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Silicon Valley accelerator event brings companies from around the world to Gatwick

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Daniel Haque, Chief Digital Officer, VINCI Airports, Abhi Chacko, Head of Innovation, Gatwick Airport, Cedric Laurier, Chief Technical Officer, Gatwick Airport
Daniel Haque, Chief Digital Officer, VINCI Airports, Abhi Chacko, Head of Innovation, Gatwick Airport, Cedric Laurier, Chief Technical Officer, Gatwick Airport

A Silicon Valley ‘accelerator’ hosted an event at Gatwick Airport yesterday that brought tech start-ups – from the UK, USA, India, Israel, Austria and Denmark – together with VINCI Airport’s global network, and other UK airports, airlines and universities to help drive airport innovations forward.

Plug & Play, a Silicon Valley-based accelerator, introduces new tech start-ups and entrepreneurs to established businesses with a view to fast tracking their innovations and driving forward improvements at scale across a particular sector – in this case airports.

Gatwick – a leading airport innovator and an innovation centre of excellence for Vinci Airports – has an ongoing relationship with Plug and Play and hosted the event, which looked at technological solutions for a range of airport issues.

Sixteen start-up companies from around the world attended, including:

  • London and Copenhagen-based platforms that connect travellers with hotels and shops where they can store bags – without searching for a specialist luggage facility
  • Paris-based start-up that helps airlines improve fuel efficiency – saving money and emissions
  • A New York-based firm that uses machine learning predict flight disruption and automatically rebook passengers on alternative flights
  • A London-based start-up that aims to make air travel ‘baggage-less’ by checking-in luggage at home and delivering it to the passenger’s final destination

The start-ups pitched their products to event attendees and five “reverse-pitches” were also given by airport users – including pilots, airfield staff and others who work at the airport – to highlight challenges they face so that the start-ups could take these away and work up possible future solutions.

Local universities and business groups were also among those attending, including the University of Sussex, the University of Chichester, and Chambers of Commerce from both Horley and Crawley. 

Abhi Chacko, Head of Innovation, Gatwick Airport, gave an overview of recent innovations at the airport – including a passenger chatbot and the use of computer vision to measure the amount of hand luggage due to go on an aircraft. 

He said:

This event kick-started numerous discussions that may not otherwise have happened and we hope it will supercharge airport innovation at Gatwick and other airports across the UK and further afield.

“By deploying the latest innovations, Gatwick has been able to deliver some best in class passenger services. Technology moves fast however and events like this help Gatwick and VINCI Airports to stay ahead of the curve so we can become early adopters of appropriate advances that will improve the service we offer passengers.”

Amir Amidi, Managing Partner, Plug and Play Travel & Hospitality, said: 

“Our Plug and Play Travel program innovation day at Gatwick Airport is by far the largest airport centric event we have co-hosted since launching the Travel & Hospitality program in Silicon Valley in 2016. Plug and Play currently helps 14 airports including Gatwick and Changi on their digitization initiatives by putting them in touch with relevant and cutting-edge technologies developed by startups from all around the globe. Our 2020 goal is to grow our partnerships with another 50+ airports in our Silicon Valley and Travel EU program out of Vienna. 

“Airports have a rich environment for testing and deploying new technologies because we view them as “mini cities” with their concessions, real estate footprint, security measures and most recently sustainable initiatives. By teaming up together, airports can take advantage of multiple specific practices that Plug and Play has to offer such as Supply Chain, Smart Cities, Mobility, Energy, Sustainability, Retail, Financial Services, Real Estate & Construction etc.” 

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Nervous time for Crawley & Gatwick Pret A Manger shops as chain announces closure of 30 shops and at least 1,000 job losses

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Pret A Manger is to close 30 of its shops as it struggles to cope with the problems caused by COVID-19.

According to the food chain they had faced ‘significant operating losses’ during lockdown.

The closure puts around 1,000 jobs at risk and the chain has said it will make these closures before the end of this year whilst also reducing staff in its other locations.

Crawley has one Pret A Manager within The Martletts with several others located within Gatwick Airport itself.

It is not yet clear which shops will close but with jobs cuts to come across its shops it will be a very nervous time for Crawley’s shop staff to see if they are affected in any way.

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