May 06, 2013
Credit: Airbus/P. Lancelot
Advanced manufacturing will be a key focus for the U.K.'s new Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which is being planned to guide more than £2 billion ($3 billion) in government and industry investment in research and development intended to maintain the country's position near the top of the aerospace league table.
Announced in March, it is not clear yet whether the institute will take physical or virtual form, but expectations for its effectiveness are high. In return for its half of the seven-year investment, the government expects industry to select R&D projects and develop technologies that will yield up to 115,000 high-value jobs.
The investment will be focused on four areas—civil aircraft wings, aeroengines, aerostructures and advanced systems—areas where the country already is a leader, through the specialist wing plants of Airbus in England and Bombardier in Belfast, Northern Ireland; aeroengine developer Rolls-Royce; airframe and engine component manufacturers such as GKN Aerospace and Spirit AeroSystems; and equipment suppliers such as GE Aviation Systems and UTC Aerospace Systems.
The initiative is aimed at developing the “substantially different technologies” expected to be required for the next generation of single-aisle and regional aircraft, according to the U.K.'s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
The U.K. government is committing more than £1.6 billion over 10 years to back its industrial strategy across several sectors. This includes more than £1 billion in new money from the U.K. Treasury and more than £500 million from the BIS budget. The largest part of the government's investment will go to the aerospace sector with funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to reach £150 million a year by 2014-15.
“The U.K. aerospace industry probably has not enjoyed this much support from the government since the 1970s,” says Marcus Bryson, CEO of GKN Aerospace and Land Systems and co-chair of the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which developed the investment program. “Industry is at a critical phase and we cannot afford to take the foot of the gas in research and technology, especially when Airbus and Boeing are looking at what probably will be the next-generation single aisle,” he says.
“In the early days, it is a mix of committed and new money, but as we go forward an increasing amount of new money will be directed to aerospace from other sectors,” says an industry official familiar with the new initiative. “Aerospace has come out as a winner, and sits at the top [of the U.K. government's industrial] priorities,” he says, arguing that other industrial sectors were not able to make such a compelling case for government investment.