Rising oil prices, fuel supply problems envisaged in the 2020 timeframe, ongoing security issues and concern over European industry's competitiveness have sparked a full review of the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe's (ACARE) objectives, scheduled for 2010.
Formed in 2001, ACARE, which has guided the European Union framework programmes' aeronautics research, has 46 member organisations and the last update to its strategic research agenda was four years ago.
The end of 2008 saw the publication of an addendum to that agenda, calling for a 2010 review to address greater international co-ordination, alternative fuels and "revolutionary power system" development.
The addendum says: "The technical agenda should be...accelerated towards breakthrough and contributing technologies," but it also warns that "less funding has been available for research than had been considered necessary".
The alternative fuels are described as "drop-in". Kerosene is a drop-in fuel because it does not require special processing or handling. The addendum refers to coal, coal-tar and biomass as potential drop-in alternatives.
The addendum update was triggered by the recent large-scale oil price fluctuations, the decline of the US dollar against the euro and a growing expectation that aircraft could become much larger greenhouse gas contributors as air traffic grows and other sources are assumed to reduce their output over time.
According to ACARE the framework programmes have seen about 200 projects costing around €200 billion ($259 billion) and the EU's latest and seventh framework, which lasts until 2013, has a €1 billion aeronautics budget.