Carnegie Mellon University
November 03, 2015

Emirates Group Debuts Silicon Valley-Based Innovation Lab in Partnership with Carnegie Mellon

By Tara Rae Moore / 412-268-9673 /
Emirates Group Partnership
CMU's Jonathan Cagan (left) and Gary Chapman of the Emirates Group finalize the partnership.

Emirates Group, comprising of the global businesses of Emirates airline and dnata, the air services provider, today announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to launch the CMU-Emirates Silicon Valley Innovation Lab, right on the heels of the company’s enterprise-wide transformation strategy announcement. The lab is a natural offshoot of the Integrated Innovation Institute, which is a joint enterprise between Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering, College of Fine Arts and Tepper School of Business.

Emirates recently unveiled its plans to undertake an enterprise-wide transformation initiative aimed at placing data at the heart of the organization, re-inventing business processes using smart technology and underpinning decisions with big data and real-time analytics. The goal is to transform Emirates and dnata into the leading customer-centric, technology enabled travel experience enterprises. This enterprise-wide transformation strategy will see benefits cascade to every area of the business from customer experience, to commercial, to several back-office functions.

The CMU-Emirates Silicon Valley Innovation Lab has been set up to provide leading-edge technology and innovation capability to drive the transformation. The lab will serve as an incubator of ideas and as a hotbed of technology and innovation, jointly undertaken with CMU’s student community at Carnegie Mellon’s Silicon Valley campus overseen by lab director Stuart Evans, distinguished service professor.

“Emirates Group is committed to being an innovative player and leader in all aspects of the airline industry, including its business, brand, technology, product and people,” said Gary Chapman, president, Group Services & dnata, Emirates Group. “We are focused on creating and leveraging big data and new technologies to create a personalized engagement experience for Emirates’ customers. Through analyzing customer data, we are identifying insights to help us transform customer journeys into colorful experiences for a community of Emirates fans.”

The lab will serve as a conduit to the larger Silicon Valley ecosystem, providing a continuous stream of innovation and inspiration to the Emirates Group.

The lab will serve as a conduit to the larger Silicon Valley ecosystem, providing a continuous stream of innovation and inspiration to the Emirates Group. CMU will use the Innovation Lab for courses on entrepreneurship, enterprise innovation and commercializing intellectual property, as well as other curriculum-based projects, support of startups through a pre-accelerator and hack-a-thons, in an effort to take key business challenges and leverage data, analytics and advanced technology to create a world-class Emirates customer experience. In year one, the CMU-Emirates Silicon Valley Innovation Lab will sharply focus on helping Emirates Skywards, the company’s award-winning frequent flyer program, achieve its customer engagement mission to transform journeys into colorful experiences through a robust and engaging digital ecosystem, AI (artificial intelligence) powered personalization engine and strategic partnerships.

“The CMU-Emirates Silicon Valley Innovation Lab fits perfectly with the goals of the Integrated Innovation Institute, which is a unique program that brings together engineering, design, business, other curricula projects and the pre-incubation of startup ventures to focus on education and research in innovation methods and practice. It will allow our students primarily at the Silicon Valley campus to creatively work on real-world challenges by supporting interdisciplinary research into market opportunities,” said Jonathan Cagan, associate dean for Strategic Initiatives at Carnegie Mellon, and co-founder and co-director of the Integrated Innovation Institute.

On Oct. 28, Emirates also unveiled an innovation lab at Oxford University, which focuses on data science, machine learning and associated fields. The lab will carry out basic research, conduct proof of concepts and help with translation of big data innovations, derived from the research, into Emirates Group’s operations.

To further its commitment to innovation, Emirates Group is hosting the Emirates Travel Hackathon at Twitter’s global headquarters in San Francisco running Nov. 7-8. This is an exciting 24-hour coding marathon bringing together talented developers and designers to build new and innovative travel-centric applications using Web and mobile API's. The hackathon consists of fast-paced brainstorming and a hacking session with some of the smartest and most creative professionals in the San Francisco bay area. The theme, "Flight Search," asks participants to develop an app that will enable different personas to search for flights online or on mobile devices in new and creative ways. Each team will be asked to select a specific persona and re-invent search according to their specific needs. Those interested can join as an individual or as a team of up to five to build new and innovative travel-centric applications that will improve customer experiences.