November 6, 2015, by Herve Morvan

IAT Technology and Innovation Showcase 2015: Director’s Speech

Note: This event took place on 5th November 2015.

I am not going to make the cliché of a joke that I am effectively the last man standing between you and your lunch; for a Frenchman it is already too late! But then again I am also the second Frenchman in a row addressing a dominantly English audience… so I am not sure which is worse!?

I hope that you are enjoying today. I myself have found it very enjoyable to hear such interesting presentations and look forward to catching up with many of you during lunch.

Drafting my talk for today and listening to the speakers today has provided me with the opportunity to take stock after one year as the IAT Director and has led to me reflecting not only on the IAT’s achievements; but also on the future of the sector and the role the IAT can play in supporting this. It is this that provides the foundation of my talk to you today.

Firstly, taking Jean Marc’s [1] talk, we see that delivering innovative and effective aerospace projects is by essence a truly collaborative affair. This was very much the message two weeks ago at AeroDays 2015 in London, with the benefits of such collaborative projects seen as extending far beyond the financial awards to undertake research and contributing towards the creation of a strong cohesive network in Europe.

We have a strong heritage in Europe, as the only university to achieve Associate Partner (AP) status in its own right – in partnership with industry – in the European Union’s Clean Sky programme; and in more recent years, working in partnership with industry to continue this success in Clean Sky 2 where we are Core Partners (CP) in Airframe and Systems ITDs.

We have become a trusted partner in Europe and understand the demonstration requirements, for which we have invested in capabilities such as the ARC[2] and ATC[3] at Nottingham and deployed our academics and a dedicated project development and project management team.

As well as building our reputation in Europe, we have also engaged strongly with the domestic agenda and have contributed to the development and deployment of the ATI strategy. We have representation across five ATI Special Advisory Groups, working across three of the four ATI key value streams, as a provider of key technologies, and in two of the key underlining technologies (Materials and Manufacturing). We believe that the future of the UK aerospace sector, like the European sector, is strengthened by collaboration and we are keen to continue to work closely with the ATI and other Universities to support the future development of aerospace research in the UK and continue to drive innovation.

We have also sought to ensure connections between the UK and European aerospace agendas and have contributed to bringing the UK supply chain into Clean Sky 2 for example.

Looking ahead, we see our role very much as continuing to as contribute to the UK, European and  industrial aerospace agenda, delivering innovative concepts from project montage to technical programmes; and of course in delivering outcomes at the appropriate TRL to support innovation and provide a winning advantage to our partners.

With the ATI we have:-

  • Embraced game-changing technology programmes: for example, working with Rolls-Royce as part of the first £100m announced by Government in early 2015
  • Embraced technology & knowledge transfer from other sectors: working in close partnership with the supply chain as demonstrated in the earlier presentation by Barry James[4] from Romax’s
  • Embraced the UK aerospace research infrastructure challenge: developing a package that brings together the ATI, the University and key UK end users behind a significant investment and the creation of a first national facility of it’s kind at Nottingham

Investment in infrastructure is key to the future development of the UK aerospace sector and as well as underpinning research grants, can also be used to leverage further funding – something which we are working towards at present – and can also be used to serve a larger community which (including academia and industry) when homed in a leading Aerospace University.

Therefore reflecting on previous Annual Showcases at which we have presented what were then  future plans, I am delighted to be able to stand here in front of you and report that these plans, from as little as 2 years ago (we started to define our Europe Strategy 3 years ago) are fast being realised, e.g. with 2 CP in Clean Sky 2. We are consolidating. We are delivering.

A second underpinning principle of the future of aerospace research is continued and strong investment in R&T. This was noted by many at AeroDays 2015 too and was a key theme of the talk by Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport. In order to achieve our collective ambition and deliver innovation to the sector, we are playing our part here too, investing and developing packages of activities in which the risk is shared and which allow for further leveraging of income, with several actors meeting their objectives in the process (This is important). The infrastructure investments I talked about earlier, in Advanced Propulsion Systems (APS), in More Electric Aircraft (MEA) and soon in Manufacturing, are an indication of our own commitment and strategy deployment, with the University committing significant matching investments to get behind our vision and aid in its realisation.

The third key element of the future aerospace research landscape is strong investment in skills development. On the skills and education side, Christopher[5] is an excellent example of how effective education can support innovative and talented graduates, providing a firm foundation for future career development. The IAT has an excellent track record here as reported previously, and I am delighted to announce that we will be launching our second Marie Curie programme, INNOVATIVE, in March 2016. Our Marie Curie programme will see 37 PhD students trained in the spirited, multidisciplinary and innovative environment that is the IAT.

In addition to training highly skilled postgraduate engineers and researchers, the University will also be launching a new UG Aerospace Engineering course in 2016. This course will build upon our track record in the sector and will be delivered in close collaboration with industry, ensuring that we are developing the graduates the sector needs to succeed.

We have a strong, inclusive and comprehensive strategy. We have done a lot this year with consolidation in Europe, engagement with the ATI and the launch of our own, internal innovation programme, MARCh, involving Early Career academics from across the University and planting the seeds for the next round of innovations and innovators.

Our strategy will get refreshed as we cross over into 2016 to account for the latest reviews, with a continued and renewed focus where needed.

We will also be developing strong alliances, in consortia and with other institutions.

We will continue to serve the European and domestic agendas but we will also make sure that we continue to play a strong role in the region, firmly anchoring aerospace and transport technologies in it, supporting the government devolution agenda, and working with the supply chain, e.g. with the MAA.

We will also seek to do further work to develop fundamental science research, ensuring that we continue to feed the pipeline of future technological innovation; bringing new ideas and capabilities to the table and exploiting the disruptive technology agenda too.

We will ensure that all of this activity is closely aligned to the University Global Strategy 2020 (published in Summer 2015) and that we contribute to the institution meeting its KPIs, notably in terms of academic outputs and impact. The two must go hand in hand as much as possible.

The IAT is managed by a tight knit team, in a University which understands the values and benefits of planning and working together.

If you want to know more about our Europe agenda talk to Hitendra Hirani; about our engagement behind ATI and IUK in particular, as an internal or external stakeholder, or if you are a SME, talk to Mark Smith; if you are an industrialist make sure you speak to James Barbour; if you are a Nottingham academic, please talk to Chris Guest; last but not least, Fran Houldsworth on our Marie Curie programmes and our new Programme Manager, Victoria Macfarlane, on everything else but in particular our strategy and forward plans…

Thank you for being here today. Thank you for your support and for the excellent collaborations we share with many of you.

If you are not already actively engaged with us, we hope that you will soon and we look forward to talking with you.

[1] Jean Marc Le Peuvedic, Technical Manager, Dassault Aviation

[2] Aerospace Research Centre, on University Park

[3] Aerospace Technology Centre, on the University of Nottingham Innovation Park

[4] Barry James, CTO, Romax

[5] Christopher Payne, Nottingham Alumni and Technical Services Representative at N3 Engine Overhaul Services, a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Lufthansa Technik, Arnstadt, Germany.

Posted in Director's ThoughtsEuropeFundingR&TSkills