The National Academies

ACRP 01-47 [RFP]

A Guide to Developing a Culture of Innovation at Airports

Posted Date: 2/27/2020

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Contract Time: 15 months
(includes 2 weeks for ACRP review and approval of 3 interim reports and 3 months for ACRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 8/17/2020 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Matt J. Griffin
   Phone: 202/334-2366
   Email: mjgriffin@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 5/18/2020
Fiscal Year: 2020


Adjusting to and planning for the ever-changing airport environment is increasingly difficult. Big data is revolutionizing airport business models, the connected traveler has more control than ever over their journey, and airport concessions/retail are constantly testing new business paradigms. These are just a few examples of the changes facing airport operators. To respond, airports need new innovative options; new products and services that balance the needs of passengers and airport-wide stakeholders; new ideas that tackle the technocentric challenges of information, communication, and technology; and new strategies that result in differences that matter and provide a sense of purpose that engage everyone affected by them. 

Changing airport culture can be challenging when leveraging innovative ideas. Every airport has a different view of innovation within their existing culture. Innovation can be visionary, it can help solve a specific problem, or take advantage of opportunities that come from all levels of the organization or even the airport customers. The success of a culture of innovation should start with executive management and requires buy-in throughout the organization. Key questions related to innovation include: What is your airport trying to achieve? What are the organizational goals? Does your airport have an innovative culture and the resources to become innovative? Are you incentivizing employees to be innovative and rewarding them for this behavior? What does an innovation team look like at an airport? 

Airport teams are ramping up innovation labs, centers, and executive level positions to support critical thinking, strategy, and innovation. Airports need an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective, and broadly assessable; that can integrate into all aspects of the business and region; and that individuals and teams can use to generate breakthrough ideas that have a meaningful impact in the aviation industry. A culture of innovation will help all aspects of an airport’s business, to include but not limited to: planning, design, and construction of new facilities; customer experience; security; operational efficiency; and revenue generation. The implementation of these tools will help make an organization fit for the future.


The objective of this research is to provide a guide toward fostering and sustaining a culture of innovation within the airport environment.  As part of this objective, there must be a plan for disseminating and facilitating the use of this guide. 

The guide should be applicable to all airports and provide, at a minimum: (1) internal and external stakeholders with a practical understanding of what a culture of innovation is and demonstrate why it is important in an airport; (2) an effective means of collaboration among stakeholders and other opportunities for information sharing; (3) implementable strategies for identifying and surmounting barriers, for staff at all levels, for developing a culture of innovation as well as channeling and sustaining its efforts; (4) specific examples for staff and leaders of measures and tools they can use to assess and report the outcomes desired and benefits realized through innovation both within the organization and outside it; and (5) case studies from both aviation and non-aviation organizations with real-world examples of drivers/triggers for innovation, the process that took place to facilitate that innovation, the impact, and sustained outcome to their environment. 


The ACRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective.  Proposers are asked to develop and include a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail. 

The research should include at least the deliverable products and milestones described below.

1.    A 2- to 3-hour kickoff web meeting with the ACRP project panel, within 1 month of the contract’s effective date, to discuss the work plan and technical issues related to the research. 

2.    Interim Report 1 (IR1), delivered within 3 months of the contracts effective date, presenting (a) a succinct explanation, suitable for a broad audience, of the meaning of “culture of innovation” as it may be experienced within an airport; and (b) a case study plan that reflects elements of a culture of innovation at organizations that have had success and organizations that have failed to meet the desired result of an innovative idea. Case study sites should include airports of all sizes and types, airlines, other public-sector organizations, as well as private organizations. At least 50% of the case study sites should be airports. A variety of innovation models being used by airports and other organizations should be described and incorporated in the research.   

Note: ACRP will require 2 weeks for review of the draft IR1 prior to holding a web meeting with the ACRP project panel. Proposers should plan that following the meeting they will revise draft IR1 to respond to panel comments and discussion during the meeting. Proposers should describe their current thinking on cases. Work may continue while the ACRP review is being conducted.

3.   Interim Report 2 (IR2) presenting an elaboration of the guide’s design concept and organizing framework and rationale, including at least, reflecting current practice in organization and management to foster a culture of innovation.

Note: ACRP will require 2 weeks for review of the draft IR2 prior to holding a web meeting with the ACRP project panel. Proposers should plan that following the meeting they will revise draft IR2 to respond to panel comments on the draft and discussion during the meeting. ACRP approval of revised IR2 shall be required before work proceeds. Approval or otherwise will be given within 1 week of ACRP receipt of revised IR2.

4.    Interim Report 3 (IR3) presenting a complete draft of the guide document and a plan for validation of the guide and recommended research.      

Note: ACRP will require 2 weeks for review of the draft IR3 prior to holding an in-person meeting with the ACRP project panel.

5.    A 1-day in-person meeting with the ACRP project panel to discuss IR3 and the contractor’s thinking about post-project activities to encourage dissemination and use of the completed guide, with a memo documenting the discussion and key decisions.

The final deliverables will include: (a) the complete guide; (b) a final report documenting the project; (c) a Summary of Key Findings (see Special Note E); and (d) the Further Recommended Research Memo (see Special Note F). 

Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, there should be 3 months for ACRP review and comments and for contractor preparation of the final deliverables. Following each milestone that does not have an interim report, the contractor will develop a memo summarizing any discussions that took place and key decisions. For budgeting purposes, proposers should assume that ACRP will provide access to web-enabled teleconference services. ACRP will pay panel members’ travel costs for the one face-to-face meeting. Proposers should assume that the meeting will be held in Washington, DC.


A. Provide a sample of sources that you intend to use in your literature review.

B. ACRP anticipates that the team conducting this research will include, at a minimum, capabilities in U.S. airport management as well as organization assessment, management psychology, and the lifecycle process of innovation. 

C. The Research Plan, Section 4 of the proposal, must not exceed 12 pages in length; the typeface used must not be smaller than 12 points. 

D. Airports have received many surveys in response to ACRP projects. In an effort to ensure an adequate response rate and collection of information, proposers may consider the use of focus groups, Internet/web-based technologies, social networking sites, and industry conferences or other techniques that may be appropriate.

E. The Summary of Key Findings will be a stand-alone document.  It should (a) convey the most pertinent and applicable results of the project’s research, (b) be geared toward the airport industry practitioner while minimizing technical language, (c) present results using text and graphics as appropriate, and (d) encourage readers to explore the primary project deliverables.  The Summary of Key Findings should be limited to no more than 4 pages.

F. The Further Recommended Research Memo will be a stand-alone document.  It should (a) identify logical follow-on research that would benefit the industry yet was beyond the original scope and budget of the project; (b) describe how the proposed follow-on research relates to ACRP’s research roadmaps, if applicable; and (c) for the highest priority research needs, include research ideas and/or problem statements to be added to ACRP’s IdeaHub, the program’s online repository of research needs.

G. The required technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” should provide: (a) recommended tactics to facilitate implementation; (b) possible institutions/partners and their potential implementation role; (c) potential impediments to successful implementation; (d) metrics to measure extent of product use and its benefit; (e) related FAA guidance; and (f) appendices as needed.  An annotated template for the memorandum is found here:

H. Proposals are evaluated by the ACRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities.

Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 12 of the proposal.

I. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB’s Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB’s policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, “Use of Copyrighted Material,” in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.

J. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure.  Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.  These requirements include a provision that proposers without a “federally” Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs.  Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract.  Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

K. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," in each proposal must include an Implementation Plan that describes activities to promote application of the product of this research. It is expected that the implementation plan will evolve during the project; however, proposals must describe, as a minimum, the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in applying the research product, (e) the activities necessary for successful implementation, and (f) the criteria for judging the progress and consequences of implementation.

L. Item 5 in the proposal, "Qualifications of the Research Team," must include a section labeled "Disclosure." Information relevant to the ACRP's need to ensure objectivity and to be aware of possible sources of significant financial or organizational conflict of interest in conducting the research must be presented in this section of the proposal. For example, under certain conditions, ownership of the proposing agency, other organizational relationships, or proprietary rights and interests could be perceived as jeopardizing an objective approach to the research effort, and proposers are asked to disclose any such circumstances and to explain how they will be accounted for in this study. If there are no issues related to objectivity, this should be stated.

Proposals should be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/lkS7woo7rCEYt3IswZ2d 
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. on 5/18/2020.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected.

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered statement in order for TRB to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a printable version of the Liability Statement (pdf). A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at http://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (updated July 2019). Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section V for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected. This brochure is available here.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.

5. Potential proposers should understand that follow-on activities for this project may be carried out through either a contract amendment modifying the scope of work with additional time and funds, or through a new contract (via sole source, full, or restrictive competition).

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