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UK government pledges £54 million for aerospace research projects

Seven aerospace research and development projects have been granted investment worth a total of nearly £54 million ($73 million) by the UK government in a bid to boost the country's aerospace sector.

The funding will be provided via the Aerospace Technology Institute, which was established in 2013 to facilitate joint investment by the UK government and industry in R&D projects – and was disclosed after the government launched an industrial strategy white paper earlier this month.

ATI chief executive Gary Elliott says the institute's strategy is to encourage UK aerospace suppliers to be "more ambitious in the research programmes into new, advanced and disruptive technologies".

Some £13.1 million has been allocated to a project dubbed "Open Flight Deck", which is led by GE Aviation and also includes BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, and universities in Coventry and Southampton. Rather than installing conventional, distinct systems in the cockpit, the new approach is to provide an "open platform that allows the [original equipment manufacturer] to work with a range of suppliers to develop ‘apps’ [that are] easier to build, quicker to deploy, and [have] the potential for upgrade as new capabilities become possible", ATI says.

Another £13 million grant will be provided to a programme addressing power generation, distribution and consumption requirements on more-electric aircraft. The project, named "Scalable Multi-Platform Power" is led by the UK arm of Safran Electrical & Power in partnership with R-R, GE, Raytheon and UTC Aerospace Systems.

An initiative aimed at establishing the UK as a "global leader in additive manufacturing" by the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has received an £11.2 million grant. Named "Digital Reconfigurable Additive Manufacturing facilities for Aerospace", the project has a range of partners and will include establishment of testbed facilities at MTC and engineering firm Renishaw.

R-R has received a £6 million grant for a project aimed at developing lightweight engine casings for its UltraFan future engine programme. The project is being conducted in partnership with the National Composites Centre and the University of Oxford.

A separate £4.5 million grant has been awarded to an effort by R-R to develop ways of integrating aircraft engines in the airframe. The manufacturer is collaborating with universities in Belfast, Cranfield and Oxford on the project.

Some £3.6 million has been allocated to Airbus's Zephyr high-altitude pseudo-satellite programme to develop aerostructures, propulsion, battery and other energy storage technologies with a range of partners.

Honeywell has received a £2.3 million for a programme with UK partners covering the development of cabin air sensor technology, which is aimed at improving passenger experience and delivering fuel savings, ATI says.

The funding is part of a pledge by the UK government and industry partners in 2013 to jointly invest a total £3.9 billion in civil aerospace R&D projects in the period to 2026.

ATI says the UK government has so far delivered £923 million across 196 projects which involve 208 companies and organisations.

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