Will Lord • 01.08.23 •  3 mins

Aerospace at the heart of UK’s first Investment Zone

Head of Government Relations, Will Lord, reflects on how ATI investment is driving regional growth including through the recently announced COMPASS programme which puts aerospace at the heart of the South Yorkshire Investment Zone.

The site of the old Orgreave Colliery is an unlikely spot for a world-class green aerospace technology hub, but the sleek facilities of the Advanced Manufacturing Park between Sheffield and Rotherham tell a different story.

What was once an emblem of 1980s deindustrialisation is now home to a vibrant network of R&D-rich businesses, academic institutions and smaller firms, all generating high-skilled jobs for the area. Since 2001, this has been made possible by the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s (AMRC) and its mission to bridge university research and real-world application. The park is also a linchpin of a growing South Yorkshire-wide green aerospace cluster, as seen in Hybrid Air Vehicles’ plans to build its pioneering Airlander 10 aircraft in Doncaster.

The cluster took an exciting step forward on July 13th with the launch of the new COMPASS (Composites at Speed and Scale) project: the AMRC’s largest ever collaborative R&D programme. Delivered with Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems and Loop Technology, this cutting-edge project will focus on the development and manufacture of high-rate, large-scale composite parts. Also supported by a new Investment Zone, it has the potential to create up to 3,000 high-skilled jobs by the mid-2030s.

The ATI is proud of our pivotal £29.5m investment in the COMPASS programme, which will provide the UK sector with a path to proving new composite technologies in a state-of-the-art, open access facility. It’s also a testament to Boeing’s enduring commitment to the UK at a time of fierce competition for international investment.

ATI Chief Relationships Officer Sophie Lane, UK Chancellor and delegates from AMRC and Boeing
ATI Chief Relationships Officer Sophie Lane (left) attends the announcement of South Yorkshire as the UK’s first Investment Zone including investment from ATI and Boeing.

But our interest in South Yorkshire doesn’t stop there. On 19th July, we hosted a regional roadshow in partnership with ARMC and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA). Located in the cutting-edge Factory 2050 facility, our aim was to introduce local companies to the ATI and learn more about the green aerospace cluster. It did not disappoint. From meeting innovative SMEs, to hearing SYMCA’s ambitious economic growth plans, to discussing the huge opportunities to bridge digital processes and manufacturing, the picture was of a region brimming with ambition and energy, rooted in a rich industrial heritage.

From an aerospace perspective, it provided two lessons. Firstly, UK aerospace isn’t a monolith, but a rich network of clusters with different strengths, opportunities and needs. The success of the sector depends on making the most of these places and their unique assets.

Secondly, the last two weeks have been a shining example of the ATI’s role in supporting levelling up; anchoring jobs, investment, and new manufacturing capability in less prosperous parts of the UK. We estimate that over 80% of grant funding awarded across ATI competitions to-date is outside of London, the South East and East of England.

Aerospace may be an international industry by nature, but so much of its potential will be unlocked across the regions and countries of the UK. At the ATI, we look forward to going much further in understanding the opportunities of aerospace clusters like the one in South Yorkshire, and what we can do to take them to the next level.