Environment 94 Stories

KLM and TU Delft in unique partnership


9th May, 2017

KLM and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) recently signed a five-year cooperation agreement titled Design Doing at Royal Dutch Airlines. The aim of this unique partnership is to develop new products and optimise existing KLM processes.

The setup for this partnership is also unique in that the products and processed will be tested in a real-life KLM environment, using operational aircraft and actual passengers at a real airport. In so doing, KLM is investing heavily in the application of Design Thinking.

Design Thinking

KLM has been collaborating with TU Delft’s Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering for some time, with projects including optimisation of customer experience at KLM. TU Delft offers and develops expertise in strategic design, while KLM offers the ideal test environment in the form of its day-to-day operations. This unique approach sees ideas from the design world – also known as Design Thinking – used in the implementation of an organisation’s strategy.

Design Doing

The Design Doing partnership was established to formalise collaboration between TU Delft and KLM for a longer period. Two TU Delft doctoral candidates will work with students in applying design principles in KLM’s day-to-day operations. The aim of the partnership is to ensure better service and comfort for KLM’s passengers. In return, the partnership offers researchers and students of the TU Delft a great opportunity to develop knowledge of strategic design and to apply it in practice at a major airline.

KLM X programme

The partnership revolves around the so-called “KLM X programme” strategy of testing and optimising new products and processes in a real-life setting, using actual passengers and operational aircraft at a real airport, rather than in a laboratory setting. This is a first for the airline industry, where newly developed products often take years to reach customers. The KLM X programme currently involves X-gates and X-flights and will be significantly expanded in 2017.

Government support

Because it is unique for an airline to invest so heavily in design, the Dutch government is actively supporting the partnership between KLM and TU Delft. The government programme Creative Industry Top Sector has marked the partnership as Public-Private Partnership Research, which includes an innovation premium from CLICKNL, which is the knowledge and innovation network of the Dutch Creative Industry. The Creative Industry Top Sector is one of nine sectors in the top-sector policy of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, which aims to sustainably stimulate further development of the Dutch economy through innovation.

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