Graphene has become quite the topic since it was first isolated in 2004, and the subsequent Nobel Prize in Physics that was awarded to two Manchester scientists in 2010, has the potential to positively impact aircraft performance, cost and fuel efficiency. The wonder material has been jointly explored by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) to help better understand potential market opportunities available to UK aerospace companies.
Working in close partnership with the NGI, the University of Central Lancashire, the Centre for Process Innovation, QinetiQ, Morson Projects Limited, and Haydale Limited with input from Ekosgen, we have brought together a sector perspective of where there are potential opportunities for organisations to benefit from investing in graphene. The findings and recommendations have been published in the form of an ATI INSIGHT paper which can be downloaded here.

Mark Summers, our Head of Technology for Manufacturing, Materials and Structures said:
“The UK has pioneered the research and development of graphene. The material has the potential to bring exciting applications and efficiencies into the sector. Although its exploitation into the aerospace sector is still in its infancy, it is anticipated that the scope of potential applications will continue to expand.

“We will seek to accelerate the maturation of graphene technology opportunities through the UK’s R&T programme, in a bid for the UK to remain ahead of the challenge and continue leading on the research and exploitation of the material in aerospace”.
Graphene has much potential to enhance the performance of aircraft. By incorporating the atomically-thin material into existing materials used to build planes, the safety and performance properties could be significantly improved, as well as reducing the environmental impact and improving fuel efficiency through light-weighting.

James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester, at The University of Manchester said:
“Major generational improvements in the aerospace sector have been associated with embracing new materials. Aluminium and carbon fibre have seen planes become faster, greener, cheaper and safer, now graphene and related two-dimensional materials can mark the next step-change.

“By incorporating graphene into existing materials used to manufacture planes performance properties could be improved across number of key areas. By collaborating with scientific expertise and embracing the opportunities offered by embracing graphene the sector can accelerate the next-generation of aerospace technologies.”

In an exclusive introduction to the INSIGHT paper, Sir Richard Branson said:
“The potential for graphene to solve enduring challenges within the aerospace sector presents real opportunities for the material to become disruptive, and a key enabler in future aircraft technology. We need to accelerate the opportunity for the UK to realise the benefits from graphene by creating a portfolio of graphene-related research and technology projects which if undertaken would lead to real impact in our aerospace industry.”

Will graphene have a major impact on aerospace?

As well as its vast potential and opportunities, the wonder material comes with some challenges. Despite the pioneering research and development, one of the key challenges identified is around taking the properties of graphene and translating them into a real component. There has been much work undertaken by the graphene community to overcome challenges faced by the material: the production of scale of graphene materials have increased year-on year. Early work on graphene applied to the aerospace sector has shown its potential to reduce weight while increasing the strength of materials, which could contribute towards reduced emissions, resulting in cleaner, greener and more efficient aircraft.

Next steps…

It is critical that the UK is able to accelerate the technology development cycle of graphene if we are to transfer its application into the aerospace sector. The ATI has identified four key activities that it will champion to ensure that the sector embodies the benefits of 2D materials for aircraft applications and manufacturing process support. This includes to:

  • Identify initial opportunities within the secure, exploit and position timeframes that could be incorporated into a forthcoming collaborative R&D programme
  • Ensure the sector is able to adopt 2D materials into high value design concepts for future architectures, through the development of product case studies within the ATI specialist advisory groups
  • Progress the benefits of 2D material usage in manufacturing processes realised by demonstration platforms within the research community
  • Lead the development of consortia programmes where direct action is required to realise 2D material solutions in emerging market spaces.

We will continue to share further insights and developments around the topic in due course.

Earlier this month, WMG and the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) jointly hosted an event discussing the future of electrification in aerospace. The event was attended by a good mix of delegates from both the aerospace and automotive sectors, with senior representatives from industry and academia.

The morning featured a keynote presentation from one of the leaders in the field, Prof David Greenwood, Professor of Advanced Propulsion Systems at WMG, who outlined the electrification landscape in automotive and what lessons could be transferred to the aerospace sector. This was followed by the main panel session, chaired by Mark Scully (ATI’s Head of Technology for Advanced Systems and Propulsion) and made up of experts from both sectors, providing their views and perspectives on the topic as well as taking questions from the floor.  The session was a series of lively discussions ranging from battery technology and the integration of electrical systems, to the challenges of electrification for aerospace, future opportunities, cross-sector collaboration, certification, standards and safety considerations.

There was a real spark throughout the day, with lots of energy generated through discussions and networking. There was clearly a common theme emerging, with key discussion topics including:

  • Short-term priorities to increase electric aircraft systems, particularly in short-range applications, with a view to developing more electric propulsion, hybrid-electric and/or electrically assisted propulsion in the medium-term
  • Understanding of the highly coupled aerodynamic systems and the need for whole-system level engineering integration to achieve the benefits of electrification, alongside current considerations such as boundary layer ingestion
  • Safety considerations and the need to ensure that electrical management systems can operate at extremes of temperature and at altitude
  • A need for enabling common standards, regulatory frameworks and infrastructure
  • The need to promote increasing collaboration across the industry to achieve the new technology requirements
  • The need to create technology roadmaps for future strategic direction to signpost the electrification vision for the sector, with considerations across all technology readiness levels (TRLs)
  • Industrial opportunity is a key driver, and better understanding of how the economic picture and associated supply chains will progress will be a critical factor
  • Significant improvements needed to enhance skills development across the board
  • The importance of bringing the aerospace industry together to present a coherent, compelling vision to Government in order to influence policy around electrification
  • The understanding that this is a cross-modal issue, with today’s transport evolving rapidly, and the need for urgent action

During the event there was wide consensus that the topic of electrification is an important one for the sector, but that much more needs to be done to develop the technologies, skills and capabilities needed to support this.

WMG was one of the primary organisations that helped create some of the opportunities seen today with the Faraday Battery Challenge, which demonstrates the Government’s commitment to positioning the UK as a global leader in battery innovation and electrification with £246m funding over four years. WMG is part of both the newly formed Faraday Institute (alongside seven other universities) and has also been awarded £80m to create a new national facility, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC), building the crucial new strategic link between the research, development and full-scale industrialisation for battery technologies across the UK. WMG’s own state-of-the-art £60m facility is now virtually unique in Europe, and the tour provided after the session was a highlight in demonstrating that capability.

One of the ways in which the ATI is already addressing these topics is through its presence and collaboration with Faraday, acting as a voice for UK aerospace. Our Chief Operating Officer Dr Ruth Mallors-Ray OBE is a member of the Faraday Challenge Advisory Group, and Mark Scully, our Head of Technology for Advanced Systems and Propulsion, is a member of the Technical Advisory Group. Through this collaboration, we are ensuring that the technology challenges identified for aerospace electrification are integrated into the Faraday Challenge research programme – enabling the development of technologies that can be transferred into the aerospace sector. For example, some of the key challenges in terms of aerospace to be considered through the Faraday Challenge, are the development of safety critical battery management systems, and improved gravimetric and volumetric density of energy storage systems, to enable usable aircraft range for commercial transport markets.

The UK benefits from a world-class ecosystem made up of aerospace organisations from industry, academia and research bodies. Our highly capable supply chain and leading academic capabilities provide the ability for the UK to deliver leadership in this area and disrupt the global market. The ATI, through partnerships such as that with cutting-edge research institution WMG, is working on identifying the technology gaps that will challenge the UK industry to truly deliver disruptive and game changing opportunities.


Next steps

The Institute is continuing its dialogue and engagement with WMG, the APC and other stakeholders to develop a roadmap of key technologies that will support this journey. We are keen to encourage greater supply chain engagement as we progress through the journey, harnessing the talent and expertise that exist within these organisations. Following the success of this event, we are planning on hosting further joint WMG-ATI events that will engage the industry as a whole, share expertise, consider the overarching central strategies, and consider plans for developing specific technologies needed for various aerospace system applications.

The Institute will also be publishing an INSIGHT paper on electrification later this year, which will outline the ATI’s electrical power systems strategy.

The Institute is currently studying how we can inspire more disruptive innovation in UK aerospace (see our CEO’s blog here).

There is no doubt that it will shake up the sector and completely change the way aerospace operates. For disruption to have a positive impact on the sector, we must plan for it. If we understand what it will mean for us, we can use it to our advantage.

There are a number of start-ups and new entrants coming into the sector, and potentially this is where some of the disruption will come from. A lot of positive impact could be extracted from these organisations, as they bring with them a different perspective, new skills, and a desire to challenge the sector’s established ways.

And so the Institute is casting the net widely in research on how to better support disruptive innovation, and how to attract the best of it into the UK.

We are looking at how other countries are addressing and accelerating innovation, analysing innovation support mechanisms, the role of academia, and successful disruptive ecosystems. For this, we are seeking insights from a range of industry participants, and the outcome of this activity will help us better understand how we inspire disruptive innovation in the UK aerospace sector.

We would like your views, which we are gathering via a short survey here.

The ATI has today launched a Fixed Trade Calculator to support the UK aerospace sector, particularly those organisations that don’t have easy access to simplified trade-off study capabilities.

The Fixed Trade Calculator enables assessment of the impact of novel technologies on representative conventional narrow- and wide-bodied aircraft. It provides users with the fuel burn benefits, operating cost changes and environmental impact (in terms of CO2) that can result from introducing new technologies onto these aircraft.

The online resource is designed to inform discussion and support decision making within the UK aerospace supply chain – and is already being used to assess relevant project applications made to the UK Aerospace R&T Programme.

This is a first for the UK, and ground-breaking in global aerospace. The few organisations that have the capability to make fixed trade calculations are often unable to share the modelling outside of their partner organisations. The Institute’s Fixed Trade Calculator has been developed using public data to provide access to this capability to all organisations within the UK aerospace ecosystem.

Steve Clerkin, Head of Aerospace Electrical Power Systems at Raytheon said:

The gold nugget for power electronics companies is being able to estimate the value of one kilogram of weight change in terms of fuel burn and platform operating costs. Until now, this capability was not something that was easily accessible to us. The Fixed Trade Calculator developed by the ATI is the first independent way of calculating such trade-offs, giving companies credible information to support decision making and increased competitive opportunities.

Gary Elliott, Chief Executive of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said:

The Fixed Trade Calculator developed by the Institute will be a unique capability for the UK supply chain.  Sharing a capability such as this, which has previously only been available to a small group of well-resourced manufacturers, will be a significant benefit to those working in UK aerospace. Now, through this online resource, UK suppliers will be able to understand more about how the technology they develop will impact the overall performance of representative narrow and wide-bodied aircraft.

In this short video, Dr Alice Stitt, Technologist within the Institute’s Whole Aircraft team, provides an introduction to the benefits and use of the Fixed Trade Calculator:

More information on the Fixed Trade Calculator, and details on how to apply for access, can be found here.



The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and Innovate UK are transitioning to a new application process for the UK Aerospace Research and Technology (R&T) Programme.  The changes will improve the effectiveness of assessment and efficiency of the process, reducing application and funding timescales making it possible for applications to get to contract in six months.

A BEIS independent process evaluation of the UK aerospace R&T programme, conducted by Ipsos MORI, identified that the Institute has been effective in creating a UK Technology Strategy, Raising Ambition, and engaging with the UK aerospace sector to develop ambitious technology proposals.  The application process was shown to be rigorous and fair, providing high-quality feedback and ensuring well-defined project objectives.

The evaluation also highlighted the potential to improve the efficiency of the funding process, for both prospective applicants and assessors.  The time from the initial applicant engagement to contract could be as much as 14 months.  Within an increasingly fast-moving technological landscape, these delays could compromise the impact and exploitation of R&T projects, as well as raising administrative costs.

In response to the evaluation, ATI, BEIS and Innovate UK have launched a new application process.

The new process

The new application process aims to make it possible for applicants to get to contract in six months, subject to the applicant achieving certain deadlines and passing requirements of the Programme. The revisions described below are the first and most significant steps to achieving this.

As part of the improvements, full applications will be created, assessed and managed on the new Innovate UK digital platform: The Innovation Funding System (IFS).  The platform is being introduced across all Innovate UK funding competitions and allows more efficient application and application management.  IFS will be live for full applications following the February Strategic Review 1 (SR1).

Monthly SR1 reviews will continue until further notice. BEIS, Innovate UK and ATI are considering altering the approach to the first stage of application, and will update this notice in Q1 2018 with further information. Until further notice, applicants should continue to develop outline proposals following the 10-question format using off-line documentation of their own and submit these to the ATI for SR1. Applicants successful at SR1 will be sent an access link for the IFS system.

New quarterly full application batches will take place in January, April, July and October to review full applications. Once submitted, the full application is frozen and will undergo ATI, BEIS and Innovate UK independent assessment in parallel.  The Strategic Review Committee (SRC) will continue to review and agree funding recommendations between BEIS and ATI. An overview of the process and key dates for 2018 are provided below.

Application process overview:



Further information

Informational webinars will be made available during February to provide an overview of the changes and what it means for applicants.  Details of how to connect can be requested via The sessions will also be recorded and made available on the ATI website.

For all other enquiries, please refer to the information below:

  • Questions about the new process can be sent to:
  • Questions about IFS specifically should be directed to the IUK IFS team: / 0300 3214 357

Gary Elliott, Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) shares his view on disruptive technologies and disruption, and how he sees this emerging topic affecting UK aerospace.


What is disruptive innovation?

Disruptive innovation could broadly be defined as a product, technology, process or business model that radically changes the way an established market operates, it may also create completely new markets and supply chains. Whatever shape or form disruption comes in, it will completely change the way things are done today.

There are many examples that can illustrate the effect of disruption, ranging from fundamental science to commercial products & services, and business models. One of which is Netflix, the online streaming service that contributed to the collapse of Blockbuster.

EXAMPLE: Netflix took a simple gripe, blockbuster late fees, and addressed it by lending DVDs via post and allowing returns at the customer’s leisure. They didn’t stop there. They developed with the available technology and shifted to solely streaming online when broadband made it viable. Netflix evolved and identified disruptive technologies to execute a new disruptive business model, understanding the customers’ value precisely – we didn’t rate the store experience as much as we thought!


What does this mean for aerospace?

Some early analysis suggests that disruption may have two impacts on UK aerospace. One is that it will bring positive change by generating more efficiencies and creating greater competitive and market opportunities. The second is a negative impact for those organisations that have not foreseen, or have disregarded disruptive ideas. No matter what size of business you are, when disruption comes, it will affect each and every one of us.

Another thing we need to think about is the barriers to disruption in aerospace, which include time to market, cost, the complexity of product development, and certification – these challenges should be viewed as opportunities. How we encourage disruption in aerospace is not something the Institute can understand and interpret without consultation, research and testing. It is something that is being scoped out, and requires all involved to take a visionary step into an exciting area.

EXAMPLE: Ryanair landed and expanded the low-cost carrier airline model in Europe, offering dramatically reduced air fare for a bare bones travel experience – and the market was wide open! All incumbent airlines struggled to compete and eventually adopted their own version of the fundamental model.


Will aerospace disrupt, or will it be disrupted?

Disruption will come in many forms. There is no doubt that it will shake-up the sector and completely change the way aerospace operates. Taking the sector out of its ‘comfort zone’ and radically transforming the processes that have been steady for the last 50 – 60 years.

I would like to think that aerospace will become a disruptor in its own right. There is a lot we can do as a sector to influence and challenge other sectors. For example, the development of battery technology through ATI supported project Zephyr Innovation Programme (ZIP), being led by Airbus, the project is aiming to develop key technologies in aerostructures, energy storage and propulsion. And the Institute’s involvement with the Faraday Battery Challenge will represent the interests of UK aerospace. Our Chief Operating Officer Dr Ruth Mallors-Ray OBE is a member of the Faraday Challenge Advisory Group, and Mark Scully, our Head of Technology for Advanced Systems and Propulsion, is a member of the Technical Advisory Group.

Disruptive technologies are already in view and ready for translation into the aerospace industry, we just need the confidence to invest in new ideas and realise their potential. Examples such as urban air mobility and fully electric regional aircraft could clear road congestion, increase rail competition and open-up rural airports, relieving hubs and growing rural economies. Also, technologies such as Blockchain could radically change how aircraft maintenance is managed, and components are tracked through the supply chain, plus many more applications, to name just a few. There are plenty of other ideas and technologies that have been around for years that could positively impact development cycles, supply chains, air traffic control and airport management. What these mean for aerospace as a whole is hard to predict, but the opportunities are there for the taking, for incumbents and new suppliers.

Do you plan for disruption or will it just happen?

For disruption to have a positive impact on the sector, we absolutely need to plan for it. If we understand what this will mean for us, we can use it to our advantage. But if we simply wait for it to ‘happen to us’, then there is a risk it will cause chaos and could have a negative impact on processes, businesses and outputs.

Technology in UK aerospace has a potential to disrupt the global sector. We need to be on the front-foot with this – the UK needs to lead disruption and become a global leader in emerging technologies. By being on the front-foot we can plan for, and be the disruptors. The real challenge will be how as a sector do we remain adaptive and agile. Regardless of how much we plan and anticipate, there will always be certain elements that can never really be planned for, such as wider international regulatory changes, and changing trade rules.

Here in the UK we have a great and a well-connected ecosystem. But what we need more of is ambitious goals. Goals that will set us apart from the rest of the world. Goals that will help the UK to become the next generation of leaders.


What will the ATI do to encourage disruption in aerospace?

Some of you may recall that I spoke at the ATI conference in November sharing my view on disruption, that we must not wait for it to happen. We need to continue investing more time and resources in understanding what the models of disruption may look like, and we need to be braver and bolder if we are to take a lead in this area.

We are seeing a number of start-ups and new entrants coming into the sector. This is where some of our disruption will potentially come from. A lot of positive impact could be extracted from these organisations, as they bring with them a different perspective, new skills, and challenge the sector’s more conservative ways. For example, if we look at hybrid-electric, new entrants such as battery developers are starting to work with both the aerospace and automotive sectors to develop this technology.

The Institute is casting the net widely in its research, by taking an international perspective as well as a national one. We are looking at how other countries are addressing and accelerating innovation, analysing innovation support mechanisms, the role of academia, and successful disruptive ecosystems. As we go through this journey of learning and understanding, we will continue to strengthen our definition and continuously test it, sharing insights with you along the way.

Our current research will help us identify and evaluate how we better support disruptive innovation, and how we attract the best of it into the UK. It will allow us to consider whether we need to apply other levers to support disruptive innovation, such as alternative funding models, mentoring, incubation, accelerators, demonstrators etc. I truly believe that we have the opportunity to make the UK aerospace sector the global hub for disruption, deliver societal benefits by catalysing commercial and economic success for the UK.




Hybrid electric and all electric aircraft concepts are being considered to address the environmental impacts of the aerospace sector’s forecasted growth. Climate change (driven by CO2 emissions including effects from contrail formation), local air quality (driven by NOx, unburnt hydrocarbons and particulate emissions) and community noise, are all areas that will rise with increasing air traffic, if advanced technologies and other mitigations are not applied. Much time, money and effort has been invested by the aerospace community to drive down emissions and noise over time, and this is continuing (in-part through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme).  The sector focus over the next ten years or so is to provide improvements in airframe and aero-engine weight and aerodynamics; aero-engine manufacturers are also investing heavily in material developments to deliver further improvements in fuel efficiency.

The next phase of this development aligns with two of the ATI’s (four) strategic technology themes within Raising Ambition – the Institute’s technology strategy; Propulsion of the Future, and Smart, Connected and More Electric Aircraft. The themes investigate and evaluate the potential of large-scale hybrid turbo-electric propulsion systems, which also include the development of battery technologies.

Battery technology has been an integral part of many new small aircraft concepts and flight demonstrators, which to-date have been in the General Aviation segment. Larger demonstrator plans have also recently been publicised by commercial aerospace Primes.  In the future, battery technology will be an increasingly critical element for delivery of large commercial hybrid and all electric aircraft, both in terms of technical capability and economic value for the UK aerospace supply chain.  Key challenges in terms of aerospace, to be considered through the Faraday Challenge, are the development of safety critical battery management systems, and improved gravimetric and volumetric density of energy storage systems, to enable usable aircraft range for commercial transport markets.

The Faraday Battery Challenge, funded through the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, supports the development of battery technologies. Although this is primarily for use in the automotive sector, the ATI is ensuring that the technology challenges identified for aerospace electrification are integrated into the Faraday Challenge research programme – enabling the development of technologies that can be transferred into the aerospace sector.

The Institute’s presence and collaboration with Faraday will act as a voice for UK aerospace. Our Chief Operating Officer Dr Ruth Mallors-Ray OBE is a member of the Faraday Challenge Advisory Group, and Mark Scully, our Head of Technology for Advanced Systems and Propulsion, is a member of the Technical Advisory Group.

The ATI’s engagement with the aerospace community is continuing to identify differentiating technologies for future hybrid and all electric aircraft, including battery technology. We will continue to share updates and progress with the sector in due course.

The year ahead will no doubt bring a number of key dates and events to people’s diaries; the calendar for the aerospace sector is already looking full, not least as we are now in a Farnborough year. But 2018 will be a special one for engineering in the UK as the Government has chosen it to be the Year of Engineering!

Organisations and individuals across the country will be helping to inspire the next generation of engineers by demonstrating the exciting things you can get involved in as an engineer, and what a career in engineering can achieve.

Engineering underpins virtually every aspect of aerospace, and is the driving force behind innovation, success and growth. It provides the knowledge, skills and expertise needed to develop capabilities that will support competitive opportunities and promote sector growth.

Dr Alice Stitt, Whole Aircraft Technologist at the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) shares an example of what a career in engineering has helped her to achieve. Dr Stitt said:

Working on developing the ATI’s Fixed Trade Calculator has been fantastic. Projects like this, which combine detailed engineering skills and knowledge with blue sky strategic thinking, are one of the reasons that I continue to find engineering a satisfying and challenging career, and one that I would recommend others.

She continued:

This development has delivered a usable online tool, simple to use but which allows users to ask quite complicated and strategic questions relating to the opportunities for future developments in aircraft research

The ATI’s Fixed Trade Calculator will improve access to whole aircraft level modelling capability throughout the UK aerospace community. This capability is now available, and you can request access to it from the ATI website. We will be launching the Fixed Trade Calculator on 29 January.

The ATI conference in November left little doubt that aerospace is entering exciting times, driven by disruptive technologies and industries. This is needed. With the global market for aircraft continuing to grow at above 4.5%, and the explosion of passenger demand expected in Asia over the next two decades, aircraft are becoming a much bigger part of the environmental challenge.

Unlike other transport systems however, doing something about the emissions of aircraft is a particularly thorny problem, as any engineer in the sector will explain. Curbing traffic through legislation is one option for policy makers, but this would be bad for trade and the economy. By far, the better option for us all is to bring new technologies and aircraft designs to market that are more efficient and optimised.

Today’s newest aircraft represent the tail-end in an extensive line of design iterations converging on a design optimum. Unless you are an expert or an enthusiast, it is difficult to tell the difference between one aircraft and another. There are many reasons these designs make sense – the technology available, operational requirements, safety and regulation, to name a few. To continue to make substantial improvement from here, a design paradigm shift is need. From the ATI’s perspective, the technology to dramatically change the way commercial aircraft are designed is rapidly approaching.

For smaller categories of aircraft, it is already here. Electrification could enable hybrid turbo-electric propulsion solutions. If propulsion power can be distributed in this way, it dramatically changes airframe design parameters. A new optimum solution exists.

ATI’s Chief Strategy Officer James McMicking said:

It is not just about technology though. The competitive landscape is changing too. China will enter the twin aisle segment in the next decade, and a multitude of start-ups are targeting global congestion challenges with new solutions for urban mobility. This competitive disruption will be a good thing if it results in greater incentives to innovate.

Over the last year, the Institute has been supporting work in the Aerospace Growth Partnership to understand the importance of High Value Design on the sector’s future prosperity. The work concluded that design capabilities are a critical source of differentiation and competitiveness.

It underlined two basic reasons why the UK should act to boost High Value Design:

  1. Product complexity is increasing and becoming prohibitively costly. Design capabilities are essential to dealing with this complexity and remaining competitive.
  2. The disruptive technology and architectures described above are presenting new opportunities, and will change the demands on major systems.

It also concluded that without national action, these capabilities will decline.

The ATI collaborated with Roland Berger on some of this work, and recently completed a study of 11 institutions in other countries to understand best practices, and the extent to which these institutions are supporting design capabilities.

The benchmarking found that successful institutions always work at the technological cutting edge. Identifying and fast-tracking the most impactful ideas. And they find the best teams and capabilities to deliver them. The activities of these Institutions are draw on a wide range of stakeholders – from Government and Universities, to technological incumbents and start-ups, aligning their incentives with funding and IP to ensure effective collaboration and a holistic positive impact. While incumbents’ know-how and access are crucial to ultimate success, the entrepreneurial mind-set of a new entrant is required to really bring about disruptive change.

The joint ATI and Roland Berger High Value Design report can be downloaded here.

On the surface and to the uninformed, developing design capabilities might be difficult to distinguish from developing technology. However, they are very different. To make a festive analogy of this, making a Christmas pudding requires pulling together in precise order and under certain conditions, individual ingredients. Think of the ingredients as technology and the actions that deliver the target pudding as design. Change anything, the ingredients or way in which they are combined, and the result is different. New ingredients will require or allow new methods and presentation! The point is that aircraft technologies are set to change dramatically, and UK aerospace will need to know how to work with them in the context of the whole aircraft, if it is to retain its aerospace Michelin status.

How much does this matter? The ATI recently published an INSIGHT paper, The Economic Impact of UK Aerospace Industrial Strategy, that uses the Institute’s economic and market modelling tools to project UK aerospace growth under two conditions.

At the recent ATI conference, a third scenario was presented by James. This explored a more ambitious path for the UK and indicated that the industry could reasonably stretch for a further £33 billion GVA in the twenty-year period, or £180 billion to the UK economy in total. This would see the UK capture a further 3% of the global aerospace market by 2035.

James said:

Achieving the third scenario would require further investment in technology, high value design capabilities and supply chain productivity. However, these near-term gains may well be eclipsed by what sits beyond our projection period. With the potential for disruption and a paradigm shift in aircraft design, ensuring the UK is positioned to take advantage of breakthroughs and new markets could be critical to its long-term trajectory beyond 2035. Without deliberate action to develop the country’s design capabilities, the sector’s continued growth will be compromised.

Last week marked the Aerospace Technology Institute’s (ATI) inaugural conference, titled ‘Realising Ambition’. As the name suggests, our aim was to help the sector realise the potential of the UK sector and explore the opportunities of how we can become even better at what we do. The event was a huge success. We would like to thank our speakers, delegates and stakeholders for their contributions and presence.


There was a positive buzz at the NEC. People were focused and enjoying the programme and the many networking opportunities that were made available across the two days. All the presentations and discussions were insightful and bold. They reflected the sheer talent, expertise and ambitions of our sector and the diverse background of the people in the room.

The purpose of the conference was to convene the UK aerospace sector and provide an update on the Institute’s strategy, Raising Ambition, and the £3.9 billion investment programme for aerospace research & technology (R&T). Delegates were able to hear many perspectives, visions, conversations and discussions from leaders and senior executives of the global industry.


Gary Elliott, ATI’s Chief Executive Officer said:

“The ATI conference was an important moment for the Institute. It was a key part of our remit to convene the sector and share insights from a wide range of organisations and individuals – not just from the UK, but internationally too. Last week demonstrated a fine example of collaboration between UK and international aerospace organisations.

The ATI is connecting stakeholders, bringing together consortia and catalysing research programmes to develop and advance new aerospace technologies. We influence the sector through our technology strategy Raising Ambition, and by leveraging our investment of £3.9 billion across the sector.

That is good. But we can do more. UK aerospace is not short of ideas. But we need to do more with those ideas. We need to convert ideas into actions.


Gary continued:

The ATI also has ideas and ambitions of its own. We will shape a vision of future aircraft that will catalyse the sector to respond to the challenges of 2030 and beyond. We will propose future aircraft architectures, inspire future technologies and understand and translate the market potential for hybrid-electric aircraft.


Hybrid-electric aircraft was one of the common themes that emerged at the conference through presentations, talks and discussions. The move to more electric aircraft is one of the key technology themes within the Raising Ambition strategy; the ATI is working on a strategy and INSIGHT paper on Electrical Power Systems (due to be published by late 2018), and we will be launching some activity around hybrid-electric conceptual modelling soon.


There was also a lot of interest around disruptive technologies and collaboration. Disruption can come in many forms. Through innovation, new technologies, materials or processes. We may also see disruption in aerospace coming from other sectors, such as automotive.


Gary Elliot, during his presentation said:

We must not wait for disruption to happen. We must be the disruptors. We must not be afraid to take the global view of aerospace and turn it upside down.

The ATI aims to create Better Aerospace through Best Technology, and we can only do that through focus, collaboration, and an ambition to be disruptive.


Over the coming weeks we look forward to sharing more blogs about the conference that will include summaries from individual presentations and discussions and outcomes from our breakout sessions.


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