August 22, 2013, by aerospacenottingham
Industry Insight: UK Government Backs Winning Industry
Newspaper headlines have long sounded the death-knell of British manufacturing. Nevertheless, recent government announcements are testimony to how wide of the mark these headlines have been. The aerospace industry of the United Kingdom is the second- or third-largest national aerospace industry in the world, depending upon the method of measurement. The industry employs around 113,000 people directly and around 276,000 indirectly and has an annual turnover of around £20 billion. The UK is synonymous with behemoths of the aerospace industry such as Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Bombardier.
Earlier this year the government and industry pledged a long-term partnership to support the development of the domestic aerospace supply chain. The key aspect of this ‘partnership’ is a £2 billion, 7-year, initiative – the funding for which will be split evenly between government and industry – announced in March. This sizeable sum will facilitate the creation a UK Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). With a view to moving in to temporary residence at Cranfield University in December 2013, the ATI will consist of approximately 30 staff carrying out the work envisaged by the Aerospace Growth Partnership and conducted between both industry and academia. It is envisaged that the ATI will allow industry and academic researchers to develop technology for the next generation of quieter, more energy efficient aircraft. In doing so this will allow the sector to continue to grow in the face of increasing global competition and to exploit rapid changes in technology, thereby securing around 115,000 jobs.
But how does this enormous sum and talk of an ‘ATI’ factor into the thoughts of your average small or medium sized enterprise (SME), whose primary concern may be as simple as surviving until the next financial year?
Well, inherent in this substantial funding is the desire to develop the extent of aerospace R&D that occurs within SMEs (as opposed to larger companies), thus enhancing long-term sustainability across the full breadth of companies throughout the industry. As part of the £2bn ATI initiative, there will be several funding calls over the next few years. These calls will target SMEs requiring extra resource to develop a project for which they have identified a market requirement. The first tranche (£25 million) of funding aimed at SMEs was announced at June’s Paris International Air Show by UK Business and Energy Minister, Michael Fallon. This investment, which will be in the form of a competitive call for businesses and administered through the Technology Strategy Board, will finance collaborative research and technology projects that are consistent with the objectives of the Aerospace Industrial Strategy.
Moreover, another of the more immediate tactics that the government is employing to boost innovation within the supply chain is a funding initiative called NATEP (National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme). NATEP is a £23m technology development programme derived from a bid by the Aerospace Growth Partnership to the Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative. As such, and just to confuse things further, this £23m is in fact separate to the £2bn fund! NATEP is delivered throughout the UK by the various regional Aerospace Alliances and Forums, such as the Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA). Ultimately, NATEP aims to fund new technologies at small partnerships of SMEs, mid-cap business units with customer participation. A crucial attribute of this initiative is that a business must have an identified end-customer, and thus route to market, for its product (hence ‘customer participation’). The intention is thus to solve existing market failures in supply chain communication, supplier R&D management capability, in addition to providing the required funding to give a product a boost up the ‘Technology Readiness Levels’.
Ultimately, for many small businesses, these announcements represent a barrage of similar acronyms and astronomical sums of money. Where the University of Nottingham aims to help is by taking companies, step-by-step, through the different initiatives, identifying which (if any) would be suitable for a given project, and if required provide academic support as a collaborative partner to a project.
To this observer these announcements appear to be a solid vote of confidence in the industry by the government, and therefore businesses and researchers involved in the industry should be excited. This is after all the best funding environment in Aerospace since the Concorde era!
For further information about how the University of Nottingham can support your business, or how the IAT can support you in accessing funding for your research, then please contact Chris Guest (email@example.com) or any of the team at the Institute for Aerospace Technology.