UK aerospace sector gets £400 million funding to go green
27 July 2020
Aerospace jobs and supply chains across the UK will benefit from cutting-edge research and development projects announced by the government and aerospace industry leaders.
Government grants totalling £200 million, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme, will be matched by industry to create the total investment of £400 million in new research and technology, enabling ambitious projects to lift off and support the sector’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
New projects set to receive funding will include developing high performance engines, new wing designs, ultra-lightweight materials, energy-efficient electric components, and other brand-new concepts to enhance innovation within the sector. A project led by Williams Advanced Engineering in Oxford, for example, will develop ultra-lightweight seat structures that will reduce an aircraft’s fuel consumption.
The funding will also secure highly skilled jobs in the UK’s aerospace sector and will benefit companies of all sizes from Caldicot in Wales to Bedlington in the North of England. Higher education institutions will also be a part of the projects, including the universities of Nottingham and Birmingham.
The funding was announced by Business Secretary Alok Sharma at Farnborough Connect, the virtual version of Farnborough International Airshow.
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said: “We have an incredible aerospace industry right here in the UK that defines the way aircraft are manufactured globally.
“This £400 million ATI investment will help secure our world-leading position in developing new flight technology to make air travel safer and greener into the future.”
The successful projects that will receive a share of the government’s £200 million grant funding through the ATI programme, and match it with their own investment, include:
• Wings: the UK is the home of Airbus wing design and manufacturing. Airbus-led projects (Broughton, Filton) will drive forward more efficient wing assembly, systems installation, digital design processes and a range of innovative wing concepts including folding wing tips
• Engines: Rolls-Royce-led projects will support the development of the UltraFan engine technology, which will make a step change in the efficiency and environmental performance of aircraft
• Power systems: the AEPEC project led by Safran Electrical & Power UK (Pitstone) will research how new electrical power systems can lead to more efficient energy usage
• Cabin systems: an Oxford-based project led by Williams Advanced Engineering will develop ultra-lightweight seat structures for air travel, reducing the weight of aircraft
Stu Olden, Senior Commercial Manager for Defence, Aerospace & Emerging Markets at Williams Advanced Engineering, said: “A key benefit for us of the ATI support has been to enable accelerated development of the 3 companies involved in the consortium.
“Additionally, by developing UK technologies and innovation, the ATIprogramme is enabling UK-based product development and, hopefully, future jobs. For Williams Advanced Engineering it has allowed us to participate in the aerospace sector as a non-traditional supplier.”
During his speech, the Business Secretary also announced the FlyZero initiative to kickstart exploration into zero-carbon emission commercial aircraft.
The FlyZero study will receive government funding and bring together around 100 experts to tackle issues involved in designing and building a commercially successful zero-emission aircraft. The study will create a strong basis for further research and development into a wide of technologies necessary for future flight, with the aim of securing future manufacturing in the UK.
This follows the launch of the Jet Zero Council, which brings industry and government together to make net zero emissions possible for future flights. The FlyZero study will feed into the work of the Council in defining and delivering this ambition.
Gary Elliott, Chief Executive of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said: “FlyZero represents an acceleration of the UK’s ambition to lead the world in green aviation. These are challenging but also exciting times for the aerospace sector; we need to help UK companies to recover while also creating new approaches to technology development and innovation.
“FlyZero will engage a team of highly skilled engineers and technologists from across the UK to look into how to design and build a zero emission commercial aircraft, with the solid aim of securing future manufacturing in the UK.”
The UK was the first major economy to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and over the past decade, the UK has cut carbon emissions by more than any similar developed country. In 2019, UK emissions were 42% lower than in 1990, while our economy grew by 72%.