Call for applications Young Talents 2022 “Opportunities and challenges for aircraft with sustainable power sources”

For the French version, please click here. /For the Dutch version, please click here.

“Opportunities and challenges for aircraft with sustainable power sources”

Are you a Master or a PhD student from France or the Netherlands, with innovative ideas about sustainable power sources for future aircrafts? Would you like to present your ideas to top officials of the airline industry, like Airbus and AirFranceKLM? 

If the answer to the above is yes, then apply for our Young Talents event “Opportunities and challenges for aircraft with sustainable power sources”! The deadline for submitting your application is the 19th of October 2022 at 23:59 CET (the deadline has been pushed form the 12th to the 19th). 

What is the Young Talents event?

The Young Talents event is part of the 20th Erasmus-Descartes Conference, which is organised by the French Embassy in the Netherlands and the Embassy of the Netherlands in France. This bilateral high-level conference is an annual event which gathers over a hundred upcoming and renowned experts. The central theme of each edition differs according to the European agenda and following current developments in both countries. The Young Talents event offers ample networking opportunities. Click here FR / NL for an overview of the previous editions.

Whereas the Erasmus-Descartes Conference is a one day event, the Young Talents will work in two teams on challenges related to the topic in one month (online – own/team preparation time) and three days (in Paris – full working days) prior to the conference. During the conference, you  get to pitch with your team the results of your work to the participants of the conference, and have an unique opportunity to enter into discussion with them on stage. After the formal programme of the conference, there is time for networking and you may just find connections for your future work field.

Context and challenges

Through the European Green deal the EU committed itself to become climate neutral by 2050. Aviation contributes to the CO2 emission in the EU. Therefore, the European aviation sector has pledged to contribute to this goal by setting its own target of net zero CO2 emissions of all flights in and departing from the European Union by the same year. To achieve this ambition they are exploring sustainable alternatives for fossil fuel in aviation and thus reduction in emissions, as well as working together with all relevant stakeholders and policy makers. At Airbus, the ambition is to develop the world’s first zero emission commercial aircraft by 2035.

In March 2022 President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, decided to establish a close bilateral dialogue on energy and climate, and agreed to give the specific topic of sustainable aviation an additional boost by making it the central theme of the 2022 Erasmus-Descartes Conference, bringing together high level experts from academia, business and governments from France and the Netherlands to bring the dialogue further.

The challenges for the Young Talents

Although sustainable aviation consists of a variety of elements, the challenges in this edition of the Young Talents will focus on new aircraft with sustainable power sources. The challenges that the participants will have to address will be based on two main themes:

  • Hydrogen powered aircraft is a promising alternative, since it has the potential to avoid any carbon emissions during flight, and could match the flight ranges of current airliners. 
  • Electric aircraft on the other hand, could be an option for short, regional flights and for small airplanes. In the French-Dutch context, this could also be useful for air travels between the French and Dutch islands in the Caribbean, in addition to short connections between their cities in Europe.

Both of these alternatives have their own advantages and opportunities, but also their own problems and difficulties. That’s why the organisers have proposed that one team will be working on a challenge related to hydrogen powered flights, and the other team on electric flying. The exact challenges related to each of these themes will be formulated at a later stage together with the team members. Both teams will be able to make use of a curated dataset that reflects the current air traffic over Europe, which can serve as a base for their technical and policy recommendations.

Participation in the Erasmus Descartes Conference

The conference will be based on discussions between experts, scientists, stakeholders, decision makers such as Mr Mark Harbers, Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, CEOs and directors of (large) companies active in the aviation sector as AirFranceKLM Group and Airbus. 

. Central to this conference are exchanges on developments in research and innovation at the national,, European, and international levels. This conference will comprehend two roundtables and input from several speakers. It shall deliver a manifesto to express a common declaration and some guidelines for further cooperation in sustainable aviation.

Alongside the various experts (names will follow later), the Erasmus-Descartes Conference gives the floor to the Young Talents to pitch their findings, recommendations and solutions, and discuss them with the participants. You will prepare your pitches in advance with two devoted coaches during the  3 days prior to the conference. 

In order to be able to pitch during the Conference, the Young Talents will have several working moments. During the preparation stage on the 27th of October, the participants will meet online for an hour and a half where they will receive further information, a more detailed programme and will be able to form two teams of five, according to the challenges that will be presented to them. Two experts (Dr. Junzi  Sun of TU DELFT and “name to be confirmed”), will coach you during the working sessions to help you get inspired, acquire indispensable knowledge, and get ready to participate during the conference.

In between both stages, you will prepare for the next stage together with the rest of the  team and always with the support of the coaches. No official meeting will be organised, it is then up to the participants to organise their time and find one or multiple collective moments in order to work together.

In the run-up to the conference, the Young Talents will meet in person in Paris at different unique locations. There will be plenty of time to work and do pitch training. During the conference, each team will have approximately 5 minutes to pitch in front of the panellists and wide audience followed by a discussion moment of 15 minutes. Later in the evening, a networking moment will be organised giving the Young Talents the opportunity to further discuss their ideas and thoughts with the high-level participants of the conference.

Be aware that it is possible to receive a certificate of attendance. PhD Students from the Netherlands may therefore be able to claim some credits.

Preliminary programme

27 October Preparation meeting : 
– Kick-off & introduction
– Setting up teams and challenges
27 October – 20 NovemberContact with team members and coaches, preparing the challenge per team – each team decides how they want to manage their time
21 NovemberMorning : Travel to Paris
Afternoon : Start & catch-up
21 – 24 NovemberWorking sessions: work on the challenges, group preparation, coaching, feedback sessions and pitch training
24 NovemberMorning : Fine tune pitches – last mile
Afternoon & evening : Erasmus Descartes Conference 
25 NovemberTravel back home

Practical information

Organisers: The Young Talent event is organised by the Embassy of the Netherlands in France, the Institut français NL, the French-Dutch Network for research and higher education, and Nuffic, which is the Dutch organisation for internationalisation of education.

Partners: TU Delft, ISAE-SUPAERO Toulouse, Atelier Néerlandaise and College Néerlandais.

When: October 27th online and November 21st, 22d and 23d in Paris (FR), consecutively participating in the Erasmus Descartes Conference on November 24th in Paris (FR).

For whom:  MA, PDEng and PhD students from France and the Netherlands, aged between 20 and 35 years old with good conversational understanding of English are eligible to apply for this event. International students are also invited to apply.

We are looking for student from scientific domains such as, but not exclusively:

  • Aeronautical  / Civil / Industrial / Electrical engineering
  • Environmental studies, including engineering / technical skills
  • Mathematics / Computer science 
  • Project Management / economics
  • Data analysis and artificial intelligence
  • Implementation and development
  • Business / business intelligence

Students from other academic disciplines who feel they could contribute to this challenge are also welcome to apply.

Language: The working sessions between Young Talents will be entirely in English whereas the Erasmus Descartes Conference will be in English and, depending on the speakers, in Dutch/French (with simultaneous translations).

Costs: The organisers will cover the costs of transportation (travel between France/the Netherlands and Paris + public transport on-site), accommodation (four nights in a hotel) and meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). You are responsible for the costs of any other expenses yourselves. The participation in the Young Talent event does not involve any initial expenses for the participants.

Participation: All 10 selected participants will attend both the online meeting and the physical 5-day session in Paris. Participation in the full programme is mandatory. Any unjustified failure (absenteeism, inappropriate behaviour) will lead to exclusion from further participation in the Young Talents event.

How to apply: Please fill in the application form that you can find by clicking on the following button.  Send it in addition to your CV in one single PDF file. In order to answer the two questions we asked you in the form, you can either answer directly on the form or make a short video. It should not be longer than 3 minutes.


Send an e-mail to both Coralie Ostertag and Marijn van Grunsven