Lift off for electric planes – new funding for green revolution in UK civil aerospace

The UK’s world-leading aerospace sector is to be propelled into new era of cleaner, greener flight through industry and government investment, the Business and Energy Secretary announced at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow.

From the total investment, £255 million – supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) – will go towards 18 new research and technology projects, including the development of cleaner and greener hybrid aircraft. To support small and medium-sized companies, £68 million of the funding will be made available to increase research and development opportunities, with £20 million to drive improvements in long-term productivity across the sector.

The projects will not only help maintain the UK’s existing strengths in aerospace but also position the UK as a world leader for some of the most technologically advanced aircraft that will transform the face of aviation including electric aircraft, hybrid-electric propulsion systems, and future materials for aircraft manufacturing.

A major beneficiary of the latest research and development funding is the revolutionary E-Fan X project. The project brings together Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens to develop a flying electrical demonstrator which will form the foundation for future electrical aircraft and help the aerospace sector to manufacture cleaner, quieter aircraft and grow the industry sustainably. Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL project will also lead a UK programme to accelerate the electrification of flight which will contribute to the UK’s aim to cut emissions through its Clean Growth Strategy.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said:

The UK has a rich heritage in civil aviation as the home of the jet engine and the wings factory of the world. Technology is driving revolutionary changes in aviation that have not been seen since the 1970s and today’s investment is foundational to the future of commercial aviation and ensuring the UK remains at the cutting-edge of the sector. This revolution in civil aerospace will bring significant benefits to UK industry, passengers and the environment.

Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are working with industry to lead the world as we embark on this journey into the new age of air travel.

This funding will also support a number of projects on the next generation UltraFan® aero engine, led by Rolls-Royce, which will contribute to their biggest shift in engine architecture since the 1970s. It will transform flight, setting new benchmarks in fuel efficiency, CO2 reductions and significant cut backs in engine noise.

Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said:

The development of quicker, quieter and cleaner aircraft will transform the UK’s transport market and open up new and more sustainable ways for passengers to travel between our cities and regions and across the globe. Developing innovation, technology and skills is a core part of the government’s Aviation Strategy and this funding will help us to ensure that the UK aviation sector continues to be a world leader in this area.

Backing our world-leading aerospace sector, the Business and Energy Secretary also announced the start of formal negotiations for an Industrial Strategy sector deal that will further increase business investment in the UK, with discussions expected to conclude before the end of the year. The deal will:

  • explore investment opportunities around electrification and high-value design
  • raise productivity levels in the supply chain
  • and boost skill levels in the sector

The latest wave of projects to win the competitive funding underlines the significant importance of the £3.9 billion joint research and development funding commitment in the sector as part of the Industrial Strategy.

The government also welcomed the completion of Bombardier and Airbus’ Joint Venture; a partnership that will support the development and manufacture of structures for the A220 jet at the Bombardier facility in Belfast.

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