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Coventry, Warwick & Bristol secure lion's share of £84 million green aerospace tech boost

29 January 2021
The Business Magazine article image for: Coventry, Warwick & Bristol secure lion's share of £84 million green aerospace tech boost

Projects in Coventry, Warwick and Bristol have secured the lion's share of an £84 million boost for technology to power a green aviation revolution.

£84.6 million - half invested by government, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme and half by industry in three ambitious aerospace projects based in Bedford, Bristol, and Cranfield

Each project will use British innovation and expertise in green technology to power zero-emissions flights, using alternative energy sources of hydrogen or electricity to reduce the industry’s reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

The three projects are:

GKN Aerospace-led H2GEAR (Hybrid Hydrogen & Electric Architecture), Bristol

£54.4 million over 5 years - £27.2 million government grant, matched by industry.

H2GEAR will be delivered in collaboration with partners from GKN Aerospace’s Global Technology Centre in Filton, Bristol. The project aims to develop a liquid hydrogen propulsion system for regional aircraft that could be scaled up to larger aircraft. This could create a new generation of clean air travel, eliminating harmful CO2 emissions and leaving water as the only by-product of flight. If successful, the project could help secure up to 3120 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs by 2032 / 2033 in Bristol, Coventry and Loughborough.

ZeroAvia-led HyFlyer II, Cranfield, Bedfordshire

£24.6 million over 2 years - £12.3 million government grant, matched by industry.

In 2019, the project was awarded an ATI Programme grant to produce a zero-carbon engine which was recently demonstrated on a successful test flight for a 6-seater aircraft – the largest hydrogen-electric aircraft worldwide. The aptly named the HyFlyer, is powered by two stacked Oxford-based YASA-750 electric motors and hydrogen fuel cells.This latest round of funding will enable the consortium to scale up its hydrogen technology for use on a 19-seater aircraft, another stepping stone on the path towards the government’s Jet Zero ambitions. The company will showcase the technology in various test flights, including a world-first long-distance zero-emissions demonstration flight of this size and power level in January 2023. It will also enable ZeroAvia to enter the formal certification process at the end of the project, so that customers can expect to fly on zero emissions aircraft as early as the end of 2023. If successful, the UK-based consortium, including Leamington Spa-based Aeristech and the European Marine Energy Centre, could help to secure 300 design jobs and 400 manufacturing jobs in Cranfield, Warwick and Orkney.

Blue Bear Systems Research-led InCEPTion (Integrated Flight Control, Energy Storage and Propulsion Technologies for Electric Aircraft), Bedford

£5.6 million over 2 years – £2.8 million government grant, matched with industry.

The consortium aims to develop a zero-emissions fully-electrified propulsion system for aircraft, which if scaled up, would be capable of powering a range of aircraft including unmanned drones and passenger aircraft. This will enable a broad range of new mobility services across the UK, from large cargo delivery to regional commuting. If successful, the project could help secure up to 30 new engineer jobs during the early certification and pre-production phases in Bedfordshire and Derby, and a further 600-900 manufacturing jobs during production in the UK.

These combined projects could help secure up to 4,750 design, engineering and manufacturing jobs, said the government.

Not only could this technology enable passengers to travel abroad in a greener fashion, in future it could enable the skies to be used for travelling much shorter journeys, similar to a local taxi service, reducing congestion on road networks, and allowing passengers to travel more quickly and locally.

Innovative aerospace technology is rapidly developing, meaning that there is the potential for zero-emissions flights to be a reality as early as the end of 2023.

The ATI Programme’s grant winners have been chosen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Innovate UK, and the Aerospace Technology Institute. The total investment in the 3 projects will be £84.6 million, with £42.3 million government funding matched by industry.

Aviation has a crucial role to play in achieving the government’s net zero commitment. To this end, in addition to funding, the government has established the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between industry and government to bring together ministers and industry stakeholders to drive the ambitious delivery of new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions.

Russ Dunn, Chief Technology Officer for GKN Aerospace, said: "Hydrogen-powered aircraft offer a clear route to keep the world connected, with dramatically cleaner skies. The UK is at the forefront of this technology, and the H2GEAR project is an example of industry, academia and government collaboration at its best.

"Working with our partners, and made possible by UK government investment, GKN Aerospace will develop and industrialise the breakthrough technology that will enable aircraft to fly with zero CO2emissions from the mid-2020s. This will not only create thousands of jobs, but it will keep the UK at the forefront of the next generation of cleaner air travel for decades to come."

Val Miftakhov, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZeroAvia, said: "The government’s backing for our 19-seat hydrogen-electric powertrain development programme will deliver a market-ready hydrogen powered solution for 2023 that makes passenger-ready zero carbon aviation a reality.

"The UK is at the forefront of sustainable flight and we are proud that the government has put its faith in us again to deliver another milestone towards the Jet Zero ambition."

Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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