Learning from Failures

Themes: Structural Engineering, Social Impact


A TRL is a measure to indicate the matureness of a developing technology. When an innovative idea is discovered it is often not directly suitable for application. Usually such novel idea is subjected to further experimentation, testing and prototyping before it can be implemented. The image below shows how to read TRL’s to categorise the innovative ideas.

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Summary of the project

The aim of this research is to develop methods through which researchers and engineers are enticed to learn from failures of their design and if needed make changes accordingly. Because when you understand what caused the failure, a similar event can be prevented. As an accident investigation researcher he tries to combine theoretical knowledge with more practical or hands-on experience. Using forensic engineering techniques, which are the corner stone of learning from failure, knowledge and understanding is gained for the future.

Through a novel approach, by combining these two aspects the researcher wants to provide the necessary tools to trigger a more critical reflection on the design, the choices made and potential (unforeseen) consequences in practice by unravelling the details of why an accident occurred. As an example, TU Delft Dream teams who develop and test future investigation techniques. With DREAM team’s taking on challenges and developing future technologies things can go wrong. So when an accident by one of the Dream team’s occurs – which can be big or small – it is a learning opportunity to prevent future failures. By assisting the teams in learning from failure, this will help in getting knowledge in making designs safer for the future.

What's next?

With an increased demand for safety in design the researcher hopes to one the hand educate as many engineers as possible who will use this critical thinking approach from learning from previous failures towards future designs and on the other hand to develop a Delft Safety Board in which accident research can be formalised with TU Delft. 

ir. Michiel Schuurman


dr. Calvin Rans

dr. ir. Karel Terwel & dr. ir. Arjo Loeve