Virgin Atlantic’s open innovation initiative yields a new service to connect passengers to share airport taxi journeys.
Virgin Atlantic, United Kingdom
Virgin Atlantic has been flirting with open innovation to help it come up with new web-based ideas to improve its services and boost its bank balance.
Together with NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, the international flyer launched the VJam initiative to co-innovate with its passengers. NESTA is a major champion of open innovation as it believes it is a more efficient and effective way of innovating, offering companies a faster and cheaper means of developing new products and services.
For Virgin open innovation is an easy way of enhancing its value to customers, without massive demands on their staff.
Open Innovation Brainstorming
The Vjam program opened with a day-long workshop involving Virgin Atlantic employees, passengers, web developers and social media experts to brainstorm ideas and share insights. Participants were then left with an open invitation to submit their proposals, for which grant funding would be available to those that were applicable to Virgin’s business needs. About a third of participants submitted their ideas, and funding was finalized for the best eight.
The airline works closely with each successful participant to develop prototypes and prepare for future investment. The ‘Vjammers’ as they are known keep the intellectual property of their ideas whilst Virgin has first refusal on licensing the products.
New Passenger Service
One of the first proposals to be put into action is the Taxi2 website which helps passengers find other travelers to share taxi rides into city centers all over the world. It was the brainchild of startup entrepreneur Ed Maklouf and the scheme not only saves money, but it also cuts ground carbon emissions.
All passengers have to do is log onto the website and it will help match them to passengers who are on the same flight or whose flights arrive at a similar time and are travelling to similar areas, so they can share a taxi ride. The system will also match female customers who only want female traveling companions.
The scheme is not just limited to Virgin as it has been rolled out to customers on other airlines. Maklouf hopes to expand it to mobile devices so that it becomes a commonly used service for passengers wherever they happen to be in the world: “Our expectation is that this simple, sensible way of saving money and cutting down congestion and carbon footprint will become common activity for air travelers worldwide,” he said.
Enhance Your ROI
Innovating can be an expensive business, as only a small percentage of ideas that businesses invest in will ever see the light of the day. Open innovation is a way for companies like the aviation giant to narrow those odds to get a much better return on investment. It is also a way of fostering long term relationships with customers and the wider community and reacting to their ideas.
And when the outside world comes up with some neat proposals, it’s about taking those on and making them work.
So far two Vjam services are now in operation - the second is a Facebook application for Flying Club members, and the global air carrier plans to release several more throughout 2010.
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