Airports Authority, 1776 Advance Partnership with Airport Innovation Challenge

November 14, 2017

Startup Firms to Develop, Test New Products, Technologies to Enhance Airport Passenger Experience


The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and 1776 are advancing their technology-development partnership by launching the Airport Innovation Challenge, a competition for startup firms to create and deploy new products and services to enhance the airport passenger experience.

Firms participating in the Airport Innovation Challenge will pitch their ideas in December. Winners will receive $15,000 in prizes and travel to Northern Virginia, where they will spend three months, from January to March in 2018, at the Airports Authority’s Innovation Lab at 1776’s Crystal City campus near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. At the lab, startup firms will test their business models and products, working with Airports Authority experts as well as mentors from 1776 and Union, a global innovation network.

“Technology and innovation are reshaping the expectations and experiences of the millions of travelers who pass through airports every year,” said Airports Authority President and CEO Jack Potter. “We expect the startup businesses taking part in the Airport Innovation Challenge to help create the next generation of products and services that will characterize the airports of tomorrow.”

The Airports Authority, which operates Reagan National and Dulles International airports in the Washington, D.C., area, serves about 45 million passengers a year, including more than 80 percent of the National Capital Region‘s international travelers.

The Airports Authority’s executive sponsor of the 1776 partnership and Airport Innovation Challenge, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Jerome L. Davis, noted that airports around the world are becoming more competitive with new terminal facilities, passenger amenities and technology-based services to make the travel experience more pleasant, convenient and efficient.

“Reagan National and Dulles International airports, which are the Washington, D.C., region’s gateways to the nation and the world, are committed to being leaders in developing the next generation of airport technologies and services,” Davis said.  “Our partnership with 1776, which discovers and develops up-and-coming technology-based companies, is the perfect forum for introducing game-changing innovations to help take our airports – and the entire air travel industry – into the future.”

Evan Burfield, executive chairman at 1776 and CEO at Union, noted that the partnership combines the Airports Authority’s operational and customer-service expertise with 1776’s “global startup network to accelerate the use of technology in preparing the airports to meet the needs of customers in a digital economy.”

The Airport Innovation Challenge is an outgrowth of the partnership between the Airports Authority and 1776, which was announced in February 2017. The competition seeks to activate the business startup community and identify innovations that will transform the airport passenger journey, strengthen airport brand loyalty and help shape the future of airports. Competitors must be for-profit businesses developing new ways to connect with passengers and enhance airport services. Emerging technologies may include artificial intelligence, biometrics, robotics, or virtual or augmented reality. New products and technologies may be tested at Reagan and Dulles airports. Additional information can be found by visiting the 1776 Airport Innovation Challenge page online.  

Apply To Compete

“Our goal is to create a differentiated experience for passengers that addresses their unique preferences,” said Chryssa Westerlund, the Airports Authority’s vice president of marketing and consumer strategy.  “Satisfied and loyal customers help us grow revenue, which, in turn, keeps costs lower for airlines and their customers and helps bring new airlines and destinations to our airports.”

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority operates Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, the Dulles Airport Access Highway and the Dulles Toll Road and also manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail public transit system into Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.

1776 is a community of entrepreneurs passionate about solving complex problems and unlocking the potential of the communities it serves.  Eleven campuses across four states and the District of Columbia make 1776 the largest network of entrepreneurial incubators in the Northeast Corridor.  By joining 1776,  members can access the knowledge, mentorship, capital, markets and talent they need in order to scale. Along with offering co-working space, 1776 also offers focused programming, curriculum, community, and expertise to help entrepreneurs grow their business. For more information, please visit and follow @1776 on Twitter and @1776vc on Instagram.

Union empowers startup ecosystems around the world. Its platform provides entrepreneurs, startup hubs and innovation teams with the best resources, networks and data architecture to transform their operations regardless of location. To learn more, visit