Aerospace companies are “almost sociopaths” when it comes to guarding their intellectual property (IP), a factor which is standing in the way of achieving the level of true collaboration needed among stakeholders, delegates attending the Passenger Experience Conference at the Airline Interiors Expo in Hamburg were told.

The sociopath comparison was made by AIM Altitude vice-president of business development Baden Smith during a panel discussion on industry collaboration. Stakeholders “want all the intellectual property but they don’t want to hand it over to anyone else”, says Smith, adding that the key to unlocking greater co-operation is trust.

“Unless there is trust in suppliers that they’re not going to get screwed over, there is always going to be a staccato in collaboration,” says Smith. He believes that the standard process of issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) limits collaboration, and says a “mindset change” is needed to enable companies to build strong relationships ahead of the RFP process.

“We’re not all that great [at collaborating] as an industry,” admits Smith.

STG Aerospace chief executive Nigel Duncan agrees that trust is imperative and urges suppliers that do have good relationships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to “leverage them”. Breaking that trust in an industry such as aerospace could be detrimental in the long run, according to Duncan.

“If you take advantage of IP that wasn’t yours and you abuse it, you’re cutting off your future because this is a very small industry. You win some, you lose some, but if you add something along the way…you’ll be invited back to participate,” he says.

Early OEM involvement is “critical”, according to Smith, who says that for AIM Altitude, “our experience has been to reach out to the OEMs right at the beginning” and make them part of the process.

Cristian Sutter, a cabin design specialist for Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 programmes at British Airways, describes proprietor rights as being “one of the biggest hurdles” when it comes to industry collaboration. Airlines in particular “want to keep a competitive advantage to themselves for as long as possible”, he says.

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of working in silent mode,” says Sutter, adding that communication is “one of the best ways to overcome this. “It’s not a one-man show, it’s about co-operation.”

AIM Altitude’s Smith points the finger squarely at company lawyers when it comes to the lack of information sharing. “We like to call them the business prevention unit,” he says.

When it comes to launching a new project, Sutter emphasises the importance of including employees from across an organisation early on. “You should bring people on board at an early stage of a project and empower them,” he says. “Everyone has an important opinion and it’s all about empowering them to feel ownership of it.”

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Source: Flight Daily News