Last year a brand-new student initiative at TU Delft started: the Transport Development Initiative. It aims to conduct transport projects in developing countries, using the vast knowledge of the university. In its short existence, the initiative had already won the IPIC2018 student competition held at the University of Groningen. It aims to continue the work with a research and volunteering track for students.

Developing countries need transport solutions

Operating as a brand-new non-profit student association, the Transport Development Initiative aims to conducts projects in the field of transportation in developing countries. It all started when one of the founding members, Manuel Martínez de Ubago, was studying for his exams.  Manuel explains: ‘I realised that ‘this university has a deep knowledge of everything transport related and that there are many international students from countries where transport related solutions are needed’. However, most transport solutions taught and researched at TU Delft are focused on developed (Western) countries like The Netherlands, Europe or the USA’. All this expertise at the university can be used to improve the home countries of all these international students and discussed the idea with other students.’ Together with the other co-founders he created the TDI to conduct projects in the field of transport and logistics in developing countries.

Founded by students, endorsed by professors

The TDI is run by a board of students, of which the majority are still the founding members of the association. Next to Manuel, Sigga and Mesay helped starting the initiative and Laura joined the board a little while later. All of them are master students in either the TIL or T&P programme. Several professors working in the transport field were immediately enthusiastic about the concept and joined the board of advisors, including prof. Van Arem, Van Wee, Tavasszy or Gonzalo Correia, providing support on the course to follow. According to Van Arem: “People across the world need access to mobility in their daily lives. The Transport Development Initiative aims to develop mobility in developing counties. It has been established by a group of motivated and talented students. They can count on my fullest and warmest support.”

Young, yet already big achievements

The enthusiasm of the professors enabled TDI to introduce themselves to the industry. Manuel gave a speech at a Connekt meeting in which he called for action to give some attention to transport problems in the developing world.

Furthermore, TDI participated in a student competition of the IPIC2018 Conference. Their idea about how ‘the Physical Internet philosophy can be implemented in developing countries for safe, sustainable and efficient city logistics’ won the student competition. The idea consists of tackling five different pillars for solving the problem, including land use, retail structure, IT infrastructure, cultural foundation and financial structure. Those who want to know more about the winning idea can watch it here.

Bright future ahead

The Transport Development Initiative is supported by the TU Delft Transport Institute. TDI will offer a research and a volunteering track for students. For the research track projects in developing countries will be proposed by TDI, interested students each year can get selected to participate in research at the host university or institution. Continuity is important for the projects, in that way each new group of students will build upon the results of the previous participants.

The volunteering track is considered a way of extra-curricular activities for bachelor and master students. Students can propose volunteering projects of any kind in the transport domain. TDI can help these students seeking funding for their projects.

Would you like to get more information about the Transport Development Initiative? To propose a research or volunteering project or just for more information? Send an email to 

Manuel Ubago Sotomayor

Mesay Nasir

Sigga Bogga

Laura Pardini