The government has announced a multi-million-pound Aerospace Sector Deal that builds on the UK’s excellence and heritage in aerospace, aims to transform the future of flight, through electrification and autonomy, and commits to increasing gender equality in the sector.
The defence and aerospace industry recorded a £10bn increase in deals over the last 12 months, with the total deals valued at £31bn.
The industry has achieved annual revenue growth of 7% over the last five years, account for 7% of UK exports and employ 338,000 people, according to trade organisation, the ADS Group.
The announcement comes as the Business Secretary Greg Clark makes a speech in Bristol today outlining a new Aerospace Sector Deal between the industry and the government.
Among the proposals mentioned in the deal, which is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, are the £250m Future Flight Challenge. This will go towards developing new ground infrastructure and aircraft technology that will hopefully make the aerospace industry more environmentally-friendly.
It will also be spent on developing autonomous air vehicles and better airspace management. The programme will receive £125m funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund with the other half being match-funding by the aerospace industry.
Aerospace giant GKN will also receive £15m in government funding for a new Global Technology Centre. The centre will be dedicated to a variety of processes, including additive manufacturing (AM), advanced composites, assembly and industry 4.0 processes.
Commenting on the announcement, GKN Aerospace’s CEO Hans Buthker said: “GKN Aerospace can trace its engineering heritage back to the 18th century and we are proud of our role as a leading player in the UK’s world leading aerospace sector.
“The GTC will ensure we continue to develop new technologies that deliver for our customers, making aircraft more sustainable and economical. It will also support our 4,000 strong workforce in the UK, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of the global aerospace industry.”
Other proposals outlined in the Aerospace Sector Deal include an expansion of the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme.
Like the Future Flight Challenge, it will be joint-funded by government and industry and centre around R&D projects. Supporting SMEs in the UK aerospace supply chain to boost their competitiveness through a new productivity improvement programme. `
Finally, the Aerospace Sector Deal commits the industry to increase diversity and inclusion by embedding the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter. Earlier in the year, 50 companies in the aerospace and aviation sector signed up to the Charter to work towards gender equality in the industry. Virgin Atlantic, BAE Systems, and Bombardier were just some of the signatories.
The ADS Group said that the sector deal shows the strength of the industry, while programmes like the Future Flight Challenge are a major opportunity for the industry to become more innovative and eco-friendly.
ADS Chief Executive Paul Everitt said: “The Future Flight challenge will ensure the UK takes a lead in delivering cleaner, quieter and more innovative aircraft. We must fast-track the electrification of flight, exploit the global potential of new urban mobility solutions and pioneer autonomous aviation.”
ADS’s research also showed that investment in the UK space sector has trebled in size since 2001. Around £14bn was invested in the sector in the last 12 months.
Sheffield University partners with GKN for new Global Technology Centre
The University of Sheffield has been announced as a partner in GKN’s Global Technology Centre (GTC). GKN will work with academics from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) on processes like additive manufacturing and advanced composites.
The centre has already worked with Boeing to develop a virtual simulation model of the new Boeing Sheffield facility. They claim this will help Boeing increase its productivity by up to 50%.
The 10,000 sqm facility will host 300 highly skilled engineers, and will include collaborative space for research and development with universities, the UK’s Catapult network and GKN Aerospace’s UK supply chain.
GKN will work with academics from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and focus on additive manufacturing (AM), advanced composites, assembly and industry 4.0 processes to enable the high rate production of aircraft structures.
Activities will expand to include collaborative research projects, co-location of staff and students from the Faculty and the AMRC to the GTC, and PhD opportunities to develop the talent pipeline into the aerospace industry.
Professor Iain Todd say the partnership “helps cements our long-term working relationships in this industry and will create many opportunities for students and graduates wanting to gain experience in the aerospace sector, as well as drive research within the Faculty of Engineering.”
Reporting by Harry Wise