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The UK aerospace sector needs to drive progress on important and broadly applicable enabling technologies and capabilities through collaboration across and beyond the sector.
Several themes vital to the competitiveness of UK aerospace have broad application, reaching in some cases beyond the sector. There are also opportunities for cross-sectoral collaboration in specific areas, such as electrical power systems. The ATI will seek collaborative approaches to steer research toward cross-cutting opportunities, including finding common ground with other industries.
UK aerospace must develop and implement new design capabilities to deliver the increasingly complex products and services of the future.
Aircraft are becoming more complex and integrated. Rising engineering costs, from concept through validation and certification, is holding back innovation. Great improvements can be achieved through expanding the use of digital capabilities. This means leveraging artificial intelligence, modelling and computing to optimise processes, systems and manage information. Supply chains will need to work more closely to facilitate rapid and effective design and development. Physical testing must be reduced where possible, with greater use of simulation and advanced statistical analysis. New test facilities will be needed to validate new models and technology. We refer to this collection of activities, and the associated capabilities, as high-value design. It reaches across industries developing the most complex systems. Since 2017, aerospace has been working with businesses and industry councils in defence, automotive, maritime, pharmaceuticals and energy to share challenges and align ambitions. The ATI will continue to support these efforts.
To be globally competitive, the UK supply chain must remain at the leading edge of material science, advanced manufacturing and assembly processes.
Manufacturing for aerospace is often more technologically challenging than other sectors. High-performance materials can be difficult to process. High levels of precision are required in components. Stringent quality standards must be met throughout manufacture, up to assembly of large complex systems. However, volumes are relatively low compared with many other industries, bringing cost and automation challenges. To tackle these, the UK must continue development of high-performance materials, low-cost and intelligent automated manufacturing systems and connected factories. The ATI will work with the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult network and the broader manufacturing sector to support delivery of these technologies.
To secure a share of the expanding through-life engineering service opportunities, UK businesses must develop their technologies and capabilities in conjunction with novel business models.
The ATI estimates the market for through-life engineering services in civil aerospace to be worth almost $2.5 trillion over the next 20 years. It includes performance optimisation of air vehicles during their service, efficient and effective repair of systems and components, and end-of-life repurposing, recycling and disposal. Success in this market depends on maximising the availability, predictability and reliability of products at the lowest possible through-life cost. Increasingly, firms are deploying high-fidelity digital twin models of products that tie together data from their original design, manufacturing history and in-service performance. Artificial intelligence monitors and interprets this sea of information to recognise impending issues. This data and insight will become increasingly important to the design of future products or upgrading of in-service systems. It is also important that the industry seeks to maximise use of end-of-life hardware, recycling or repurposing materials in sustainable ways. The ATI will work to encourage the development of technologies for enhanced through-life engineering including digital twins, repair, recycling, and sustainable design of future products.