The UK government has committed funding of up to £125 million ($159 million) for future aerospace technology projects as part of a wider agreement to boost the sector.
Provided through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the government investment is to be matched by industry partners and will be used for a programme dubbed Future Flight Challenge, to support new technology developments including electric aircraft, drones and urban air mobility vehicles.
Additionally, the aerospace sector deal foresees support of small- and medium-sized UK suppliers to “boost their competitiveness”, the government says in the published agreement.
Some £10m - in addition to the future technology initiative and again matched by industry - has been earmarked for a productivity improvement scheme named “Supply Chain 21 Competitive and Growth”.
The agreement includes a charter to boost the number of women and, generally, to “increase diversity and inclusion in the sector”.
Co-operation between industry, universities and other training providers is to be enhanced to ensure a “strong future pipeline of talented people” for the sector.
As part of that effort, the UK’s National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme – aimed at boosting research and development projects led by small- and medium-sized enterprises – will be expanded with an additional £13.7 million of government funding and £10 million from industry partners.
The government says that it has an “ambition” to gradually increase research and development spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and to 3% over the “longer term”.
The aerospace sector deal follows prime minister Theresa May’s announcement at Farnborough air show in July that her government would work with industry partners to position the sector for the future.
UK aerospace trade association ADS has welcomed the agreement. “A strong long-term partnership between government and industry is essential for UK aerospace to meet the challenges of global competition and new market opportunities,” says chief executive Paul Everitt.
In his view, the aerospace sector deal represents a commitment by the government to maintain the UK’s position as “one of the most attractive locations for the global aerospace and aviation industries”.