The UK’s aerospace sector has received a huge boost with a pledge of £2bn from government and industry to fund jobs, research and development.
Job security was a big feature of the announcement, with up to 115,000 jobs secured as the funding, released over seven years, is provided by the government and the aerospace industry. It is the biggest ever single pledge of public-private investment for the aerospace sector.
Aerospace technology, especially in fields such as composite materials, was described by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as the “jewel in our crown” when announcing the strategy during a visit to Airbus in Filton.
Some of the money will be used to create an aerospace technology institute to develop aircraft that are quieter and more energy-efficient.
The announcement and framework of actions was the government’s response to a report called ‘A Strategic Vision for UK Aerospace’ prepared by aerospace body ADS published at the Farnborough Airshow in July 2012.
The deputy prime minister said that industry personnel with highly specialised skills “are working hard to make sure the UK remains Europe’s number one aerospace manufacturer.”
“We’re doing all we can to maintain this jewel in our crown, which is why government is working hand in hand with industry to inject £2bn into a unique long-term strategy to maintain Britain’s position as the centre of aerospace technology.”
He added a note about international competition. “This is a race, we must not be complacent because others are ready to steal a march on our expertise. That’s why it’s important we support this strong sector together.”
A key pillar of the plan is forming the UK Aerospace Technology Institute in Bristol, which will be supported by Airbus, the aerospace division of Rolls Royce in Derby, Messier-Dowty, which has a factory near Gloucester, AgustaWestland, GKN Aerospace, and the ADS trade association.
The common factor that links the work of these companies and the new investment is engineering lighter aircraft. With new aircraft platforms of recent years like the Airbus A350 neo and Boeing 787 Dreamliner proving the fuel efficiency of using clever design and composite materials to reduce weight, all manufacturers are focused on this challenge.
Steve Radley, policy director at manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said that the UK is able to expand on its position as a leader in aerospace engineering by “getting ahead of the curve in the development of key technologies is an important part of this. Government’s matching commitment is needed to make this a reality.”
He added: “Companies and sectors with the potential to deliver new technology and long term growth in the economy will do it where these is a coherent, consistent and certain approach from government.”