Global Innovation Exchange challenge: Airport Navigation in the Metaverse for Improved Accessibility

This Global Innovation Exchange challenge, delivered by Innovate UK KTN through the Global Alliance Africa project, is supporting Kenya Airways to identify innovative solutions for airport navigation via the metaverse. They would like to harness the opportunities that next generation technologies provide to improve accessibility for all travellers to navigate the complex logistics of airports.

Opportunity Details


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Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to pitch their solution to Kenya Airways. The winning applicant, as selected by Kenya Airways, will get the opportunity to collaborate with them on a trial project. Up to GBP 25,000 seed funding is available (subject to T&Cs) to the successful finalist/s for this collaboration.

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A recorded webinar about the challenge is available: click here to view the recording and download the slides.

The Challenge

Anxious passengers and those who need assistance often find airports to be overwhelming or difficult to get around. As a friendly and caring organisation, Kenya Airways is interested in the ways next generation technologies could assist all their passengers to navigate the complex logistics of airports. Mobile phone capability is envisaged for customer accessibility, possibly alongside other platforms and devices.

Solutions are invited from, but not limited to, the following sectors:

  • Travel logistics
  • Data capture
  • Software development
  • Gaming
  • Hardware
  • Design
  • Assistive technology

Download the promotional brochure here.

Kenya Airways Background

Kenya Airways, a member of the Sky Team Alliance, is a leading African airline flying to 42 destinations worldwide, 35 of which are in Africa. It carries over four million passengers annually and in 2020, was named Africa’s Leading Airline by the World Travel Awards.

The company continues to modernise its fleet with its 32 aircraft being some of the youngest in Africa. This includes its flagship B787 Dreamliner aircraft. Kenya Airways services London, Amsterdam, Guangzhou, Sharjah, Mumbai and over 25 intra-Africa routes within its passenger network.

Kenya Airways takes pride in being at the forefront of connecting Africa to the World and the World to Africa through its hub at the new ultra-modern Terminal 1A at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Kenya Airways celebrated 46 years of operation in January 2023.

Their brand promise of “Delightful experience with a caring African touch” is expressed as inspiring their staff to unleash their potential, and providing world class technologies to advance their guests’ quality of life. This will provide the ability to achieve real progress and create positive impact in their community, Africa and the world.

Challenge Background

Web3 and next generation technologies provide the opportunity to deliver new levels of experience for travellers. It also allows Kenya Airways to express its brand essence of “Warm, Caring, Friendly, truly African”.

One way of doing this is to assist anxious and travellers who need assistance to navigate airports. These would include the elderly, and physically and mentally disabled travellers. These groups may have issues at both familiar airports, whose scale and complexity create anxiety, and unfamiliar airports, where access challenges or foreign languages create difficulties.

Kenya Airways would like to explore a user journey allowing advance experience of various customer touchpoints such as:

  • Security – consider vaccination, documents needed, passport and visa requirements
  • Gates – consider location, distance, facilities
  • Aircraft – consider layout, seating, facilities
  • Meals – consider menu, ingredients, allergens, nutrition
  • In-flight entertainment – consider choice, mood, subtitles
  • Languages – consider greetings, symbols, translations
  • Baggage – consider tracking, security, reclaim, porters

For each touchpoint included in their solutions, applicants should clearly define the customer benefit and business value expected from their solution, for example: information, comfort, convenience, affordability, adaptability, predictability, etc.

Audio, video and static imagery may be utilised. Dynamic avatars are preferable to typing and translation. Headsets and glasses may be useful, but there should also be a ‘lite’ version of the solution available that is accessible thorough personal mobile devices.

The decentralisation of technology gives power back to the users. There is interest in harnessing its social impact utilising inventive UI (User Interface) and AR (Augmented Reality) technology, enabling peer-to-peer engagement helping each other, user-to-user.

We envisage using Augmented Reality for simple wayfinding purposes. This could be combined with QR codes for additional information. However all Web3 technologies will be considered.

The basic wayfinding service should be provided free of charge. However additional/added value services may be available for an additional fee.

On-board functionality would be useful, for example with anxious customers who are scared of heights, who require non-window seats. This could utilise the In-Flight Entertainment system also.

Additional services could be made available such as city guides, transport options and hotels. These could be provided with vetted, specialist partners who are able to support anxious, elderly or otherwise compromised travellers. Kenya Airways would like to take a synchronised approach to servicing their customers, showcasing the benefits of various elements of their value chain.

Kenya Airways are looking for good use case opportunities that may be prototyped and tested with real customers. The initial solution may be simple leading to more complex scenarios, eg:

  • Initially wayfinding at Nairobi airport for elderly customers
  • Eventually wayfinding at all Kenya Airways serviced airports for blind, deaf and wheelchair bound customers

We envisage being informed by the work of organisations promoting assistive technologies such as:

Rewards & Benefits

  • Up to GBP 25,000 seed funding (Subject to T&C)
  • Opportunity to pitch your solution to Kenya Airways
  • Collaboration/partnership with Kenya Airways
  • Technical support from Kenya Airways team
  • Mentorship programme facilitated by KTN
  • Sector expertise from KTN
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot
  • Invitation to attend or present at KTN events
  • Investor introductions (if investment is required)
  • Application support for any Innovate UK or similar competitions that are relevant.

Functional Requirements

  • Solutions must be downloadable via online platforms
  • Basic solutions must be cost free to consumers (though additional services may be chargeable)
  • Ideally solutions should be available via personal mobile phones, though other platforms and devices will be considered also.
  • As a minimum, solutions should be viable with Android devices
  • Solutions that benefit customers with physical, mental and social obstacles to overcome will be most desirable

Technical Requirements

  • Solution may be integrated with Kenya Airway’s existing systems or may be a separate system alongside it.
  • Please detail any new infrastructure requirements for this solution
  • Solution must be applicable in modular format, so it may be scaled progressively
  • Solution should be able to work across a wide range of devices
  • Solution should not be data intensive for customers
  • Solutions must operate securely with data privacy aligned with existing Kenya Airways policies
  • Technological maturity: preference for late stage solutions (TRL 7+) that have passed proof of concept stage, are in pilot, ready to commercialize or commercialized. However lower TRL ideas will also be considered.
  • Blockchain builds may be included if useful

Operating Conditions

  • Ideally the solution should be viable for online and offline usage
  • Ideally the solution should be available for onboard and offboard usage
  • Solution should operate in normal temperatures and light levels
  • 24/7 operation to cover all time zones

Deployment Timescale

  • 6 March 2023 – Competition Launch
  • 21 March 2023 – Information session/Q&A (TBC)
  • 18 April 2023 – Deadline for applications
  • May 2023 – Selection and notification of finalists
  • June 2023 – Pitch day & Selection of Winner
  • June/July 2023 – Collaboration Discussions
  • July 2023 – Pilot programme activated

Cost Requirement & Market Opportunity

  • The solution’s operation should aim to be cost-effective in terms of ROI
  • Winning solution providers will become long-term partners, gaining access to Kenya Airways data (within GDPR regulations)
  • Innovative funding models will be considered if not off-putting to customers

Out of Scope

Proposed solutions may not be viable if they are:

  • Unable to access via many different devices
  • Lacking online and offline capability
  • Unable to service data limited customers
  • Unable to provide onboard and offboard functionality

Eligibility & Assessment Criteria

Entrants to this competition must be:

  • Established businesses, start-ups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • Africa-based entrants, UK-based entrants and those from RoW are invited to apply

Due Diligence requirements for seed funding:

  • UK applicants must ensure that receiving the £25k seed funding will not exceed the £315,000* state aid threshold under UK Minimal Financial Assistance regulations over the current and last 2 fiscal years [or *200,000 euros for applicants affected by EC de minimis regulations]
  • Further information will be required later relating to company policies, financial history and recent grant funding received.

Applications will be assessed on:

  • Relevance to the topic
  • Innovative nature of the subject
  • Coherence of the proposed business model
  • Feasibility/ economic viability
  • Development potential
  • Maturity of project/solution
  • Ability to launch project quickly/Ease of implementation
  • Price/quality ratio
  • Suitability for the Kenyan Market

IP & Potential Commercial Route

  • Existing background IP associated with a potential solution will remain with Solution Provider(s). Where any new IP generation is envisaged, it will be subject to the mutual IP agreement of the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Any commercial deployment of a transferred solution or newly developed solution, through licensing, joint venture, partnership or direct investment, will be subject to the commercial agreement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Where necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be signed to uphold confidentiality in the engagement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger. (This would be expected to be after company selection. It is suggested that details of IP not be disclosed initially. Focus on the outcomes of the technology proposed).
  • KTN does not take any share of IP ownership or enter into commercial ventures through the iX programme.

Related Events and Recordings


Information & Q&A Session: Innovative Solutions to Airport Navigation in the Metaverse for Improved Accessibility

09.00 - 10.30 | Online

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