ATI comms • 17.01.23 •  3 mins

Q&A with Simon Edmonds

Simon Edmonds has represented Innovate UK on the ATI Board since 2014. As Simon steps down and heads for new challenges, we asked him to reflect on his experiences.

Simon, thank you for the time and expertise you have invested in your role as a member of the ATI Board over the past few years. What are your reflections on your tenure? 

Simon Edmonds (SE): When I joined the board in 2014 the task was seemingly very simple in that we needed to add much more support to one of the leading R&D, manufacturing and exporting sectors in the UK.  Whilst climate change was part of the business case, I suspect none of us predicted the pace of change. None of us predicted Brexit nor a global pandemic, so it’s been a period of great turbulence for the economy and the sector. At the same time, the ATI has grown to be a substantial force within the UK aerospace sector in the UK and has proved to be effective as an independent organisation sitting between Government and industry.

Have there been any surprises along the way? 

SE: Yes! Brexit and then Covid put a huge strain on the global aerospace sector and the effects of these were felt strongly at home. The speed of transitioning to Net Zero has escalated and the ATI’s FlyZero programme was a brilliant response to the challenge. For me, bringing the FlyZero recommendations to life is a path I hope the ATI and the sector will follow.

How has the funding landscape changed in recent years? 

SE: The UK Government have recognised the impact of the ATI Programme and extended its remit to 2031. In the last spending review, the ATI’s allocation was also increased substantially. To really drive the benefits of this investment, government needs to remain committed to funding at these higher levels all the way through to 2031. On the international front, there is still considerable uncertainty about the UK’s long-term association to Horizon Europe, but until we have more clarity the government has a funding guarantee in place via UKRI and Innovate UK.

The drive to reach Net Zero is enabling ground-breaking innovation within the sector. What excites you about the future of the UK aerospace industry? 

SE: I think it is becoming more and more clear that the two main primes are not going to be producing either new single-aisle or twin-aisle aircraft in the near future. Technology development at pace is still crucial and realising the ATI technology strategy Destination Zero will maximise the Net Zero opportunity making best use of the available funding. There is a small but very hungry and ambitious group of companies developing solutions to Net Zero that need escalating support for them to succeed. It is here that I think ATI can have the biggest impact in the next seven years of the Programme and having a close relationship with Innovate UKs Net Zero Group will be helpful.  Most analysts predict that the speed of innovation will increase very fast and new business models will also develop as airlines move to address their Net Zero commitments.

What are your aspirations for the ATI’s future?

SE: I would like to see the ATI continue to embrace new and emerging technologies. The companies that are developing new technologies, who are based here in the UK, will be creating more and more new jobs as they develop Net Zero technologies. It’s really important to support this new growth and harness their potential to solve some of the most difficult challenges we’re currently facing.

The ATI would like to thank Simon Edmonds for his tenure as a member of the ATI Board and wish him every success for the future.