Cutting edge new technologies that could enable electric flying taxis and hydrogen powered aircraft to take to the skies will be developed in the UK, thanks to £113 million of investment being announced by the Business and Transport Secretaries today (Tuesday 7 February).
Through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme, government and industry are jointly backing new exciting zero-carbon technologies to open up a future of guilt-free flying. This includes a project by Bristol-based electric aircraft manufacturer Vertical Aerospace to develop high-end, lightweight batteries, as well as projects led by Rolls-Royce to develop the building blocks of a liquid hydrogen combusting jet engine, which would enable flight without the carbon emissions.
From Belfast to Derby, these successful projects will help secure thousands of jobs across the supply chain and hundreds of millions in private investment across the UK, growing the country’s economy and putting us at the forefront of reducing global aviation emissions.
The ATI Programme continues to deliver practical successes, the most recent being the maiden flight of ZeroAvia’s hydrogen fuel cell-powered 19-seater aircraft in January.
In addition, the Department for Transport is launching a Call for Evidence seeking views from the sector on how to reach the target for airport operations in England to be zero emissions by 2040. The target was set as part of the government’s Jet Zero Strategy, launched in July last year.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:
Guilt-free flying is within our reach, and we are backing the world-leading UK firms whose skills and ingenuity are going to make that dream a reality.
As the whole world moves to greener forms of aviation, there is a massive opportunity for the UK’s aerospace industry to secure clean, green jobs and growth for decades to come. Together with the companies that share our ambitions, we are determined to seize this moment.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:
The Jet Zero Council is helping to define the future of flying – one that’s more optimistic about the sector’s environmental impact while putting UK innovation at the forefront of international aviation.
As well as developing the next generation of aircraft, it’s also crucial we make the sector greener on the ground, and the call for evidence we’re launching today will help us gather evidence on how airports can reach zero emissions by 2040.
Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer, Rolls-Royce plc, said:
Rolls-Royce welcomes this announcement from the UK government today. ATI funding enables us and our partners to deliver these exciting projects that are critical to the delivery of the zero carbon element of our net zero road map and will help position the UK as a leader on the pathway to more sustainable flight.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO and Founder of Vertical Aerospace, said:
At Vertical, we are pioneering the most advanced electric aircraft in the world, right here in the UK. We are absolutely delighted to co-invest with the government in developing the lightweight, high-performance, and safe batteries we need to make zero carbon flight a reality. In the race to Net Zero, the ATI Programme is delivering a huge opportunity for the government and industry to come together to create world-leading, British technologies and build British expertise.
The investment will be announced at the seventh meeting of the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between government and industry that’s been set up to fast-track ambitions for zero-emission flight by 2050 through investment and focus on advanced technologies and sustainable aviation fuels, as laid out in the Jet Zero Strategy. The Council is leveraging the UK’s world-leading aerospace and aviation sectors, which pre-pandemic employed 230,000 people in the UK and contributed £22 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy, to effectively tackle emissions while encouraging growth and green innovation.
Jet Zero Council CEO Emma Gilthorpe, Chief Operating Officer at Heathrow Airport, said:
The launch of the Jet Zero Strategy last year was a key milestone on the path to decarbonising aviation, and it’s fantastic to see the progress that has been made since then, such as on boosting the UK’s SAF industry and with the International Civil Aviation Organisation aiming to reach net zero by 2050.
This investment, and the launch of the Call For Evidence on how airports in England can reach zero emissions by 2040, are another vital part of that journey and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners in industry and government to define the future of flying.
Today’s meeting is taking place at Boeing’s London offices, further highlighting the importance of aerospace businesses to the UK’s plans for jobs and growth. In the UK, Boeing employs a highly-skilled workforce of over 3,000 people across 30 key locations and spends nearly £2 billion a year in the supply chain on high-value aerospace export parts.
As the Council’s hosts, Boeing will use today’s meeting to demonstrate their new data modelling tool, Cascade, which allows the user to visualise various decarbonisation strategies on the pathway to net zero emissions. Using a variety of datasets, Cascade helps airline operators, policy makers and industry partners make informed decisions on the journey to net-zero by 2050. The tool computes full life-cycle accounting of total climate effects using scenarios for the 5 core strategies: renewable energy, airplane fleet renewal, future aircraft and advanced technologies, operational efficiency improvements and market-based measures and demonstrates that SAF is required to meet the 2050 commitment while continuing to invest in hydrogen, electric and advanced technologies.
Maria Laine, president of Boeing in the UK, Ireland and Nordic region, said:
Today’s Jet Zero Council meeting is an opportunity to highlight progress and assess opportunities on the journey to net zero. Close partnership between government and industry is vital to achieving a zero-carbon future, and we are delighted to showcase some of the innovative tools Boeing has designed to help us collectively reach this goal. Through Cascade, it’s clear that we need sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) under any scenario to reach our 2050 goal while investing in cutting-edge technologies that will inform the future of flight.
The meeting comes after significant developments in the government’s SAF programme. At the end of last year, 5 companies were awarded a share of the Department for Transport’s £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund, with projects from Teesside to Ellesmere Port receiving funding to build plants that will convert household and industrial waste into jet fuel.
Virgin Atlantic will also receive government funding to complete the first ever net zero transatlantic flight on 100% SAF. The flight from London to New York will take off from the UK this year.