UofL and Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport establish innovation partnership UofL researchers will use the SDF as an innovation lab, finding ways to improve traveler experience and airport operations

    Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF)
    Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF)

    Editor’s Note: B-roll and photos of SDF are available here.

    Louisville, Ky. – The Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) and the University of Louisville today announced they will collaborate on research that will enhance travelers’ experience and airport operations through innovation.

    This is the first agreement of its kind for SDF, which will allow the airport campus – including all facilities, terminal and airfield – to serve as an innovation lab for UofL-led research projects. University faculty, students and airport staff will work together to identify opportunities for both technological and process improvements then tackle them with UofL’s research capabilities.

    “UofL is a world-class research university and we are excited to establish this partnership with such a prominent institution in our community,” said Dan Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. “With their researchers that revolutionize markets and industry sectors, it was a no-brainer to work with them to explore outside-of-the-box ideas that will transform our operations and the experiences of our customers at SDF. We strive every day to be the best airport in the country, and this collaboration is another element in making that a reality.”

    UofL will conduct an evaluation this summer to identify possible projects. Researchers specializing in everything from engineering to business will tackle those projects, finding solutions that could be implemented industry-wide both in the terminal and on the airfield. Examples might include developing runway surfaces with extended lifecycles or improving the efficiency of airport terminal operations and passenger movement through technology.

    “As a top-tier research university engaged in its community, UofL is proud to work with the airport toward continued innovation and growth,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “This collaboration offers our researchers and students a rich, real-world innovation lab, where their work can have a meaningful impact on how the airport operates and how travelers to and from Louisville fly.”

    The collaboration also will create experiential learning opportunities for UofL students. The idea is to give them real-world experience and skills, developed by working side by side with researchers and airport staff, that they can apply when they enter the workforce.

    “We love building strong, impactful relationships with our industry partners,” said Will Metcalf, UofL’s associate vice president for research development and partnerships. “This work has significant potential to energize our regional economy, from driving workforce development to generating new technologies. The possibilities are endless.”

    Darrell Watson, vice president of strategy and innovation for the Airport Authority, also said this unique collaboration positions SDF as a leader in airport innovation. The ideas generated, he said, could revolutionize the way other airports operate.

    “The thought of the entire airport campus as an innovation lab, is a concept I have explored for a while,” Watson said. “SDF can be the launching point of ideas and concepts that may potentially be game-changers in the airport industry.” 

    For more information about the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, visit
    www.FlyLouisville.com. To learn more about University of Louisville, visit Louisville.edu.


    About the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF)
    The Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) is owned and operated by the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. Seven commercial airlines offer nonstop service to more than 30 nonstop destinations from Louisville. SDF is home to UPS Worldport, moving millions of tons of product each year, making it the second busiest cargo airport in North America and fourth in the world. Aviation is an economic powerhouse for the region, generating $10.4 billion in economic impact every year. One in 8 jobs is generated by the airports and their aviation partners. Visit FlyLouisville.com to learn more.

    Betty Coffman
    Betty Coffman is a Communications Coordinator focused on research and innovation at UofL. A UofL alumna and Louisville native, she served as a writer and editor for local and national publications and as an account services coordinator and copywriter for marketing and design firms prior to joining UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing.