Accelerating progress to net zero – the importance of international collaboration

Earlier this week, Sophie, Gary and I visited Brussels to meet with a number of organisations including the European Commission, UK Mission to the EU and Clean Aviation. We also took the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce focussed on EU affairs and Europe more broadly. It was great to be back meeting face-to-face after so long and the visit underlined the need to maintain strong UK-EU ties as we tackle common challenges, not least accelerating the shift to sustainable air travel.

European collaboration – through EU-funded R&T programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Clean Sky – continues to be very important for the UK aerospace sector. Participating businesses not only access essential skills, knowledge and new capabilities, but also improve their access to new supply chains by raising their profile with European partners and end users, including the major primes. Large-scale demonstration projects are particularly important; they are often inherently international and expensive, making them natural activities to be conducted at a European level. These include flying and ground-based technology demonstrators undertaken through the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking.

No single country can accomplish this alone…

Collaborating with partners overseas is not a ‘nice to have’, it is essential: As aviation addresses the challenge of zero carbon and complex new mobility markets, the industry must develop a vast swathe of new technologies in short order and no single country can accomplish this alone.

Our visit and discussions underlined the importance of international collaboration and reinforced our view that to meet both the UK and EU’s target of net zero aviation by 2050, we need to seriously up the ante. To meet those targets, the window of opportunity to commit to develop genuinely zero-carbon emission aircraft is short and aircraft need to be in airline fleets and flying well ahead of 2050.

Our visit confirmed that we are of one mind with our colleagues at the Clean Aviation Partnership (the successor to Clean Sky) that investment in aircraft technologies that enable the use of both sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen fuels will be a vital part of achieving Net Zero by 2050. Clean Aviation’s focus on hydrogen was particularly welcome, with their Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda, containing many complementary themes to our own Destination Zero and FlyZero reports.

Plan B?

We have always been – and continue to be – supportive of the stated position of the UK joining Horizon Europe programme as an associate member. But rows over the Northern Ireland protocol are holding up the UK’s membership of this €95.5bn funding programme and with the delays to ratification, we need to consider alternative thinking. Within ATI our key aim, regardless of the politics, is to continue to be active European partners and work with organisations like Clean Aviation.

Looking ahead

We cannot afford to wait. As a sector, we need to step up our efforts to meet the targets we have set out. The research, investment and technology development required is unprecedented and is reminiscent of the revolution into the jet age.

We are aware that our colleagues in Government have been doing some internal planning in case the UK does not associate with Horizon Europe. In consultation with colleagues in industry, we will support that thinking based on the clear technology imperatives outlined in both Destination Zero and our FlyZero project.

Enacting key enabling steps to deliver tangible international collaborations has always been central to the rapid progress the aerospace sector has made and as well as planning for different Horizon Europe outcomes, we intend to up our engagement with colleagues in Europe and beyond. We look forward to meeting with international colleagues at both ILA in Berlin and at our own stand at the Farnborough airshow.

Our presence at the Farnborough airshow will offer a great opportunity to meet with organisations across Europe and beyond. To request a meeting with us please email