Beene M'membe • 17.05.21 •  4 mins

ATI Tooling Workshop

The ATI brought together tooling end-users and suppliers to discuss the current and future needs of the tooling requirements in aerospace.

The 21st of April was a momentous occasion for the ATI where for the first time we brought together tooling end-users and suppliers to discuss the current and future needs of the tooling requirements in aerospace. This event attracted a total of 102 attendees including representatives from 71 tooling companies. The workshop featured 33 guest speakers, presenters and chairs from trade bodies, RTOs and industry.

Quote from a panellist:

It was by far the most professional online event I’ve attended in the last 12 months and so shows the commitment from the ATI to support the theme.

To support the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) request for action to address the gaps and future requirement of the industry, the ATI started the tooling working group which ran from March 2020 to November 2020. The working group consisted of a combination of tooling suppliers, end-users, and Research Technology Organisations. This working group was successful in delivering an industry led document of aerospace tooling requirements and challenges, a technology roadmap and a list of priority topic areas that formed the building blocks of the tooling workshop. The working group members requested that the ATI brought the network of organisations together across the UK and did more to support tooling R&D projects through its funding schemes. This tooling consortia building workshop demonstrates the commitment of the ATI to deliver on the requests from our industry steering groups. This activity supporting our stakeholders formed a diverse group of organisations across the UK aerospace sector, broader supply chain and research community to create an auspicious environment in the UK to share challenges, ideas and enable collaboration on innovative technology development.

Key highlights from the workshop

The audience was given an insight into future tooling requirements from large aerospace companies such as Airbus, Rolls Royce, BAE systems, Spirit AeroSystems, GKN and Hamble Aerostructures. Blue Bear Systems Research, a leading supplier of innovative research and product-based solutions in the field of unmanned systems, also gave a rare insight into their tooling requirements including a conceptual tooling concept to support future UAVs.

Quote from tooling supplier:

The event today has reinvigorated activity within our group to assess our competencies, market our capabilities and push technology forward.

The consortia building workshop also had 5 panel sessions with representation of from tooling suppliers and end-users where we had a robust informative exchange of views on a range of topics covering the workshop themes of: tooling challenges, smart self-heating tooling, AM tooling, low-cost tooling and reconfigurable and complex tooling.

Quote from Tier 1 supplier:

Some of the gaps we felt the UK had might not be as big as previously thought.

The tooling supply chain and end-users also benefited from understanding how other organisations such as the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP), Composites UK, GTMA and the High Value Manufacturing Catapults are supporting innovation in tooling and creating initiatives to support the tooling supply chain. This event gave tooling suppliers a critical insight into on-going AGP activities on tooling which include assessments on drivers for supply chain decisions by large companies and, a UK capabilities gap analysis in tooling. The HVMC shared a planned proposal to support the tooling industry to evaluate latest trends and technology in tooling. Composites UK and GTMA gave overviews on past and current initiatives into tooling including the UK reshoring program. The ATI will continue to collaborate with AGP, Composites UK, GTMA and HVMC organisations on a long-term basis to support the UK tooling supply chain develop and meet the future needs of aerospace.


In addition, to understanding future tooling requirements, this event gave an opportunity for tooling suppliers to network with aerospace primes via the pre-arranged B-2-B meetings set up by the events team. In total, the ATI prearranged 37 introductory meetings for 17 SMEs in the tooling supply chain to discuss their technology offerings with end-users. Preliminary feedback from beneficiaries of these meetings stated that the meetings were very constructive and gave opportunities to some SMEs to gain access to the “right people” within some large organisations. Furthermore, many conference delegates made new connections via LinkedIn. Since the event, the ATI has continued to connect tooling suppliers to end-users to support more constructive networking.

The ATI is creating an Aerospace Tooling Directory for conference delegates. A preliminary version of this document that included 20 tooling companies as an example of organisations and their associated capabilities to spark interest of attendees. Since then, 52 organisations have registered interest in being included to create a more comprehensive representation of the UK’s capabilities and potential tooling providers for future R&D and production opportunities.

Alex Hickson, Head of Technology for Structures, Manufacturing and Materials at the ATI said:

I am tremendously proud to see the level of support, constructive discussion, ideas and feedback this event has generated. The Aerospace Technology Institute is here to listen and support the aerospace sector in delivering its technology needs and are pleased this workshop has moved the topic forwards and we will work with the AGP to deliver on the needs of industry. We welcome feedback on the event and how we can continue to improve in how we do this.

Final remarks

Following this event, the ATI will continue to engage with the tooling supply chain and end-users to support innovation in tooling in the UK. Tooling SMEs with R&D projects are encouraged to get in touch with the ATI and also take advantage of existing funding via the ATI NATEP program.


If you would like to know more about how the ATI is supporting tooling innovations or be involved in collaborative tooling projects, please email