers) by Baggage Nanny.

Kimberly J Becker, president and CEO, San Diego Airport Authority, added, “San Diego International Airport is committed to excellent customer service and innovation. We started the Airport Innovation Lab to develop solutions at the intersection of these two imperatives. It is very exciting to contemplate new ideas to address existing challenges, as well as the potential for developing radical new concepts.”

The unique Lab was launched to reduce barriers for innovators to break into the aviation industry. The 3,500ft² space offers a functional mini-terminal area with ticket counters and a bag claim carousel, all without passenger or security concerns to work around.