Restart and Recovery: Rapid expansion of Government support for low carbon aerospace technology

The importance of a green recovery

The improvements in air quality through the COVID-19 crisis has intensified the conversation in relation to the impact of aviation on the environment. While the industry has long recognised its responsibility to improve efficiency and reduce emissions, the crisis has significantly impacted its ability to make investments in the R&D that will address these challenges.

Despite the significant benefits of aviation, aerospace must rapidly decarbonise if it is to meet the climate change goals set out by countries across the globe. Without positive intervention now to keep the world moving and to sustain airlines and aerospace businesses, we face a real danger of a lost decade to make aviation sustainable.

Aviation is a geo-strategic industry

Aviation is a driver for economic growth and needs to be recognised as a geo-strategic industry. The UK must recognise the opportunity for it to become a world leader in sustainable aviation, or risk being left behind countries that do recognise this.

The success of the world economy and global trade is based in part on a well-functioning aviation sector. It is for precisely this reason that other countries, such as the US and China, are investing heavily in their aerospace sectors and the R&D that will develop the solutions for the future.

The UK needs to capitalise on a rapid drive towards developing more sustainable aircraft. Historically industry have been willing and ready to invest in R&D, however there will now be a period where industry is unable to make these significant investments.

Low carbon aerospace technology

ADS is calling for a rapid expansion of Government support for low carbon aerospace technology. This is not limited to next generation technology. Hybrid-electric and fully electric propulsion systems are a key part of the long-term decarbonisation of aviation. However, incremental development of existing technology will provide benefits in the short term. Government support should therefore be aimed at both types of development.

In its submission to the 2020 budget ADS asked for an uplift and extension of funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). It is now more important than ever for the Government to commit to doubling the funding for the ATI to enable the UK to become a world-leader in hybrid and electric flight. This will support the UK aviation sector’s commitment to net-zero. The Government should also front load funding for technology projects to ensure industry can continue to do this vital work while it recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, supporting both the industry’s highly skilled jobs and its future.

Further opportunities

Some of our members predict there could be up to a 25-30% overcapacity of skilled, technical people within the industry as a result of COVID-19. This presents further opportunities for rapidly developing and industrialising next generation technology, providing it is funded by the Government. This has the added benefit of protecting skills in the UK, ensuring that we can continue to be a leader in global aerospace on the other side of the crisis.

To read about our five priorities for Restart & Recovery, click here.