The £84 million investment is part of the £3.9 billion collaboration between the UK government and industry that started in 2013. Due to go on until at least 2026, the collaboration is focusing solely on aerospace research and development projects via the Aerospace Growth Partnership and the ATI (Aerospace Technology Institute) Programme.
The £84 million funding boost has been agreed in the hopes that it will help to secure up to 4,750 more jobs across the three projects (covered below), contribute to combating climate change, and, according to Paul Scully MP, enable the industry to “build back better and greener following the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Here’s a look at the three projects set to receive the funding.
H2GEAR by GKN Aerospace
Receiving the bulk of the funding is H2GEAR, a pioneering project in Bristol, UK, that’s developing a way for planes to be powered using hydrogen.
It has been awarded the bulk of the funding: £54.4 million via the ATI Programme. This will be made up of a £27.2 million government grant, which will be matched by GKN Aerospace and its industry partners over the next five years.
An engineer working on an aircraft’s nacelle at a GKN Aerospace facility
Image credit: GKN Aerospace
Led by GKN, the H2GEAR project is developing a liquid-hydrogen propulsion system for airplanes and other aircraft. This would see aircraft only produce water as a byproduct rather than CO2 emissions.
The company plans to tackle regional aircraft before scaling up to larger planes and longer cross-border journeys. According to GKN, if the project is a success, it could lead to the first hydrogen-powered aircraft entering service by 2026 and the creation of 3,120 high-value engineering and manufacturing jobs by 2033.
HyFlyer II by ZeroAvia
The British/American company ZeroAvia is a leading innovator in the research area of decarbonising commercial aviation. Under the ATI Programme, it has been awarded £12.3 million to deliver what it calls a ‘breakthrough’ 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft that will be market-ready by 2023.
The funding follows ZeroAvia’s successful flight of a commercial-grade hydrogen-electric aircraft at Cranfield in September of last year—a world-first, which was also supported by the ATI Programme (although the latter flight used a smaller version of ZeroAvia’s hydrogen fuel cell powertrain in its six-seat aircraft).
ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-powered Piper aircraft takes off from Cranfield airport in the UK on the 24th of September, 2020.
Image credit: ZeroAvia via PR Newswire
This time around, the funding will enable ZeroAvia to develop a certifiable hydrogen-electric powertrain capable of powering airframes that carry up to 19 passengers. To achieve this, ZeroAvia says that it will work with partners from the European Marine Energy Centre and Aeristech (though further details about these partners are yet to be disclosed).
InCEPTion by Blue Bear Systems Research
InCEPTion (Integrated Flight Control, Energy Storage and Propulsion Technologies for Electric Aircraft) will receive £2.8 million, the smallest amount of funding of the three projects, to develop a fully electrified, zero-emissions propulsion system for aircraft.
Led by Blue Bear Systems Research, the InCEPTion project will see the development of an all-electric scalable propulsion module specifically for aircraft that weigh under five tonnes. It will enable different combinations of the same module to power various aircraft concepts, such as unmanned air taxes, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and cargo drones.
Image credit: Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd via Industry EMEA
Said Yoge Patel, CEO of Blue Bear Systems Research: “The InCEPTion consortium’s propulsion module will bring game-changing technology to manned and unmanned aviation, delivering unrivalled performance and value in this newly emerging sector”.