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Think Tank talks ideas for £100,000

In our second Think Tank piece, Matt Presscott recaps on the first Centre of Excellence Think Tank event and sustainability challenges discussed.

By Matt Prescott

I’m pleased to announce that the Heathrow Centre of Excellence for Sustainability has successfully hosted its first Think Tank event, in June, with electric aircraft infrastructure and innovative passenger storytelling ideas headlining the discussions.

In total, 30 leading academics from across six universities took part in the day to help kickstart what we believe is a new era of innovative thought in the sustainable aviation space.

At the event, we put forward five challenges to the attendees around ideas for potential transformational research and innovation. The five challenges focused on:

  1. Optimisation of airport resources and systems
  2. Passenger experience and engagement on sustainability
  3. Airport infrastructure to support future flight and its implications
  4. Transformative and disruptive sustainable business models
  5. Carbon capture and utilisation

The assembled group of professors and senior academics then formed teams to develop research proposals and pitch for £100,000 of the seed funding we’ve made available to support research sprints or investigations, with the potential for scaling next year.

The result: we’re now taking forward two of the pitched projects forward for development.

What were the successful ideas?

Cranfield University, together with the University of Reading and University of Essex, developed a research proposal to explore the airport infrastructure requirements to support electric aircraft.

This will build on investigations that have been underway during this year (see the publication stemming from a recent Roundtable on the topic held at Imperial College London).

Royal Holloway, University of London led a consortium which also involved Brunel University London, the University of Essex and University of Reading to develop an approach to improving passenger experience and sustainability outcomes simultaneously.

They have proposed to use immersive storytelling in both the physical and digital environments experienced by passengers to enhance passenger wellbeing and encourage ‘consumer deceleration’.

These two projects respond directly to the following two, of five, innovation challenges put forward; 1) Airport infrastructure to support future flight and its implications 2) Passenger experience and engagement on sustainability.

For the remaining challenges, we’ll be looking to future projects to initiate investigation into the themes of resource optimisation, disruptive business models and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS).

Of course, these areas may change as new topics emerge within the constantly evolving airport sustainability agenda.

The think tank will play a key role in shaping the future research and innovation agenda at Heathrow.

A new round of project development and pitching is in planning for 2020, likely to involve further UK universities.

Centre of Excellence

Our Think Tank events are part of the Heathrow Centre of Excellence.