£20m award targets ‘world-class innovation’ in Midlands aerospace cluster

Education | Employment & Skills | Funding | Midlands | Transport & Distribution

The Midlands aerospace industry cluster will receive a £20m European funding boost to support innovation and further enhance the area’s reputation as a UK centre of aerospace excellence.

The European Regional Development Fund will see the University of Nottingham and its partner the Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA) be able to offer free support to aerospace supply chain businesses throughout the region.

The Aerospace Unlocking Potential (Aerospace UP) project aims to develop the region’s supply chain and help businesses deliver new products, implement novel technologies, generate intellectual property, enhance productivity and attract and retain talent.

While the region is home to Rolls-Royce and Collins Aerospace, Aerospace UP’s focus will be on the supply chain businesses who collectively enrich a network that generates 45,000 full-time-equivalent jobs – many highly-skilled and well-paid.

The project will facilitate access to three significant areas, which have been invested in by the University and public sources: the Aerospace Technology Centre, the Advanced Manufacturing Building and the Power Electronics and Machines Centre.

Professor Pat Wheeler, of the University’s Institute for Aerospace Technology, said: “Our vision is to give companies access to world-class innovation.

“Ambition should not be limited to size and by giving smaller businesses across the aerospace supply chain access to the UK’s best facilities and expertise, and the opportunity to collaborate and share challenges, we will help create a vibrant ecosystem that will be better-placed to respond to new opportunities.”

The Midlands aerospace industry faces twin challenges: industry has to invest heavily in innovation to make ever-greener aircraft, while facing competition from emerging market countries around the world.

Aerospace Unlocking Potential aims to help smaller companies in supply chains to play their part in addressing these challenges and plugs gaps in UK government aerospace R&D funding, which focuses on bigger players.

Professor Wheeler added: “If we can retain our share of the global passenger aircraft business, the market opportunity for the region over the next 20 years is of the order of £70bn.”

Aerospace UP is designed to integrate the aerospace supply chain across eight Local Enterprise Partnerships throughout the Midlands. Participating companies will be eligible to receive a wide range of expert support, coordinated by the University’s Institute for Aerospace Technology.

The Aerospace UP project builds upon the University’s existing work with local aerospace supply chain companies and reach across the entire regional cluster.

The University’s Precision Manufacturing Centre (PMC) will provide access to sector-leading technicians and equipment, including ultra-precision complex engineering, rapid prototyping, toolmaking, measurement reporting, product design, design for manufacture and ultra-precision metrology.

This will allow supply chain companies to develop cutting edge products and processes.

Some £5.45m in grants will also be available over three years to support collaborative research and development projects for aerospace supply chain businesses.

Dr Andrew Mair, Chief Executive of the MAA, said: “We are excited to be working closely with the University of Nottingham’s Institute for Aerospace Technology to maximise access to the University of Nottingham’s wide expertise to benefit aerospace supply chain companies right across the Midlands.

“This is a project that will meet a real need and would fill a real gap in the UK’s industrial strategy to boost levels of innovation at the many firms that make up our country’s excellent regional business clusters.”

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