Winners of BEIS funding round revealed as it launches research initiative to explore and design zero emissions aviation technology
Zero emissions aviation has edged closer to take-off in the UK after the government today unveiled £400m in private and public sector funding for technologies and research aimed at helping the aviation sector to "go green".
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) today announced that projects aiming to develop high performance engines, new wing designs and ultra-lightweight cabin seats that reduce fuel consumption are among the winners of a £200m funding round led by its Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the funding, to be matched by a further £200m from industry, would help support ambitious green aviation projects and high-skilled jobs opportunities as the aviation sector navigates a bruising period due to plummeting flight travel since the outbreak of Covid-19. Higher education institutions across the UK will also contribute to the projects, including the universities of Nottingham and Birmingham, he added.
Winners of funding announced today include an Oxford-based project led by Williams Advanced Engineering which aims to develop ultra-lightweight seat structures that reduce the weight of aircraft, and a Rolls-Royce-led initiative geared at producing more efficient engine technology. Other successful bidders include a project led by Safran Electrical and Power UK focused on developing more efficient electric aircraft systems, and an Airbus-led project geared at improving the efficiency of plane wing assembly.
"We have an incredible aerospace industry right here in the UK that defines the way aircraft are manufactured globally," said Sharma. "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."
In addition, Sharma further launched a new research initiative bringing together around 100 experts to study and tackle issues involved in designing and building commercial zero emission aircraft technology. Dubbed FlyZero, the initiative is aimed at helping to boost UK manufacturing by bringing together engineers and technologists to accelerate the development of low carbon aviation.
It follows a letter from 35 cross-party MPs - led by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sustainable Aviation - called on the government to invest £500m in green aviation efforts in the UK to help "supercharge" the struggling airline sector in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. It also said the Treasury should increase its funding to the Aerospace Technology Institute to help develop more efficient planes as well as hybrid and electric aircraft.
But Gary Elliott, chief executive of the ATI, insisted the FlyZero iniative announced today could help establish the UK as a global leader in aviation technology as the industry seeks to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, which has seen passenger numbers slump to unprecedented levels and thousands of job cuts announced in the sector.
"FlyZero represents an acceleration of the UK's ambition to lead the world in green aviation," he said. "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 follows the launch of the Jet Zero Council in June, an industry body that will allow industry and government to boost the low carbon aviation sector. The government confirmed today that the FlyZero study will help the Council move towards its aim of net zero emissions flights.
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