Aerospace funding programme to support SMEs in developing technologies to drive clean growth

  • New funding programme targeting cutting-edge SME aerospace research projects to advance net zero aviation and boost high-skilled jobs.
  • Worth up to £10 million a year, the programme will help secure more high-skilled aerospace jobs across the UK.
  • Funding provided through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) will drive innovative UK SME research projects and grow UK’s share of global aerospace sector, helping to grow the economy.

Aerospace organisations across the nations and regions of the UK are set to benefit from a funding programme tailored to the needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The SME Programme, which sits alongside the ATI’s existing Strategic Programme, opens to applications in February 2024 and will offer grants of up to £1.5m. The competitive funding programme is designed to maximise benefits to SMEs and support and encourage industrial investment into the aerospace sector and its supply chain, through the funding of innovative and high impact projects.

A streamlined application process and grant funding weighted towards smaller organisations will engage the national aerospace ecosystem, building collaborative project partnerships and accelerating the development of ultra-efficient, zero-carbon and cross-cutting aerospace technologies.

SMEs will be eligible to apply for a greater percentage of overall project costs, and will receive at least 50 percent of each grant awarded. Businesses other than SMEs can lead but they must partner with at least one SME in the consortium bringing together capacity, specialist expertise, innovation and market exploitation strategy.

Announcing the programme at the ATI Conference, Industry Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “I’m delighted to announce the ATI SME funding programme, that will help propel our world-leading aerospace sector to new heights in the pursuit of innovative, clean, green air travel.

“UK aerospace businesses, with their expertise and innovation, are helping drive the aerospace industry on its journey to Net Zero by 2050, and in the process are helping us grow the UK economy and support high-skill, high-wage jobs.”

Gary Elliott, CEO, Aerospace Technology Institute said: “Effective collaboration will unlock the growth potential of the UK’s aerospace supply chain. By connecting capability and funding technology development, the SME Programme will benefit organisations of all sizes across the nations and regions of the UK.

“We know from the success of the ATI Programme that supporting advanced technologies secures market share for the UK bringing economic benefit and delivering against the sector’s sustainability commitments on our journey to Destination Zero.”

Support for organisations engaging with the SME Programme will be delivered by the ATI Hub, an initiative to catalyse innovation by helping new and existing players in the sector to connect, access expertise and collaborate. The support available will include clinics with ATI Technologists, themed innovation workshops and guidance on how to prepare a strong Pitch Panel presentation and Full Stage Application.

The ATI Hub can also generate new connections between start-ups, SMEs, primes, and tier one organisations which could become consortia applications to the SME Programme. The ATI will also work with its stakeholder network to maximise the support available as required.

Since launch in 2014, the ATI Programme has invested £3.6bn of joint government and industry funding in transformational aerospace technology research and development, 25% of which has gone directly to UK SMEs. This grant funding has enabled the development of more efficient aircraft technologies which are in service today, and kick-started the exploitation of electric and hydrogen technologies for the future.

Information for potential applicants to the SME Programme is available now on the ATI website.

Potential applicants can join a webinar to discover more about the SME Programme including scope, eligibility and the application process on Tuesday 5th December 2023, 14:00 – 15:00 by registering here.