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ATI response to UK Gov R&D roadmap

The ATI has responded to the UK Government's call to be part of the conversation around R&D.

By Scott Pendry

23 August 2020 11:00:AM
Read time: 4 mins

The ATI has responded to the government’s R&D roadmap which was published at the start of July. The roadmap sets out the government’s vision for science, research and innovation and reaffirms the intention to see research intensity rise to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

We welcomed its publication; maintaining the UK’s position as a global innovation leader is essential to our long term success and will be crucial to rebuilding jobs and the economy as we recover from the pandemic.

The roadmap marks the start of a ‘big conversation on what actions need to be taken and how’ and there was much for us to comment on in our response, a copy of which can be found here. Below I outline a few of our key thoughts:

Maximising impact

The significant uplift in public investment in R&D funding provides an opportunity to experiment with a mix of different funding approaches and institutions to help realise the 2.4% target. Something that really caught our eye in the roadmap was the idea of ‘moonshots’ - ambitious programmes targeted at solving major societal issues. This chimed with us because of our recently initiated FlyZero programme, a 12-month study that will look at the design challenges and market opportunity of potential zero-emission aircraft concepts. The project, launched in July by Business Secretary Alok Sharma, could quite feasibly form the basis of a moonshot, realising the Prime Minister’s recently stated ‘Jet Zero’ aim to demonstrate flight across the Atlantic, without harming the environment. It’s an exciting prospect, with our CEO Gary representing the ATI on the Jet Zero council.

The regional agenda

R&D is an essential component of boosting regional prosperity and in our response we emphasise the importance of regional clusters. Take Sheffield for example with its Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) which is now a global centre for innovation in manufacturing and the site of Boeing’s first factory in Europe. Another example would be South Wales for its semiconductor cluster supporting innovative SMEs. What these regions have in common is that they have developed brands of their own focussed on their key strengths and in doing so they attract skills, improve the supply of talent, and encourage business to locate and invest to tap into the ecosystem. The ATI programme has awarded grant funding for research and technology project to companies based across the UK, as well as to the research institutes such as High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres located nearby.

Global Britain

As we’ve long argued, no single country has all the answers, even in distinct technology domains. Carefully considered international collaboration is therefore essential to accelerate aerospace R&D, particularly as we transition to zero emission aircraft. As the negotiations on the future relationship with the EU continue, we yet again took the opportunity to emphasise the importance to the UK aerospace community of becoming an associated country to the EU research and technology framework programme, Horizon Europe. It’s therefore encouraging that the roadmap indicates associating is ‘plan A’.

In our response we said that the ‘fair and balanced deal’ the government is seeking should not only consider the financial benefits but the intangible benefits too such as gaining access to skills and infrastructure not readily available in the UK and encouraging inward investment by giving overseas investors greater trust and confidence in the UK’s capabilities.

Concluding thoughts

Innovation is the lifeblood of aerospace. Transitioning to net zero emission aircraft by 2050, re-building from the Covid-19 crisis, and competing against global competition will require the UK to be at the forefront of technological innovation.

This roadmap - and the eventual R&D plan - provides the UK with a great opportunity to rebuild from the pandemic with innovation at the heart of the economy.