BA launches “Ungrounded” – An innovation lab in the sky

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British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

An 11 hour transatlantic flight from San Francisco to London in a passenger configured BA aircraft may not seem the most conducive environment for 100 thinkers to come up with solutions to the world’s problems, but BA thinks otherwise with the launch of Ungrounded.

It’s best left to BA to describe further so in BA’s words:

British Airways has launched “UnGrounded”, an innovation lab in the sky designed to connect industry leaders and creative minds for the purpose of tackling a challenge that affects the next generation of global innovators. To kick off this program, British Airways is partnering with the United Nations: The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Decide Now Act (DNA) Summit.

Taking place at 30,000 feet in the air aboard a private British Airways flight from San Francisco to London, UnGrounded participants will address the misalignment between where science and technology talent is emerging and where opportunity exists for talent to realize their potential. They will be tasked with designing a platform to inspire and connect this talent with civic and commercial opportunities, to accelerate innovation in communities around the world.

“Our understanding is that the talent crunch is a real issue for companies and organizations in major tech hubs around the world,” said Amir Dossal, Chairman, Global Partnerships Forum, and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of ITU, United Nations. “We need to give people the opportunity to discover and be discovered, to grow skills, provide experience and uncover new ideas globally.”

Upon landing in London the group will present their work to a like-minded group of global thought leaders to decide how to put this into action. The UnGrounded flight experience will be designed by innovation firm, IDEO.

The ‘passengers’ will be selected for their energy, ideas and experience. Working with British Airways on this challenge and recruitment are leaders in the tech community, including:

o Todd Lutwak of Andreessen Horowitz
o Leor Stern of Google
o Celestine Johnson of Innovation Endeavors
o Duncan Logan of RocketSpace
o Gerald Brady of Silicon Valley Bank
o Marguerite Gong Hancock of SPRIE, Stanford Graduate School of Business
o Rhonda Abrams of The Planning Shop

This program is part of a larger initiative by British Airways to open the door to collaboration with the start-up community in Silicon Valley. The airline recently joined RocketSpace, an open innovation campus in the heart of San Francisco, and will be actively engaging with the start-up community through the RocketSpace Corporate Innovation Program.

“As one of the world’s leading airlines, British Airways deeply believes in the power of face-to-face engagement to ignite new ideas, co-create and accelerate innovation,” said Simon Talling-Smith, EVP of the Americas for British Airways. “We are focused on how we can bring people together to affect change within global society as well as within our own business.”

Key Facts: The UnGrounded Flight

• The inaugural UnGrounded flight will travel from San Francisco to London in the summer of 2013.

• British Airways has chosen to launch the UnGrounded flight from Silicon Valley, the global hub for technology and the de-facto model for how amazing ideas can be cultivated when people are together.

• Participants on the UnGrounded flight will include some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent thinkers – from budding entrepreneurs to seasoned business leaders, VCs and scholars.

• Upon touching down in London, flight participants will attend the DNA Summit, a meeting that connects the best minds in the world to progress talk into action.

• During the DNA Summit, passengers will present their solution to the challenge to a group of like-minded, global innovators. The outcome will be received by the Secretary General of the ITU – the UN agency for information and communication technologies.

The challenge aligns with the UN Broadband Commission’s mandate to achieve “digital inclusion for all.” The commission advocates that all people should have access to affordable information and communication technologies for their social and economic development.

About UnGrounded

Ungrounded brings together talent from diverse backgrounds to disrupt and co-create to affect change within the global innovation community as well as within the airline industry. The program was born and will grow in Silicon Valley through its inaugural “Innovation Lab in the Sky” – 100 innovators at 30,000 feet coming together to ideate and create solutions against a global socio-economic challenge.

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