April 24, 2013
Advanced manufacturing will be the key focus for the new U.K. Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which expects to guide more than £2 billion ($3 billion) in government and industry investment to maintain the country’s position near the top of the world’s aerospace industry powers.
While the initiative was announced in March, it is not clear yet if ATI will take physical or virtual form, but expectations for its impact are high. In return for its half of the seven-year investment, the government expects industry to select research and development (R&D) projects and develop technologies that will secure up to 115,000 high-value-added jobs in British aerospace.
The investment will be focused on four areas—civil aircraft wings, aeroengines, aerostructures and advanced systems—in which the country already is a leader. This initiative will tap the specialist wing plants of Airbus in the U.K. 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 program 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 British government is committing more than £1.6 billion over 10 years to back its industrial strategy across several sectors. The commitment includes more than £1 billion in new funding 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 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 off the gas in research and technology, especially when Airbus and Boeing are looking at what probably will be the next-generation single-aisle,” he adds.
“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 source 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,” says the source, arguing that other industrial sectors were not able to make such a compelling case for government investment.
“In partnership with the government, we looked at the market data, saw the potential in single-aisle and regional aircraft was enormous and that the U.K. was well-placed to win significant packages. So we got the band back together, circled the wagons around “U.K. Aerospace,” and came up with a strategy that lays out a game plan to bring 30 years of work to the industry,” the source notes. Having secured the government’s funding commitment, “we are now putting shape to what we are trying to create,” the source adds.
ATI is to consist of a core team of 30-50 staff, mainly borrowed from industry and academia. According to BIS, the institute’s role will be to provide better alignment between early research—such as that supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council—and larger-scale R&D projects managed by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and conducted by collaborative groups from industry and academia.