New aerospace innovation to propel UK to growth and greener skies backed by £273 million

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"We are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the centre of our plans to deliver jobs and grow the economy" - Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street.

Solar powered aircraft, ultra-efficient wings and medical treatment carrying drones are just some of the technologies backed by £273 million to advance low-carbon aerospace innovation, economic growth and jobs, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will announce at the Farnborough International Airshow today (Monday 18 July).

81,000 jobs have been created so far through the Aerospace Technology Institute Programme, with £97 billion of value added to the UK economy to date. 

Today £155 million of joint government-industry funding has been announced to support new projects unlocking the latest in green aerospace innovation, such as hydrogen and battery technology, and ultra-efficient manufacturing processes and technologies, such as digital and additive manufacturing – generating further job opportunities and leads in emerging technologies and sectors.

A further £105.5 million of government-industry funding will be shared by projects focussed on developing air transport systems and enabling new vehicle technologies through the Future Flight Challenge. The projects could create more than 8,800 jobs and include making motorways safer and improving journey times by using electric drones to survey hazards, to using electric drones to distribute medical treatments across Scotland, including to cancer patients.

The Business Secretary will also announce up to £12 million is to be made available through the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to back initiatives that could unlock industries of the future through regulation – from flying cars to vaccine-carrying drones. Finally, a Drone Ambition Statement will be published today, outlining how government and industry can work together to seize on drones’ potential £45 billion of benefit to the economy by 2030.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

The return of the Farnborough International Airshow after a four-year absence is a clear example of the aerospace and aviation sector’s recovery. Today’s package of support will further this recovery and help the sector seize on the enormous opportunities for growth that exist as the world transitions to cleaner forms of flight.

Through funding for the latest in green technology, such as solar and hydrogen powered aircraft, and setting out our vision for the fast-growing market for commercial drones, we are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the centre of our plans to deliver jobs and grow the economy.

Among 31 Aerospace Technology Institute Programme competition winners, backed by £155 million of government-industry funding, are:

  • High Density Aerospace Solar Power led by Microlink Devices UK – £6.7 million to secure a high-volume, highly automated manufacturing capability in solar cells for the UK that could be used on electric aircraft;
  • UToPEA led by Yasa – £11.1 million to transfer knowledge of high-power, high-torque electric motors and power electronics used in Formula One into the urban air mobility (air taxi) market;
  • X-WING ALPHA led by Airbus – £19.9 million to develop ultra-wide span wings, providing significant performance benefits through weight reduction; and
  • NGC3 led by Crompton Technology Group – £5.3 million to develop weight reduction components aimed at facilitating carbon composite wings.

Through the Future Flight Challenge led by UK Research and Innovation, 17 projects will share £105.5 million in funding to develop and demonstrate integrated aviation systems and new vehicle technologies. The projects will work with the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure they are delivered safely and effectively. They include:

  • Project HEART, based in Orkney and Bedford – £10 million to explore using aircraft powered by hydrogen or electricity to open up greener regional connectivity across the UK;
  • Open Skies Cornwall – £2.4 million to work with Royal Mail and NHS Kernow to use drones to provide residents on the Isles of Scilly with regular, reliable deliveries of mail and medical supplies;
  • CAELUS 2, based across Scotland – £10.1 million to use electric drones to support the distribution of medical products and medicines across Scotland, including helping to treat cancer patients in their local community, rather than requiring them to travel; and
  • Skyway, based in Reading – £12.9 million to use drones to quickly and efficiently survey infrastructure, such as motorways and ports, reducing the need for costly transport system closures and improving delivery times.

A new £12 million funding pot will be made available through the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to support bold initiatives by regulators and local authorities that enable the UK’s regulatory environment to keep pace with cutting-edge innovation. Bids for up to £1 million per project will open on 21 July.

Previous funding has supported development of a world-first regime for crash-protected containers that drones can use to carry sensitive goods such as vaccines and a project to unlock regulatory barriers to flying taxis.

Transport Minister Robert Courts said:

The steps we have set out today will ensure our aviation sector remains world-leading and fit for the future, helping to deliver on our ambitious climate change goals and boost high-skilled job opportunities.

Integrating drones into our transport system will play a huge part in better connecting communities, from potentially delivering vital NHS treatments in isolated communities to capturing high quality aerial imaging for rescue teams.

A Drone Ambition Statement has been produced in collaboration with the Drone Industry Action Group, outlining how the UK will embed a business environment that supports the development of drone technologies and can deliver 650,000 jobs in the sector by 2030. This will be achieved through government investments like those made today through the Future Flight Challenge, effective regulation, a consultation on enabling 5G connected drones for commercial use and improving public communications to underline the potential benefits of commercial drones.

The ATI Programme and Future Flight Challenge are key components of the government’s Jet Zero policy, which includes the Jet Zero Council, established to convene government, industry and academia, and jointly chaired by the Business Secretary and Transport Secretary. A final Jet Zero Strategy will be published this summer.

The government say they will also work with industry through the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which launches a new strategy “Destination Net Zero” tomorrow, to deliver the sector’s transition to greener forms of aviation.

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