Balancing sustainability with economic viability: Mapping the future of aviation through a holistic approach.
-An Interview with Michel van Ierland

Can we transform aviation into a more sustainable industry without compromising efficiency and economic viability? This question lies at the heart of realising technological solutions for energy transition and sustainability in the aviation sector. From pioneering breakthroughs to infrastructure upgrades and fleet replacements, the industry must explore diverse approaches. Global decarbonisation in aviation necessitates international collaboration.

Dutch businesses have a prime opportunity to lead in sustainable aviation, fostering growth and innovation through partnerships and network leverage. Addressing all facets of the aviation value chain, from design to operations, is essential. As the world emphasises reducing the industry’s ecological footprint, significant hurdles prompt innovation towards greener technologies. Furthermore, this initiative presents a significant export potential for the Netherlands within the European Union, further amplifying the nation’s role in driving sustainable aviation globally. How do we tackle these challenges?

We spoke with Michel van Ierland, Managing Partner of Unified International, to gain insight into the company’s role in addressing these complex issues.


Can you tell me more about the role Unified plays in addressing these challenges?
We see these challenges as crucial focal points in our mission to create sustainable value for both our clients (and vice versa) and the planet. Through close involvement in technological advancements, logistics, infrastructure development, and regulations within the aviation sector, we aim to have a positive impact on the transition to sustainable aviation.

The main challenge is assembling the right people, blending technical expertise with economic insight. Unified’s success lies in our ability to accurately evaluate the feasibility and commercial viability of sustainable aviation technologies.

In collaboration with stakeholders including governments, OEMs, airports, and scale-ups, Unified International pursues a holistic approach to sustainability. Understanding chain dependencies, we develop solutions benefiting the entire industry, fostering resilience and sustainability in aviation.


You recently attended the sustainable aviation mission in the United States. What were the main insights gained, particularly concerning collaboration and innovation?

I have gathered invaluable insights through engaging with key players such as Airbus, Boeing, and NASA, deepening my understanding of the sustainability challenges faced within the United States aviation sector. Addressing these challenges demands determined collaboration and innovation on a global scale. Leveraging Dutch aviation legacy and proactive government and cross-sector collaboration uniquely positions Dutch businesses to lead global sustainable aviation efforts. By engaging in the triple helix approach, where government, industry, and academia collaborate synergistically, Dutch companies can pioneer transformative advancements, both domestically and globally, driving a more sustainable future for aviation.

Can you provide some examples of initiatives Unified International is involved in?

Certainly, Conscious Aerospace and the DutcH2 Aviation Hub are examples of some of our initiatives. Conscious Aerospace is at the forefront of developing hydrogen-electric systems for aviation, which have the potential to revolutionise the industry. Similarly, the DutcH2 Aviation Hub is dedicated to establishing a hydrogen-based aviation ecosystem, laying the foundation for a sustainable future. This initiative encompasses the entire hydrogen value chain at the airport, from production to operation. We collaborate with industry leaders including Shell, Transavia, TU Delft, Royal NLR, with Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RHIA), serving as the project initiators and executive board, leading this endeavour.

What factors do you consider when evaluating the viability and potential success of new initiatives?

Feasibility and commercial viability are paramount to our approach. We conduct thorough assessments of new technologies and initiatives to ensure they align with our sustainability goals while also making economic sense. Being realistic about what is achievable, we collaborate with industry partners and leverage our expertise to identify opportunities that offer both environmental benefits and long-term profitability.


Looking ahead, what is Unified International’s vision for the future of sustainable aviation?

Our vision is to pioneer a greener future for the aviation industry. We envision a world where flying is not only efficient and economically viable but also environmentally sustainable. Through continued collaboration, innovation, and dedication, we are confident that we can make this vision realistic.


Future Collaboration

Unified International fosters collaboration across public and private sectors, prioritising sustainability while remaining realistic about achievable goals and timelines. We form strategic partnerships, integrating various perspectives to drive sustainable initiatives forward. Leveraging our expertise, we spearhead the transition to sustainable aviation, guiding stakeholders in adopting new energy sources for greener air mobility.