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Senior air cargo industry executives have launched a new innovation award: the NextGen Leaders challenge.

Launched by ECS Group, the initiative calls on students, start-ups and ECS employees to submit air cargo-related projects centred on digital technologies, added-value services, people or sustainability.

“Our aim is to change the game and turn industry habits on their head,” said ECS CEO Adrien Thominet.

“And the industry has jumped at the chance: 100% of the people we’ve asked to be involved with the project have said they’ll take part. But above all, all of these people have lent us their support with such energy and such enthusiasm.”

He added: “There’s a real desire for innovation in this industry, and we’re making a contribution in our own way.”

As mentors to applicants and comprising the grand jury is, notably, an all-male panel including Sebastiaan Scholte, TIACA chairman; Guillaume Halleux, chief officer cargo at Qatar Airways; Eric Wilson, Delta Air Lines MD of cargo global sales; Steven Polmans, head of cargo and logistics at Brussels Airport; and Camillo Garcia, IAG Cargo’s director of sales, marketing and products.

The jury will assist applicants, who have until 3 March to enter, with their submissions through assessment and training. The 10 best projects will be invited to Air Cargo Europe in Munich, in June, where the winner will be announced.

The winner will receive €100,000 in funding from ECS, while €50,000 will go to ECS employees’ best project. The student team with the best entry will receive a trip worth up to €5,000.

The challenge will follow IATA’s third Innovation Awards, the winners of which will be announced at WCS in Singapore, in March.

So far the IATA awards have 23 entrants, including airlines, forwarders and service providers. And an IATA spokesperson said there had been entries from a “significant number of start-ups”. The three best entries will be presented at WCS, with the winner receiving $20,000 to launch the idea. The deadline for entries is 27 January.

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