Plan to make UK aerospace ‘key player’ in next generation tech

Posted on 25 Nov 2019 by The Manufacturer

A new strategy for the UK aerospace industry that prioritises competitiveness and environmental impact has been published by a government-backed initiative.

The direction of travel for UK aerospace research has been set out in a new-fangled stratagem by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), covering priority technologies and next generation power systems.

Accelerating Ambition outlines key areas in which the ATI Programme – a £3.9bn government- sponsored industry-led scheme to invest in civil aerospace research and technology projects – must focus in the future.

CROP Aerospace Aviation Aircraft - STOCK image courtesy of Depositphotos.

It is especially concerned with emerging technologies, future vehicles, power systems and infrastructure covering the entire air transport system, as well as areas of development in adjacent sectors.

The ATI roadmap highlights five key areas relating to the environment, cost and safety that industry must concentrate on in order to meet self-imposed targets in 2035 and beyond, and is urging industry experts to work with the ATI in acquiring funding to deliver certain projects.

Priorities identified in the ATI strategy:

  • To make the UK a key player in the delivery of future sustainable commercial aircraft
  • To lead all-electric battery and fuel cell propulsion systems
  • To advance autonomous systems for efficiency and safety
  • To grow capability in complex multi-functional structures
  • To develop high-value design capabilities

“We need to accelerate our ambition”

“We have achieved a great deal since the ATI was established five years ago, but we need to do more and we need to do it quicker if the UK is to stay competitive and benefit from the new and evolving markets,” said Gary Elliott, chief executive officer of the ATI.

“There are opportunities here for the UK. Accelerating Ambition sets out our vision of future technologies: those that will deliver benefit to the whole air transport system, and those that will drive the efficiency of aircraft and which lie at the heart of achieving a sustainable future.

“This is my challenge to the UK aerospace sector. The ATI wants to fund even more ambitious technology programmes and attract new companies and collaborations to the UK.

“We want the sector to come forward with new ideas that align with the vision articulated in Accelerating Ambition. We are here to support and develop those aspirations, and I hope the sector accepts the challenge,” he added.

The UK aerospace industry in 2018 - image courtesy of ADS

The UK aerospace industry in 2018 – image courtesy of ADS

UK aerospace tops R&D spending across all sectors 

Stock UK Aerospace Clouds Aeroplane Aviation
UK aerospace posts “biggest absolute gains in R&D spending”

The UK aerospace industry has grown its research and development spending more than any other sector, but still has some way to go in reaching its own industry high set in 2005 – according to a leading tax relief firm.

Aerospace businesses increased investment in R&D by £210m in 2018 taking the total spending in that area to £1.7bn, but the industry has not been able to surpass record expenditure in R&D since 2005 when figures reached £2.2bn.

That’s according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data analysed by Catax.

Although the 2018 spike signals a 14% rise on the previous year, the aerospace industry has seen investment in R&D rise and fall since around the time of the financial crash in 2008.

Spending sank to £1.4bn in 2010-11, before bouncing back five years later to £1.9bn. Then in 2017, investment in R&D took another tumble to £1.5bn.

UK investment in R&D across all sectors, however, appears to be on an upward trend, rising £1.4bn to £25bn in 2018 — up 5.8% on the previous year.

British manufacturing was associated with £16.3bn of R&D spending, up 4.7%.

UK aerospace recently surpassed software development to become the sector “posting the biggest absolute gains in R&D spending”, according to Mark Tighe, chief executive of R&D tax relief specialists Catax.

By Rory Butler, Staff Journalist

*All images courtesy of Depositphotos