Today marks an exciting milestone in the history of aerospace technology in the UK as the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) launches its first aerospace technology strategy, at the RSA in London.
The strategy is backed by an independently commissioned report by Fathom Consulting – How Government can make a difference: the potential impact of the ATI on the UK economy – also published today.
The Fathom research cites productivity as the number one challenge for macroeconomic policy in the UK and outlines how, through focused investment in R&D and innovation, the ATI can make a difference for the sector.
Developed by the ATI in consultation with more than 150 senior personnel from industry, academia and government, the aerospace technology strategy and continued Government R&D investment has the capacity to catalyse change that will stimulate productivity and economic growth, securing the future success of the UK aerospace sector.
Business Minister Anna Soubry commented: “This strategy will help deliver maximum impact from every pound of the £2.1bn the Government has committed to invest with industry.
“As well as helping the big established firms, it will benefit small businesses in the supply chain, increasing the scope for participation in collaborative projects.
“Our aerospace industry supports around 220,000 jobs. Our investment will help make sure the UK retains its position as the leading aerospace industry in Europe and second only to the United States globally.
“It will develop technologies for the next generation of aircraft and help manufacturing processes become more efficient – driving UK productivity. Getting this right will deliver economic benefit through our large, mid-sized and small companies across the breadth of the country.”
The UK has a track record of success in aerospace and could reap substantial benefits provided it is able to protect and grow its share of the global market which is expected to exceed $5tn over the next 20 years.
The Fathom report suggests that the UK is comparatively weak on R&D investment, a factor shown to drive productivity. It shows that R&D investment delivers substantial value in terms of jobs and economic prosperity but comes with risks to the private sector. This is where the ATI and Government supported R&D investment come in. The ATI is in a unique position to change that scenario.
CEO of the ATI, Gary Elliott explained: “Today is a significant milestone for the Institute and its role in UK aerospace. Investments into R&D need to be focused on a market opportunity – the strategy lays out these opportunities and provides intelligence on where technology can provide some of the answers. As a result, the strategy will stimulate collaborative research and development that will translate into products securing economic returns for UK plc.”
Erik Britton of Fathom Consulting added: “To date, £490m of Government funds, through the ATI, has crowded in a total of £1bn of R&D projects. These could boost UK GDP substantially – by between £350m and £700m a year in the long term.
“Conservatively, the spill-over benefits to the UK economy outside the aerospace sector could amount to 70% of the one-off cost to government – every year.”
Key conclusions in the technology strategy show:
- The UK must continue to invest in aerospace technology, skills and the related supply chain to benefit from the sector in the face of rising competition and advanced and emerging economies.
- Growth in air travel, expanding airports and more congested airspace will drive the need for more efficient, environmentally friendly aircraft that are quieter, safer and even more reliable.
- Meeting these challenges implies continuous improvement in product technology, which will require long-term investment.
- There is untapped potential in the UK aerospace sector that the ATI can help unlock.
Through the aerospace technology strategy, the ATI will identify new opportunities for collaboration, within and beyond the sector, and in doing so commercialise innovation.
Chief Executive of Innovate UK, Ruth McKernan said: “Our aerospace sector is a great British success story, but it is highly competitive. So the only way we’ll stay ahead of the competition is by thinking about the future, investing in innovation and making sure that businesses of all sizes are growing. That’s just what the ATI and Innovate UK are doing.
“One recent example is how we’re working together to help Monitor Coatings and its partners realise their potential: from Innovate UK support in the early stages to; working with the ATI now to develop a new environmentally friendly anti-corrosion coating for aero-engines.
“In ways like this, Innovate UK and the ATI are building a comprehensive support package for companies to get their ideas from the drawing board to reality, grow their businesses, and make sure UK aerospace maintains its world leading position.”
In addition to identifying critical technological themes, the ATI will achieve higher levels of technological and economic impact than otherwise possible, by aligning technology research with a long-term strategic view for the UK; using ATI projects to create stronger UK-based networks and developing the UK’s research infrastructure.
The Institute is also engaging in EU-funded research programmes to create opportunities for the UK aerospace sector and economy, including encouragement of foreign direct investment.
A copy of the strategy is available here.
The strategy builds on the ATI’s Building Momentum publication (Feb 2015) which set out the overarching framework of developing a market-aligned technology strategy with a focus on maximising economic outcomes.