Alex Hickson • 31.01.24 • 4 min read

Advanced manufacturing on the journey to Destination Zero

Alex Hickson, Head of Technology – Structures, Manufacturing & Materials shares how advanced manufacturing is at the heart of the technology journey to Net Zero 2050.

World-class manufacturing capability powered by unique collaborations between organisations large and small will accelerate the development and adoption of ultra-efficient and zero-carbon aircraft technologies on our journey to Destination Zero.

Manufacturing techniques in use today are creating step changes in capabilities and outputs driving efficiencies that meet the demand of today’s aircraft orders while readying the sector for the next generation of aircraft.

One such example is CloudNC, a growing start-up, bringing innovation to the sector through the optimisation of high-speed metal cutting using machine learning and artificial intelligence. By automating aspects of the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) manufacturing of aircraft parts, ARRP, an ATI-supported project, is accelerating production and reducing material and energy consumption.

Working in partnership with GKN Aerospace in Filton combines the agile and advanced technology capabilities of a small and medium sized enterprise (SME) with an experienced tier one. The project is part of GKN Aerospace’s approach to pushing the boundaries of metal cutting productivity through R&D with a leading supply chain organisation delivering flying components to customers today to increase UK competitiveness.

Projects funded through the ATI Strategic Programme are enabling disruptive technology development, advanced manufacturing methods, next generation materials and whole lifecycle efficiency.

These form a key part of the government’s Advanced Manufacturing Plan published in November 2023, which sets out an ambition for the UK to be the best place to start and grow a manufacturing business. The £975m of funding for the ATI Programme between 2026 and 2030 announced at the same time will support the ATI in delivering against these ambitions. This vital boost will support UK competitiveness in a global market, attract further inward investment, and grow manufacturing clusters across the country.

The long-term view this brings will enable organisations to develop and demonstrate capabilities together, building confidence of OEMs in their ability to deliver radically different manufacturing technologies, to quality, cost and rate, proving themselves well positioned to win workshare on future programmes.

To be both competitive and become more sustainable, aerospace organisations are working to maximise raw material utilisation and reduce waste, while minimising energy usage and emissions associated with manufacturing.

The government’s manufacturing plan will build from our existing strengths ensuring the UK continues to lead in the development and deployment of clean and digital technologies while building supply chain resilience.

SMEs play a key part in both developing innovative technology solutions the end customers seek and playing a key role in the breadth and depth of supply chain. This ensures the delivery a diverse array of high value components and technologies needed to deliver production flying aircraft.

To support these organisations across the UK, the ATI is introducing the SME Programme offering grants of up to £1.5m to projects lasting 12 to 36 months. Support for applicants is available through the ATI Hub including Tech Clinics. This support will link applicants with potential end customers or partners where needed and help navigate the sector and technology development planning to be ready to apply into the funding programmes.

The SME Programme is now open to draft Outline Stage applications, and applicants can view the launch webinar on the ATI YouTube channel. To discover more including further events from the ATI Hub, visit