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Government, industry invest $450M to advance U.K. civil aerospace research, technology, manufacturing

Government and industry in the United Kingdom are partnering to enable cleaner, greener flight through electric and hybrid aircraft, and investing £343 million – the equivalent of roughly $450 million in U.S. currency – in research and development and productivity improvements to transform the future of civil aerospace.
U.K. government officials announced the government-industry investment during the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England. They also launched negotiations with industry on a new Aerospace Sector Deal as part of its Industrial Strategy, a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the U.K.
The £343 million total investment includes:
  • £255 million, supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and U.K. Research & Innovation (UKRI), to go toward 18 new research and technology projects, including the development of cleaner and greener hybrid aircraft;
  • £68 million to be made available to small and medium-sized companies to increase research and development opportunities; and
  • £20 million to drive improvements in long-term productivity across the sector.

The aim of these aerospace projects is: to help maintain the U.K.’s existing strengths in aerospace and also position the U.K. as a world leader for some of the most technologically advanced aircraft that will transform the face of aviation, including electric aircraft, hybrid-electric propulsion systems, and future materials for aircraft manufacturing.
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A major beneficiary of the latest research and development funding is the E-Fan X project. Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens are developing a flying electrical demonstrator which will form the foundation for future electrical aircraft, help the aerospace sector manufacture cleaner and quieter aircraft, and grow the industry sustainably.
Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL (short for accelerate) project will also accelerate the electrification of flight and help cut emissions, in keeping with the U.K.’s Clean Growth Strategy.
“Technology is driving revolutionary changes in aviation that have not been seen since the 1970s and today’s investment is foundational to the future of commercial aviation and ensuring the U.K. remains at the cutting-edge of the sector,” U.K. Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said during Farnborough International Airshow. “This revolution in civil aerospace will bring significant benefits to U.K. industry, passengers, and the environment. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are working with industry to lead the world as we embark on this journey into the new age of air travel.”
The funding will also support a number of projects on the next-generation UltraFan aero engine, led by Rolls-Royce, which will contribute to their biggest shift in engine architecture since the 1970s, officials say. It will transform flight, setting new benchmarks in fuel efficiency, carbon dioxide (CO20 reductions, and significant cut backs in engine noise.
“The development of quicker, quieter, and cleaner aircraft will transform the U.K.’s transport market and open up new and more sustainable ways for passengers to travel between our cities and regions and across the globe,” Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg added, noting that developing innovation, technology, and skills is a core part of the government’s Aviation Strategy.
The Business and Energy Secretary also announced the start of formal negotiations for an Industrial Strategy sector deal that will:
  • explore investment opportunities around electrification and high-value design,
  • raise productivity levels in the supply chain,
  • and boost skill levels in the sector.
The government is also welcoming completion of the Bombardier and Airbus joint venture, a partnership that will support the development and manufacture of structures for the A220 jet at the Bombardier facility in Belfast, officials say.
Projects supported by joint government and industry investment include:
Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Siemens
  • E-FAN X (ELECTRIFICATION), £58 million project
    A partnership between Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens to develop a flight demonstrator for hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial aircraft. Hybrid-electric technology will deliver improved environmental performance that is cleaner, quieter, and introduce re-evaluations of the entire design of aircraft.

  • Series of projects on ULTRAFAN, and ACCEL, worth a total of £70 million
    Four projects on engine technologies for UltraFan involving multiple partners, including universities and smaller companies. A new generation of aircraft engine that aims to transform flight, setting new benchmarks in efficiency, environmental performance, and precision engineering. ACCEL is intended to accelerate the adoption of electrical technology in aviation through the design build and flight test of a high-performance electric powertrain.

  • Competitive Composite Manufacturing Process (CoCoMaP), FANTASTIC (Nacelle), and OptiComp (Wing), £32 million project
    Three research projects exploring more efficient manufacturing processes, new technology for engine covers (nacelles), and the application of composite material to large aerospace structures, such as wings and fuselage. All three projects will be led by Bombardier Belfast (Shorts).

  • CO-MET (COmposite and METallic) £9.7 million 
    This project will help GKN develop new aerostructure components for aircraft upgrade opportunities and new programs.

  • Future Landing Gear, £16 million project 
    This project aims to reduce cash operating costs by 2 percent through increased efficiency and reduced turnaround times.

National Composite Centre Operation Limited
  • £44 million for three projects 
    Three projects with National Composite Centre, part of High Value Manufacturing Catapult, to develop new, more efficient ways of producing large composite aerostructures. The research will explore the use of new composite materials as well as the manufacturing process.

University/Research Organisations projects – total £26 million for 3 projects
  • University of Oxford
    Infrastructure for the University of Oxford Osney Thermo-fluids Laboratory (OSNEY Upgrade). The Oxford Thermofluids Institute is part of Oxford University’s strategic investment in the U.K.’s science base. The laboratory is a global center of excellence for turbomachinery research which has made contributions to the technology of jet engines over the past three decades. This grant will be used to achieve a step change in capability to measure and research the cooling performance and hot stage technologies essential for the operation of high-pressure (HP) turbine stages of large civil engines.
  • University of Sheffield 
    PERFORM (Disruptive Textile Technology for Aerospace Applications): Perform is a project with the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The research will develop new composite material and efficient manufacturing processes. 
  • The Welding Institute Limited
    OAAM (Open Architecture Additive Manufacturing): Welding Institute, an engineering research and technology organization, is taking the lead in the Open Architecture Additive Manufacturing (OAAM) project to demonstrate the ability to manufacture large metallic components via additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, for the benefit of U.K. aerospace.
As part of the £68 million joint industry and government investment for new research and development opportunities targeted to support small and medium-sized businesses, an open competition supported by UKRI will back small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to carry out new research on high-risk, high-reward solutions that will help U.K. companies grow their capability for the long-term.
Further rounds of the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Program will help SMEs develop new technologies, while a new improvement program will help SMEs to increase their productivity and ability to win new work with new and existing customers. A new partnership between the U.K. and Sweden will also see the countries collaborate on technological research.
The Defence Enterprise Export Partnership (DEEP) joint government, industry, and academic initiative led by the Defence Growth Partnership (DGP) is intended to generate skilled personnel able to lead successful international defense export campaigns.

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Courtney E. Howard is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group. Contact her by e-mail at
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