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August 21, 2023

Enabling greener flying: Alexander's Educational Leave

Hi, I'm Alex, Senior Consultant at Roland Berger, from the Munich Office. Before I joined Roland Berger, I studied Mechanical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University and MIT and obtained a Master's degree in Management, Business Administration and Economics from RWTH. I was always interested in the intersection between engineering and business on the one side, and research and practical application on the other. I believe that growing environmental and geopolitical challenges can only be solved using an interdisciplinary approach. At Roland Berger, I am able to pursue this ambition during my PhD Educational Leave.

About my research:

My research focuses on exploring the potential impact of hydrogen-powered aircraft on the aviation network. Aviation, despite contributing only 2-3% of global CO2 emissions in 2019, is one of the most difficult industries to decarbonize. While Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) offer a practical intermediate solution, only aircraft powered by green hydrogen can eliminate 100% of lifecycle carbon emissions. As promising aircraft concepts are under development and could be introduced in the 2030s, these would change the complete aviation ecosystem: from the fuel supply at the airport all the way to flying characteristics in the air. With this in mind, I am building a network model that aims to find optimal aircraft requirements and identify potential changes to the aviation infrastructure when these new hydrogen aircraft enter into service.

How I got to my topic:

At Roland Berger, I was working on strategies for numerous clients in the aerospace and aviation industry facing the same immense challenge of climate neutrality. As a passionate traveler who loves to explore the world and get to know different cultures, I was immediately excited about the idea of finding new, sustainable technologies that enable traveling without the detrimental effect on the climate. The far-reaching network at Roland Berger then made it easy to find like-minded researchers at the Institute of Aerospace Systems at RWTH University and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to mentor and support me.

What I have learned so far besides my research:

I learn something new every day. One of my highlights was visiting the DLR site in Cologne. Alongside my fellow PhD researchers, we learned about the European Space Agency's missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and witnessed innovative research projects on renewable energy generation.

But in terms of personal growth, there are three lessons learned:

  • My experience as a consultant at Roland Berger played an important role in finding a suitable research topic but also in structuring and prioritizing the workload efficiently.
  • The support provided by Roland Berger and the opportunity to dedicate time to research allowed me to delve into new territories. In fact, I had to substantially enhance my computer programming skills to build the network model – something I can really build upon in the future.
  • By pursuing my own interests, I have realized my potential to make a positive impact not only on my personal fulfilment, but also on a more sustainable future.

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