February 28, 2014, by aerospacenottingham
Industry Insight: AGP Technology Showcase
This week (February 25th-26th) the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) held its first ever Technology Showcase – “a unique event to articulate the plan to grow both the UK economy, and the UK share of the global aerospace market through investment in technology” (www.theengineer.co.uk).
The University of Nottingham’s Institute for Aerospace Technology (IAT) was well represented at the event. An impressive exhibition stand, along with attendance from members of the IAT and the University’s corporate partnership team, ensured that we, at the IAT, were certainly noticed by the movers and shakers within the UK aerospace industry.
Furthermore our own Director, Professor Pat Wheeler, featured amongst an impressive line-up of speakers including the Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Simon Weeks (Head of Aerospace R&T at Rolls Royce), Marcus Bryson (CEO at GKN Aerospace and Land Systems), Gareth Williams (VP of R&T at Airbus), and Sir Roger Bone (President at Boeing UK), to name a few. The topics covered focussed very much on the aerospace technology priorities, the specific innovation progress and requirements, and the market opportunities, for the UK.
Professor Wheeler delivered a presentation on the ways in which the University’s Power Electronics, Machines and Controls Research Group (for which he is Deputy Head) transfers its world-class knowledge into industry through industry-led research projects. The presentation served to highlight that the collaboration between the PEMC and some of the largest players within the aerospace industry, such as GE Aviation, is testament to the importance of the University within both the national and international aerospace research and development scene.
So whilst the IAT successfully reinforced its message of being a leading research partner to the industry, what did the IAT really learn from AGP showcase?
Firstly, the mood of the conference was certainly upbeat. As discussed in my previous article, the UK Government is clearly determined to back what it sees as a ‘winning industry’, and its vehicle for doing so – the Aerospace Technology Institute – is already producing results.
For example Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier noted in December the strong British Government backing behind the aerospace sector: “What I have seen with the AGP & ATI has truly drawn the eyes of Airbus”. This confidence shown by the Government has prompted Airbus to open a brand-new engineering facility at Airbus Filton in Bristol. Tim Robinson, of the Royal Aeronautical Society, explains that the new engineering centre, ‘Barnwell House’, “co-locates some 2,000+ engineers in one state-of-the-art facility that features open-plan offices, break-out spaces, meeting zones and is more reminiscent of a Silicion Valley start-up or trendy TV news hub than an old-fashioned aeronautical design office”.
Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of Analysis at Teal Group, in his speech this week at the showcase, provided similarly optimistic undertones to an audience representing an industry that wants to now see itself as being of fundamental importance to the UK’s attempts to rebalance its economy. However, his presentation did provide some cautionary notes, specifically linked to the dual impact of the increasing cost of capital and reducing energy costs as greater fuel efficiencies are delivered (both decreasing commercial airlines’ appetite to replenish their fleets). Nevertheless, this is something for the future, and, for at least the next few years, it appears that the UK aerospace industry is very much set to be able to ride the wave produced by a mixture state support and international demand for its products.