The aeronautics sector is essential for developed countries, not only for design, production and operation of competitive aircraft but also for creating a highly-skilled workforce and technology transfer to other sectors. In a globalized world there is a strong need for strategic cooperation in this very competitive field between countries with similar political agendas and background.

The Swedish aeronautics actors within research and innovation are delighted that a joint call between UK and Sweden has now materialized after long preparations on technical content, funding and procedure.

Our two countries have a long tradition of cooperation in aeronautics, both in the military and civil domains, with Swedish companies delivering parts to Rolls-Royce and Airbus in the civil sector and many British companies delivering components and systems to the Swedish fighter aircraft Gripen.

Discussions between the ATI and Innovair started a couple of years ago, with a focus on understanding the other country’s long-term strategies. Thereafter, a Swedish delegation visited various UK facilities including the ATI headquarters, catapult centres, and industries and research centres within universities. A British return visit to Sweden brought high-level representatives from the leading aeronautics companies and meetings were organized with their Swedish counter parts.

British excellence in the aeronautics sector is well known and our partners are looking forward to increased cooperation between our two countries, with the aim of expanding relations between OEMs and Tier 1 supply chain companies, but also to fostering more intense involvement by SMEs. By working together, both countries will be gaining access to skills, facilities and infrastructure that might not be available to them individually – it is a ‘win win’ for both the UK and Swedish aerospace sectors.

On a personal note, I like to thank all our colleagues at ATI, Innovate UK and BEIS, as well as Vinnova, the Swedish Innovation Agency, for helping to create the funding call.

Dr Anders Blom is Programme Director for Innovair, Sweden’s strategic innovation programme for aeronautics. The ATI would like to thank Dr Blom for this guest blog.

To learn more about the UK-Sweden funding call, please visit here.

An information and matchmaking event will take place in Stockholm on 7th September – more details are here.

The ATI and Innovair, the Swedish programme for aeronautics, together with delivery partners Innovate UK and Vinnova, have launched a new UK-Sweden joint funding call for aerospace R&D projects.

The call, operated under the EUREKA Network Projects programme, has been developed to foster industry-led collaborative R&D projects between the UK and Swedish to advance both countries’ aerospace industries. UK organisations can apply for a share of up to £2.25 million to develop aerospace technology in partnership with Swedish companies.

Applicants are expected to develop projects that have strong market potential for the UK and Sweden and all applications must be guided by the respective aerospace strategies of the UK and Sweden: the UK Aerospace Research & Technology Programme strategy (Raising Ambition) and the Swedish aeronautical research and innovation agenda (NRIA Flyg), respectively.

Project ideas are welcome to come forward covering all aspects of civil aerospace and aeronautics. Projects should demonstrate alignment to the national aerospace strategies of the UK and Sweden, which includes structures, materials, systems, propulsion, manufacturing processes, and through-life engineering services.

The call was announced at the Farnborough International Airshow, and the Institute was honoured to be joined Sweden’s Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Torbjörn Sohlström, to mark the occasion.

Stephen Henwood CBE, Chairman of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said:

This call is the result of discussions over the last two years. Collaborating across borders is not straightforward.  Organisations such as the ATI are, after all, set up to benefit the national economy. I am sure the same is true on the Swedish side. But this preparatory work has shown us clearly that, done properly, there is absolutely a prize to be won through working together.

Our teams have worked from a strong base of previous collaboration, shared their strategic goals, explored in detail where mutual interest lies, developed a deep knowledge of the capabilities in both countries, and made the case. They have designed a call to have a catalysing effect – facilitating new relationships, accelerating technology development in mutually important areas, creating new supply chains, and increasing competitiveness in both countries.

The UK’s Ambassador to Sweden, His Excellency David Cairns, provided some words of welcome for the new initiative:

“For two countries such as Britain and Sweden our economic development depends on high-quality research, innovation, technology, development, and collaboration, and in perhaps no sector is this more important than aerospace. I hope that through this joint funding call, both our countries will close gaps in capability, gain access to new partners, bolster existing capability, and encourage greater levels of trade and investment between both our countries.”

The call is now open, and will close at noon on Wednesday 24th October 2018.

For more details, and to register and apply, please visit the Innovate UK (here) or the EUREKA (here) web sites.

Image above: His Excellency Torbjörn Sohlström (L) and Stephen Henwood CBE at Farnborough International Airshow.

Funding support for the latest technologies in aerospace engine manufacturing and performance have been announced by Aerospace Minister Richard Harrington.

The two projects, jointly funded by Rolls-Royce and the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), will bring together the best talent in the industry from academia and businesses to work on world-renowned research for aero-engine maintenance and manufacturing. The funding will support research to develop new engine cooling systems and cutting-edge technology to stop the formation of ice crystals on engines when cruising at high altitudes.

Aerospace Minister Richard Harrington confirmed the £10.7 million government funding towards the Rolls-Royce-led R&D projects on a visit to Rolls-Royce’s engineering and manufacturing facilities in Derby. In June 2017, Rolls-Royce committed to invest £150 million in their UK facilities to support plans of doubling engine production.

Aerospace Minister Richard Harrington said:

As the home of the first jet engine, the UK has an aerospace heritage that’s revered around the world. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we will continue this legacy and have already committed to work with industry to invest £3.9 billion to further transform the sector.

These two projects will see the best talent from the industry come together to help the UK reach even greater heights in aerospace excellence.

The latest projects, worth over £21 million in total, are supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute and Rolls-Royce with academic industry partners. This will be delivered through Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency.

Chief Technology Officer for Rolls-Royce Paul Stein said:

We welcome the support announced by the UK Government today. Rolls-Royce is focused on pioneering new technologies and developing the next generation of highly skilled engineers by working with academia and industry.  These research projects will play an important role in developing the innovative technologies needed to enhance performance, improve efficiency and reduce emissions of future aircraft.

The projects set to receive funding are:

  • COAST (Critical Oil and Air System Technologies), £3.7 million, focuses on the development of engine systems to support cabin cooling, and advanced sealing solutions for oil systems and bearing chambers. The technologies developed in COAST will support reductions in fuel burn and improve the reliability of oil systems and the integration of engine systems with the airframe. This project is led by Rolls-Royce plc. in collaboration with Bladon Jet Ltd based, an SME in Coventry and the Universities of Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.
  • DE-ICER (Design Excellence – Ice Crystal Engine Research), £7 million, focuses on tackling the formation of ice crystals that can damage an aircraft. The project aims to target current gaps in ice crystal formation and develop anti-icing systems and technology to protect the engine. This project is led by Rolls-Royce plc. in collaboration with Satavia Ltd, an SME in Cambridge, GKN Aerospace and the University of Oxford.

In 2015, the Government and industry committed to spend £3.9 billion to further transform aerospace research until 2026 to help this sector build on our unique strengths in the UK through the Industrial Strategy.

The Industrial Strategy sets out a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK. It sets out how we are building a Britain fit for the future – how we will help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.

By Kathryn Magnay and Jacqui Murray, Co-Interim Directors, Faraday Battery Challenge

Kathryn and I first met last August in our first team meeting.  We had both been given the title of Co-Interim Director. On paper, the arrangement sounded a hindrance, but from that first meeting, we inspired each other, played to our strengths, delivered content as individuals and worked together to deliver outcomes. We have helped each other to remain true to our values in the midst of difficult decisions or pressured moments, in short, we fell head first into a collaborative leadership approach.

The opportunity for electrification of vehicles is now

From the beginning it just clicked. We knew ‘why’ Faraday was so important to the UK and just as important, we knew ‘how’ we wanted to lead as the temporary custodians of the challenge. The Faraday Battery Challenge has to achieve something monumental for the UK. There is a paradigm shift with the electrification of vehicles coming, now is the opportunity for the UK, but now is also the most complex time for technology – so it isn’t as simple as one person knowing the answers, we needed to stay responsive, open and deliver strategically.

Carving out a competitive advantage for the UK

Those that have heard us speak about Faraday, know we always start with the productivity puzzle, the gap in the UK that means we work longer hours to produce less than the rest of the UK.  You’ll have heard us explain how 163,000 jobs are in Automotive; that per person, Automotive produces twice the value for the UK; that the EV shift is coming due to air quality and climate change regulations and that the time to act is now.  Speaking about why was a joint decision, joint content.  We wanted to communicate the vision so that it empowered urgent action to be taken by our stakeholders – transformation is needed right now for the UK to carve out competitive advantage.

Seeking collaboration inspiration from the British Olympic team

Step back for a moment and consider the programme alongside the level of complexity in the 21st Century.  We know with complexity that collaboration is king and that the programme must deliver across the UK as well as springboard success for individuals. Kathryn and I talk regularly about the coaching approach that the British Olympic team have, how we need this programme to emulate their success.

Collaboration requires trust and participation

Jacqui and I are both aware that collaborative leadership requires building trust and participation. This trust is built upon conveying the vision with passion and conviction and delivering that vision in a fair, transparent and open manner, drawing in the necessary stakeholders to help us realise that vision. We will only acquire the necessary trust if we can demonstrate we are prepared to listen and translate what we hear into delivery, this brings differing views and potential for conflict which we seek to explore and learn from to the benefit of the programme.

No one person has all the answers

As Jacqui has mentioned no one person has the answer and we know we don’t have all the answers so constant checking and revising our plans allows the perspectives of stakeholders to have a continual role shaping the programme.

A value driven programme

Placing these values at the heart of the programme and remaining true to them will take the programme a long way down the path of the transformational change that is required. These are values that are supported by the structures around the programme – a UKRI-based Executive Programme Board and a strong, experienced and keen Advisory Group.

The role of the programme board in collaboration

Our programme board are essentially problem owners ensuring optimal solutions come forward and using a series of designed in audits allow us not just to check progress and achievement of vision but check the route we use to achieve that progress – have we remained true too the values of collaborative leadership and required by open, transparent and fair governance? The Advisory Group is our powerful coalition of actors in the battery space in the UK. It is their role to challenge and advise and to do that well they we must enable a shared vision. This group represents the actors who can capitalise on the success of the programme, we look to them to set the tone and targets to ensure the Faraday Battery Challenge is providing the correct solution for the UK so they can build on it and achieve the last important strand of industrialisation.

7 months of progress

There is a long way to go before we truly deliver world class battery technology in the UK, but in less than 7 months we have:

  • Set up the Faraday Institution and £20 million of application-led, industry-sponsored Fast Track research projects
  • Sponsored collaborative research & development in 27 UK projects with 66 companies using £40 million of funding in the space
  • Opened another £25 million round of collaborative research & development competition, which closed on 28 March 2018.
  • The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP announced the £80 million award for the open access UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and WMG, at the University of Warwick), and this is now underway.
  • We passed the Gateway 0 audit for the programme and have used the recommendations to improve the programme structure.

Enter Tony Harper

On the 9th April, Tony Harper joins this team. His timing is perfect. The operational aspects of getting the Faraday Institution, CR&D Competitions, UK BIC are well underway and we have Communications and International workstreams underway and about to launch another for Skills. This is the perfect opportunity to welcome Tony.  He joins as we start to build in earnest on the quick wins and deepen analysis of the portfolio, the UK battery sector, progress in key technologies worldwide and are starting identify the business case for the next phase of the Faraday Battery Challenge.  With Tony at the helm, we can continue to sharpen the programme into the springboard that UK Industry needs to become world class in battery technology.

The ATI would like to thank Kathryn and Jacqui for their contribution of this guest blog.

Dr Kathryn Magnay is Head of Energy at EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and as such heads the RCUK (Research Councils UK) Energy Programme. Kathryn has spent 15 years at the Research Councils managing investments in engineering and manufacturing and supporting EPSRC’s strategic relationships with its 23 largest University partners.

Jacqui Murray is Head of Advanced Materials at Innovate UK. She is a specialist in automotive steels, regulation and transformational change. Her advanced materials background comes from the UK steel industry and degrees in Materials Engineering. Following an MBA, Jacqui moved into industrial environmental regulation policy for the Environment Agency and Welsh Government.

 

The UK Aerospace Research and Technology (R&T) Programme has been undergoing a process of transformation to improve the transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of the application process. The aim is to reduce project application and funding timescales to just 6 months.

Now, the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and Innovate UK are pleased to announce that the next phase of transformation.  A public Expression of Interest (EOI) competition will be launched for the UK R&T programme on 3rd April 2018.

The New Stage 1 Process

The EOI will be created, assessed and managed on the new Innovate UK digital platform, the Innovation Funding System (IFS). This platform is being introduced across all Innovate UK funding competitions to allow more efficient application and application management.  The first EOI call will open on 3rd April 2018.

The EOI stage is replacing the Strategic Review 1 (SR1), as the first stage of an application for UK Aerospace R&T grant funding. To be considered, an EOI will need to be prepared and submitted whilst the competition window is open. There will be regular EOI competition windows throughout the year.

The EOI has similar, but fewer, questions to a Full Application. The EOI is designed to be as succinct as possible, explaining the business benefits, target application, specific technologies to be developed, approach to delivering and how it will impact the UK. Each answer will be word limited and an applicant will be given the opportunity to upload supporting charts or graphics where appropriate. Applicants successful at the EOI stage will be sent an access link for the IFS system to complete a Full Application.

Key Dates for Applicants

Further EOI competition windows will be published on both the ATI and Innovate UK websites.

Application process overview

 

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

  • Questions about the new process can be sent to: info@ati.org.uk
  • Questions about IFS specifically should be directed to the IUK IFS team: support@innovateuk.gov.uk / 03003214357

Funding support for the next generation of aerospace projects, including X-Ray imaging technology for engine assembly and maintenance, have been announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark. Each project, jointly funded by Rolls-Royce and government, brings together academia and businesses from across the UK to work together on world-leading research for aero-engine technologies.

At the ground-breaking event for Rolls-Royce’s new engine test bed facility in Derby, the Business Secretary announced the award of £24 million government funding towards four Rolls-Royce-led collaborative R&D projects. The four projects, worth £58.3 million in total, are supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute and will be delivered through Innovate UK.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

Our modern Industrial Strategy is backed by the biggest increase in R&D investment this country has ever seen. We have committed, along with industry, to spend £3.9 billion to build on our reputation for aerospace excellence.

These pioneering projects Rolls-Royce are spearheading will help us deliver this ambition, with joint government-industry funding going to projects that bring the best minds from Rolls-Royce, SMEs and academia to unlock breakthroughs in technology that is fundamental to the aerospace sector.

The projects set to receive funding are:

  • PACE (Proving Advanced Concept Engine), £22m project
  • CAJoRR (Cutting edge Approaches for Joining of RR1073), £8m project
  • ENCASE (Enabling Novel Controls & Advanced Sensors for Engines), £18.4m project
  • EXCITE (EXternal Component Integration of Technologies for Engines), £9.2m project

Mark Scully, the Institute’s Head of Technology for Advanced Systems and Propulsion, said:

The Government has announced its investment of £24 million to support four ATI-approved Rolls-Royce led R&D projects: developing the next generation of more efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft engines. The UK aerospace sector is one that is ambitious and innovative, leading the way in technological advancements and world-class research. This announcement is a great example of such ambition, and another step towards securing our reputation of aerospace excellence. The ATI is dedicated to supporting the UK aerospace sector and has a crucial role to play in advising and guiding joint Government and industry investment. To date, we have approved over 200 projects through the UK’s R&T programme.

Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace, said:

We welcome the support announced by the UK Government today. These research projects will help Rolls-Royce and our partners develop more efficient, technologically sophisticated aircraft engines that are vital to reducing emissions and underline the aerospace industry’s commitment to improving the environment.

We are focused on pioneering new technologies and these projects will support important advancements for our UltraFan® engine.  The UltraFan® engine will offer a 25% fuel efficiency improvement over the first generation of Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

The plans for the testbed were announced by Rolls-Royce in June 2017 as part of a wider £150m investment in UK aerospace facilities.

The new testbed, which is expected to be commissioned in 2020, will support Rolls-Royce’s ongoing industrial transformation and will provide important additional capacity as the civil aerospace business continues to ramp-up engine production and deliver on a record order book.

Capable of testing a range of today’s engines, including the Trent XWB and the Trent 1000, the facility will also serve as a base for testing UltraFan®, Rolls-Royce’s engine for the next generation of aircraft.

The new testbed, which will be the largest indoor facility of its type in the world, will harness the latest digital technology to set conditions and obtain evidence from a wide variety of test activities, such as water ingestion and endurance testing. It will also benefit from the latest advancements in test equipment including new x-ray capabilities.

The testbed itself will have an internal area of 7,500m2, making it larger than a Premiership football pitch, and will be surrounded by two concrete walls which measure up to 1.7m thick.

(Image: An artist’s impression of the new Rolls-Royce testbed © Rolls-Royce)

On 7th March 2018, the ATI and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) hosted a seminar on the electrification of aviation.

Senior representatives from the aerospace and automotive industries joined Government and academic attendees to share their views on the disruptive potential of electrification. The discussion was wide-ranging and there was a broad consensus on the top-level themes that UK aerospace needs to consider.

The case for electrification is strong. Electric aircraft could provide a number of important benefits and have the potential to solve a range of problems that the aerospace industry is working hard to tackle.

All-electric aircraft could revolutionise short-range air transport, creating new markets for urban air transport and short-range regional services. They would have far fewer parts making them cheaper to design, manufacture and maintain. Being electrically powered, they could be charged entirely from renewable electricity, minimising impact on the global climate. Their lower overall carbon, NOx and particulate emissions and potentially low noise would enable operation in and around urban areas. In some markets, it could mean that the development of new rail infrastructure is displaced by aviation.

Similarly, hybrid-electric aircraft could transform medium- and long-range commercial aviation, bringing step-change improvements in fuel efficiency, environmental impact and noise to achieve future sustainability targets while allowing continued expansion of air travel.

These future electric aircraft will integrate data, embed artificial intelligence, and operate with greater degrees of autonomy – and importantly their size and shape will be reinvented too to capitalise on the benefits of electrification.

Aerospace is about to see the third big shake-up in its history. What is meant by “aerospace” is already starting to blur, as airframe manufacturers are now invited to address the Geneva Motor Show.

Red-faced over green issues? The environmental driver for electrification is particularly strong. The sector’s environmental challenge is growing. As a proportion of CO2 emissions from transport, aviation is relatively low. But as other transport systems significantly improve their emissions, aviation will come under more scrutiny.

Many aircraft are flying much less than they were designed for, particularly over short distances, and changing these aircraft to electric or hybrid-electric could make a significant difference to CO2 emissions.

Mighty A380s from little drones grow. Or at least, when it comes to electrification, we can expect to see something like that.

Full electrification is likely to be seen first in urban mobility aircraft; there are prototypes today that are already carrying one or two people.

We are then likely to see it utilised by intercity/regional aircraft; within seven to ten years for short-range hybrid-electric aircraft. Hybrid turboprops could be a market game changer in this timeframe.

Within 15 years, we could see short-range all-electric aircraft and medium-range hybrid-electric single crew aircraft. And by the 2040s a mix of electric, hybrid-electric and more-electric aircraft systems. Aircraft in the future will look very different, sound very different and operate differently.

While it is true that the first aircraft types to be electric will be small and short-range, we are on a journey that someday will deliver a much more electric long-range widebody aircraft. The sector as a whole needs to be bold, collaborative and ambitious to shape and deliver these innovative aircraft.

And these timescales are not fixed: the interest in electrification is intense and developments could happen far sooner than many predict.

The market expects. Our current markets are already demanding electric aircraft. Airlines understand the benefits, and they’re committing to an electric future. Today, customers are asking to take electrical energy off their aircraft engines. Do we need to involve airlines in this discussion?

Automotive has been the driving force. What can aerospace learn from the automotive sector? It is automotive that has revolutionised power electronics. Many of the sector’s manufacturers have already set a date by which all cars sold will be electric.

For automotive, the steps in the argument have fallen into place: the UK has the right technology; the industry is a big employer in the UK and so the Government is listening; and the goals are all achievable, backed by accurate modelling.

Automotive has a clear and well-structured vision that can be shared by multiple Government departments, enabling them to work together to provide effective support.

The challenge for aerospace is the difference in lifecycles. For automotive, the threats are short-term and pressing. For aerospace the impact is long-term… but equally irreversible.

Keep it simple. UK aerospace needs to present a clear picture of the sector view. It needs a strategy that strikes a balance between the realistic and the inspirational. The big picture may be complicated, but we must create a simple vision that is focused on the top messages. The ATI and EPSRC are working across the sector to bring cohesion to the requirements and articulate a UK vision.

Flying is believing. There is no more effective way of communicating the art of the possible than to develop a major demonstrator programme. As well as a demonstrator the UK will need (access to) appropriate testing facilities and simulator platforms. But we must build things that fly if we want to inspire.

As the skies become populated with new technologies and increased levels of autonomy, it is imperative to work hand-in-hand with the regulatory bodies and the broader aviation community. Electrification will bring airlines, manufacturers, infrastructure and regulators together like never before.

Global competition is fierce. Every country wants to be the birthplace of the first electric aircraft; every aerospace industry wants to be the pioneer of electrification.

And everyone is looking at the market stats: passenger numbers growing at 4.8% per year; regional air traffic growing even faster. Which aerospace industry wouldn’t want a part of that?

Primes and OEMs are being welcomed by countries with open arms and investments ready to go. The UK may be the 2nd largest aerospace industry but, for companies choosing where in the world to locate their R&D into electrification, it’s a flyer’s market.

The electric aircraft is coming. If the technology is not developed in the UK, it will be developed elsewhere.

We are not alone. Aerospace is a global industry that is well practised in collaborating across borders. The development of novel electric aircraft is no exception. The UK should look to international partnerships; we will not be able to do this on our own.

Coordination across the research infrastructure. The research base in the UK is world-class, spanning the length and breadth of the country. But like the integrated and connected systems of an aircraft, these centres now need to integrate their research to meet challenges in technology developments and aircraft design. More collaboration by academics across electrification research themes will offer better support for industry, from OEMs to start-ups. New initiatives, such as the Future Propulsion Research Centre, are already running across several Universities.

A very particular set of skills. Electrical engineers will be needed, and lots of them – just as they are in very many sectors, leading to severe skills shortages. The challenge for UK aerospace is to help Government to see the holistic view: the looming skills crisis and the need for action across the board, from school children to PhDs and the diversity agenda.

UK aerospace can take the lead on providing a compelling proposition. Tell the story well, and be ambitious enough, and the Grand Challenge of electrification will attract the next-generation of electrical engineers.

If our minds can conceive it, and our hearts can believe it, then we can achieve it. The UK is a leader in conventional aircraft; we know what it takes to build an aircraft. It was the UK that led the Second Revolution in aerospace: the jet age. We are now about to see the Third Revolution: the electric age. As with the jet engine, the UK needs to be at the vanguard of this development if it is to maintain a strong and world-leading aerospace industry.

What next? There is work to be done on articulating the UK aerospace vision of electrification: to seek support from UK funding mechanisms; to ensure that UK Research and Innovation, with its new role in coordinating research in the UK, is well briefed on the sector’s views and ambitions; and to engage with Ministers and ensure it features within the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The ATI and EPSRC would like to thank the organisations who contributed to the discussion: Advanced Propulsion Centre; Airbus; Bombardier; Cranfield University; Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; Department for Transport; GKN Aerospace; Innovate UK; Rolls-Royce; University of Newcastle; University of Nottingham; University of Southampton; University of Strathclyde; and Yasa Motors.

Following this discussion, the ATI and EPSRC will continue to engage with the wider community, convene stakeholders, share information, connect with researchers internationally and promote the UK aerospace vision of electric aircraft.

The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at The University of Manchester have published a joint paper on the potential of graphene in aerospace.

In consultation with a range of stakeholders, the ATI and NGI have brought together a sector perspective of the benefits of working with graphene and the potential market opportunities available to UK aerospace companies.

Graphene – widely hailed as a wonder material 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 safety and performance properties of aircraft could be significantly improved by incorporating atomically-thin graphene into existing materials used to build planes, while the reduced weight of the material could have a positive impact on the fuel efficiency of the aircraft and, as result, the environment.

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.

The joint ATI and NGI paper was launched at the Materials Research Exchange 2018 by Mark Summers, Head of Technology for Manufacturing, Materials & Structures at the ATI, and James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester at The University of Manchester.

Mark Summers 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 our 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.

James Baker 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 with more functionality. Now graphene and related two-dimensional materials can mark the next step-change.

“By incorporating graphene into the existing materials used to manufacture planes, performance properties could be improved across number of key areas. By utilising the multi-functional properties of graphene and through collaboration between industry and academia, there are significant opportunities which can accelerate the next-generation of aerospace technologies.

The ATI and NGI are continuing to collaborate on accelerating the technology development cycle for graphene applications in the UK aerospace sector – identifying suitable opportunities for graphene and ensuring that the UK aerospace sector can leverage the material’s amazing properties to remain globally competitive.

Organisations that worked with the Aerospace Technology Institute and National Graphene Institute on the paper included the University of Central Lancashire, the Centre for Process Innovation, QinetiQ, Morson Projects Limited and Haydale Limited with input from Ekosgen.

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.