100 brilliant innovators. 11 hours. One plane. Can a single transatlantic flight help change the world?

There is a groundbreaking campaign happening this week from British Airwayscalled UnGrounded. 100 innovators are flying from San Francisco to London where they are using the time on the plane to focus on changing the world and then descending on DNA Summit at the UN to share their ideas.

More herehere and here. Hashtag is #UnGrounded.

Silicon Valley Innovators to Tackle Global Tech Challenge at 30,000 feet

British Airways launches UnGrounded, the first innovation lab in the sky, designed to connect industry leaders and creative minds for the purpose of tackling challenges that affect the next generation of global innovators. To kick off this program, British Airways is partnering with the United Nations (UN) and the Decide Now Act (DNA) Summit.

Taking place 30,000 feet in the air aboard a British Airways flight from San Francisco to London, UnGrounded participants will be tasked with connecting the abundance of emerging STEM talent in cities around the world with civic and commercial opportunities in major tech hubs, where talent crunch is increasingly an issue.

Developing a platform for discovery of opportunity for the next generation of innovators is at the core of the challenge ahead. On 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:

  • Todd Lutwak of Andreessen Horowitz
  • Leor Stern of Google
  • Celestine Johnson of Innovation Endeavors
  • Duncan Logan of RocketSpace
  • Gerald Brady of Silicon Valley Bank
  • Marguerite Hancock of Stanford Business School and the SPRIE Project
  • 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 secured a seat at San Francisco based accelerator, Rocketspace.

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 touchdown 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 session 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.

Why I’m Curious

The infrastructure and integration on this campaign are really impressive. They have a robust microsite, custom pre-during-post videos, influencer outreach, social activations & social/digital support culminating in a live event. The social innovation piece ties to their recent commitment to startups and supporting entrepreneurs. Obviously part of a bigger strategy for them, really interesting and well-executed and it’s getting great press and traction. I’m curious to see how this positive brand awareness plays out in terms of additional usage from business leaders and also if other airlines will look to copy or replicate this model.


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