on April 30, 2024
Published on April 29, 2024 Updated on May 14, 2024

Testimonial from a student invited by AirFrance following his participation to the EUTOPIA TeamWork programme

In 2023, Vivek Venkatram, a student from the University of Warwick was selected to take part in the TeamWork programme with 155 other EUTOPIA students, from the University of Ljubljana, Ca’Foscari University of Venice, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Gothenburg University, CY Cergy Paris Université and Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Together, they participated in 23 virtual projects from organisations across Europe, including Air France, Eurostar and The Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice. 

At the end of the programme, Vivek was invited to present at the Air France Procurement Forum in Paris. Here he shares his story.

"Over Summer ‘23, I was part of a TeamWork 2023 EUTOPIA project with Air-France KLM. As Procurement Interns – Disruptive Innovations, CSR & Circular Economy – we created 11 feasibility studies to reduce the environmental impact of specific fleet carpets, curtains and seat covers. Having learned from and collaborated with the Air France-KLM team, rest of the student group and EUTOPIA staff from June to July 2023, it was incredible to see our project wrap up with a rewarding culmination. As part of our collaboration, I coordinated our approach, aligned internally, delegated tasks, and supported my peers. By focusing on separate areas within procurement sustainability, we were able to tackle the wide scope of the project. A key element which was conducive to the success of our project was the warmth and supportive environment created by the Air France team. Our weekly student meetings were a wonderful way to interact with peers from across the world and I still remain in touch with some of my EUTOPIA friends.

By embarking on the TeamWork project, engaging in research and developing analysis, I grasped the multifaceted considerations with implementing sustainability solutions. With the support of the procurement team, using technical data sheets, we quantified our recommendations as much as possible. After presenting our pitch, which was well-received by the Senior Procurement Sustainability Manager, a part of me was still unsure how we would tangibly impact Air France’s existing CSR & Circular Economy focuses.

Fast forward to a few weeks later when I was invited to present at the Air France Procurement Forum in Paris. I was excited and knew this would be a brilliant opportunity to enhance the impact of our collective efforts across the project, explain in detail the rationale behind our sustainability-driven practical solutions and engage with procurement sustainability experts across companies, universities and nonprofits. I began developing and refining our proposals further. Over several weeks, I knocked on many doors across the university and the prospect of me attending the Forum became increasingly bleak. One fine morning, I received a successful reply from the leaders of the TeamWork program, Nicola & Esther!

Air France-KLM seems to be making significant strides in walking the sustainable path: in-fact it is already piloting a project to upcycle carpet into shoes!

Landing in Paris for the first time on the 6th of December, I had embarked on quite the adventure: my flight – British Airways – was postponed by a few hours and transport halted at Charles de Gaulle Airport. I reached in time for the start of the conference and also got to know the airport like the back of my hand. Scanning my visitor card at the Air France HQ and entering the tarmac-facing conference hall, I felt the infectious buzz in the room – excited to learn from 26+ innovative organisations in the hall & share our proposals with the 100+ attendees. Like a kid in a candy shop, I was awestruck. There were a plethora of amazing technologies showcased: from a headhunting app that excluded background information to remove biases, to exoskeleton technology that assists the carrying of heavy loads, a precision-guided industrial robot arm and a reusable cup closed-loop system, to name a few. Though most of the placards were in French, everyone was kind and accommodating in answering my inquisitive questions. One of my favourite demonstrations during the forum was engaging with an AI-enhanced flight simulator. I channelled my inner pilot as I whizzed through the pre-flight checklist…but sadly, that did not qualify me to fly one of the Airbus planes sitting on the tarmac.

I was filled with a sense of optimism hearing about the projects and journeys of many incredible entrepreneurs – and continue to stay connected via LinkedIn. I also met another TeamWork participant, Jimena, and learned about her team’s study over a scrumptious lunch. It was also great to reunite with familiar faces: I met the Air France project team – Catherine, Prisca and Alexis – for the first time in-person! Despite Catherine and Prisca being busy as organisers of the Forum, they still took the time to chat with me at length. It was wonderful to meet Alexis (Air France Cabin Project Buyer) to pitch our further-developed proposals, hear about progress from his end, and have an in-depth discussion on the implementation of our studies for over an hour. It was reassuring to hear that Air France-KLM is already taking proactive steps to trial ideas very similar to some of our proposals and that their team is keen to action most of the points we discussed. We caught up on an array of topics, including the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics – which Air-France KLM is officially partnering with. At the close of the event, I was grateful to receive a personalised letter from the Air France-KLM Procurement Director thanking our team and I for the collaboration.

On a cold and rainy winter night, venturing into the city from Charles de Gaulle Airport – hopping from one christmas market to another – seemed like a logical thing to do. I just couldn’t get enough of the vibrant French capital and on the day of my flight, decided to take the train to the city once more. I ended my incredible journey in the most fitting way possible: ordering a vegan crepe at a French café along the River Seine and taking a British Airways flight back to London.

If you want to embark on the adventure of a lifetime –whilst meeting remarkable people, creating impact through a fruitful project and building your work experience – apply now to TeamWork 2024!"
This testimonial was originally published on the University of Warwick website.