£400m to help ambitious UK aerospace projects take off

Posted on 20 Jul 2020 by Jonny Williamson

Aerospace jobs and supply chains across the UK are set to benefit from cutting-edge research and development projects funded by government grants totalling £200m, matched by industry.

Grants totalling £400m, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme, will fund projects including the development of high-performance engines, new wing designs, ultra-lightweight materials, energy-efficient electric components, and other brand new concepts to enhance innovation within the sector.

The funding will also secure highly-skilled jobs in UK aerospace 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.

 Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma commented: “We have an incredible aerospace industry right here in the UK that defines the way aircraft are manufactured globally.

“This £400m 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 £200m grant funding, 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.

EnginesRolls-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 Engineeringwill develop ultra-lightweight seat structures for air travel, reducing the weight of aircraft.


Today, the Business Secretary will also announce 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.

Chief executive of the Aerospace Technology Institute, Gary Elliott, 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”.

Further background on the projects:

Airbus projects: Wing of Tomorrow will develop new technologies and manufacturing processes to produce the next generation composite wings and help Airbus’s leading position in the single aisle market. A critical part of the programme is to develop capability to manufacture more efficient, light weight carbon-fibre wings, at a rate much higher than previously possible.

Rolls-Royce projects: UltraFan will be the most efficient engine produced by Rolls-Royce and will use less fuel and produce lower CO2 emissions. Projects funded as part of the £200m will drive efficiency and contribute towards shared Government and industry ambitions on decarbonisation.

Williams Advanced Engineering: The AIRTEK project is focused on developing lightweight seat structures for the civilian aerospace sector. Williams Advanced Engineering, in a collaboration with JPA Design and SWS Certification, is developing new lightweight aircraft seats in order to reduce the weight of aircraft, which in turn will lead to airlines saving fuel and CO2.

Safran Electrical & Power UK: AEPEC: The Aerospace Electric Propulsion Equipment, Controls & Machines (AEPEC) project involves lead partner Safran Electrical & Power UK and its supply chain partners. They will develop electrical power systems to improve energy use on future aircraft, covering power generation, control systems, and other functions on more-electric aircraft. 

*Header image courtesy of Depositphotos