October 26, 2015, by Herve Morvan

AeroDays 2015, London, UK

AeroDays 2015 ended on a high at the weekend. It was a fitting testament to the buoyancy of the aerospace sector in Europe and the rest of the world, with a good international presence visible; but also and in particular excellent representation from UK organisations. The ADS Group and the ATI should be congratulated for their efforts in organising such a well-executed event, alongside the European Commission and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

AeroDays 2015 has been a great showcase for the UK aerospace R&T landscape indeed. The case was made strongly – across all stakeholders – for the need for sustained investment in R&T. The message was also articulated clearly by the large OEMs who spoke of the benefits of Europe and European funding to the sector.

Michael Ryan of Bombardier specifically argued that without such funding; and the buoyancy of the European aerospace R&T ecosystem; there would not have been the significant Canadian investment in their facilities in Northern Ireland to support Bombardier’s new wings programme. Investment in game changing technologies Mr Ryan argued, was vital to the future of the sector in Europe, allowing us to stay ahead of nations outside of the EU who are fast growing their aerospace sector.

Beyond funding, a major benefit was found in the many collaborations and networks that a European focus had facilitated, an important point at a time when no airframer or engine manufacturer can develop and build an aircraft alone. Collaboration was advocated as a force for good throughout the 3-day conference.

Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport, sent a powerful message in support of R&T and innovation too as she opened Aerodays 2015. She invited the audience to be bold and think far, including business enterprise and social innovation in her remarks; but also to think responsibly. The development of alternative energies and more fuel efficient aircraft is a key part of the drive to reduce emissions in aviation as part of an Energy Union and she challenged the audience to deliver the More Electric Aircraft. She also stressed the need for large R&T initiatives in Europe to be inclusive of the supply chain, to think about solutions holistically, from product development to manufacture and business model. Like Michael Ryan before her or Peter Hartman, Air France – KLM, she stressed the need for collaboration and cooperation too.

The message on Day 1 was plain to hear. There was no need for a Mark Carney on stage or in the audience –Europe received a strong vote of confidence and it needs to work together to think ahead and innovate. For me then I couldn’t help thinking about the excellent blogpost published last week by our Marie Curie researcher, Sara Roggia, on her joint research with Avio Aero and the University of Bari in Italy, as a further example of how global innovation was; and how beneficial it was to have such innovative training and education programmes such as INNOVATE to allow for such learning experience.

Noise was not forgotten and Robert Goodwill, the Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, in fact made it his number one item as he opened his speech. This concern was visible throughout the conference too, with speakers from airport authorities and aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus demonstrating the efforts they are putting into ensuring a reduction of the noise signature around airports. To that effect the case study of the A380 presented by Airbus for Heathrow provided a good indication of the work done and the achievements already made (a reduction of 5dBA) in the context of the current regulatory framework. As Boeing also indicated, reducing the impact on the environment is also about flying better and smarter, which new aircraft with their increased range can allow. Improved routing and air traffic management (ATM) and the provision of a better infrastructure, from airport to integrated transport, were given a significant airing too, with presentation such as those of the Airport 2050+ project for example –it is not all about the aircraft.

2016 will see ACARE reach its 15th birthday and it was therefore fitting to have a session dedicated to listing the gains made over the period. Ric Parker, Rolls-Royce, clearly linked some of those gains to the Clean Sky programme, which was itself heralded as a big success story.

For us Aerodays provided an opportunity to take stock after 6 years of operation for the IAT. Nottingham has played a significant role in Clean Sky whilst we have been confirmed as a Core Partner in two ITD platforms in  Clean Sky 2. Through the latter we will be working with GE Aviation Sytems to deliver wing structures for Airbus Helicopters; working in a consortium led by Meggitt plc to deliver next generation wing ice protection systems for regional aircraft and business jets; and developing technology bricks for power electronics and electrical drives alongside Dassault Aviation, Liebherr, Safran, and Thales in the Systems ITD to enable the More Electric Aircraft.  We have also committed fully to supporting the ATI in the UK in the delivery of their strategy, released in July 2015; we are involved with Rolls-Royce on their high power gearboxes;  we are supporting SMEs such as Romax Technology Ltd by transferring skills and expertise from other sectors; and we are the recipient of significant infrastructure investment to help provide a unique national facility in the area of gas turbine and transmissions research.  It was also nice to see colleagues such as Serhiy Bozhko on stage, presenting some of our Clean Sky research, or see other projects such as the FP7 project E-BREAK on display on the 5th floor of the QEII Centre.

Events such as AeroDays 2015 also provide an important opportunity to meet people and exchange ideas and for us it has been exactly that, in particular due to a strong present from Nottingham, the significant audience the event attracted and the support it received from the larger industry players but also from the authorities and from government and, of course, the R&T and academic sector. It was nice to see colleagues such as Iain Gray from Cranfield or Roger Gardner from Southampton. It was great to catch up with our industrial colleagues from all over the world and to also to host this year’s guest of honour, Canada, at Nottingham, around the conference days, on Monday and Friday with support from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and UKTI Canada. We hope that these discussions will broaden and deepen our engagement with key players in the sector, forming the basis for further fruitful collaborations.

More of my thoughts and on the event can be found on my twitter feed and that of the IAT.

Posted in Director's ThoughtsEuropeFundingIndustry InsightINNOVATER&TSkills