The KLM Radical Innovation team is part of the airline’s corporate office, with focus areas to strategize, connect and enable innovation throughout the company. Ahead of her participation at the co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing events (Dublin, 23-25 May 2023), Arlette van der Veer, Senior Manager Radical Innovation, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, explains current key projects including digitalisation of the KLM Innovation Ecosystem, what airlines and other industry stakeholders can learn from the KLM approach to innovation, and the mindset needed for an ecosystem to thrive.Register for FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing – one registration provides access to both events >>
Van der Veer begins by expanding on the three core focus areas of the KLM Radical Innovation team:
- Strategize: “We are responsible for creating innovation strategy within the business and strategic portfolio management for Horizon 2 and 3 innovation projects. Additionally, we guide project teams with innovative expertise and drive cross-divisional collaborations.”
- Connect: “Through the KLM Innovation Ecosystem – the internal and external network of innovators that work for and with KLM – we facilitate knowledge-sharing and source external views via collaboration with knowledge institutes.”
- Enable: “At KLM we use several innovation methods. Whenever you use agile, lean, scrum, or design thinking, we make training and content available.”
The KLM Radical Innovation Team is investing in start-ups via its fund partner Shift Invest. It is also collaborating with the Technical University of Delft on the disruptive aircraft design the ‘Flying V’ – an energy-efficient aircraft of the future – and the disruptive ‘Flying Vision’ initiative to develop the technology needed for climate-neutral flights in 2050. Royal Schiphol Group, Airbus and Royal NLR are also among the players accelerating the transition to sustainable aviation via the ‘Flying Vision’ initiative. With the aim of making more radical changes at an accelerated pace, the initiative is expected to serve as a hotbed for startups and technological breakthroughs.
Digitising individual ecosystems and combining data
A key current project is digitising the KLM Innovation Ecosystem. “When we started building the innovation ecosystem in 2018 we started easy and small, with a 2D visual of the ecosystem made in PowerPoint,” van der Veer explains. “Five years later we have a significant network and the individual visuals on, for example, ‘Ecosystem of AI for KLM’ and ‘Ecosystem of 3D printing for KLM’ do not suffice anymore. We are now digitising all the individual ecosystems and combining the data.”
A demonstration of how this works will be shown during van der Veer’s address in the FTE EMEA conference.
As an Aeronautical Engineer, van der Veer sees that the technology is not the main challenge in the industry. Rather, it is opening up colleagues and peers – in a safe environment – to try something new and test other approaches. “The sole purpose of our industry, and KLM, is to bring people and cargo safely from A to B,” says van der Veer. “However, this mindset has been created in the same period the aircraft we fly with were created – the 1970s. It is 2023 now and we have more ways of virtually testing new ideas, advanced data models, new hardware and software, and materials. As an industry we are not yet absorbing this new knowledge and the possibilities quickly enough.”
Van der Veer explains that the regulatory bodies need to innovate themselves first, in order to certify innovative designs. This makes the industry slow to react and adapt to change. “By using the knowledge that we have in our innovation ecosystem and combining that with knowledge institutes such as the Technical University of Delft, University of Amsterdam and many more, we differentiate ourselves as an airline. By sharing knowledge about the benefits that our innovation ecosystem gives us, the audience becomes part of that ecosystem right away.”
FTE EMEA: “Grasping the mindset needed for an innovation ecosystem to thrive”
Van der Veer is speaking in the conference at the co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing events, taking place in Dublin on 23-25 May 2023, in a session focused on ‘Innovative approaches to better drive industry efficiency ambitions, and to protect the planet’. Attendees will hear more insights into KLM’s approach to innovation. “After the session, the audience will be capable of creating the first version of an innovation ecosystem themselves and have a grasp of which mindset is needed for an ecosystem to thrive.”Register for FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing – one registration provides access to both events >> See the inspirational FTE Dublin schedule at a glance >>