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East Midlands Chamber News

University provides a glimpse into future of aerospace innovation

Over 60 business people from across the UK attended an event at The University of Nottingham, which showcased innovation in the aerospace industry and explored the future challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

The University of Nottingham is at the forefront of the UK’s aerospace research industry. It currently has an aerospace research portfolio of over 70 externally funded projects, worth over £56m. The University’s Institute for Aerospace Technology brings together a number of internationally leading research groups involved in work on Aerospace Materials, Aerospace Manufacturing, More Electric Aircraft, Aero Engines and Aerospace Operations.

Four keynote speakers took part in the event. Paul Heathcote, an experienced BA Pilot, provided his views about the environmental challenges facing the UK aerospace sector. Mr Heathcote said: “Every 150 tonnes of aviation fuel which is used creates around 128 tonnes of carbon emissions. Building lighter aircraft will help, but the industry also needs to reduce congestion at airports. Aircraft holding on landing and take-off is also incredibly wasteful in terms of fuel and energy use. Aviation needs to work with universities to increase the speed at which innovative ideas and solutions are introduced into the industry.”

Jackie Wildhaber, Assistant Chief Engineer for Rolls-Royce discussed some of the challenges facing manufacturers in the aerospace sector, such as the move towards lighter and more energy efficient aircraft, and said that she believed that there is a need to move towards ‘knowledge based manufacturing’ to meet the multiple challenges that the industry is facing.

Ron van Manen, Acting Programme Manager for the proposed Clean Sky 2 Joint Technology Initiative under Horizon 2020, spoke about the proposed programme and participation and funding opportunities expected for academia, and local small and medium sized businesses to get involved in future research projects.

Dr Ruth Mallors-Ray, Director of the Aerospace Aviation and Defence Knowledge Transfer Network commented about the need to shape a long term cohesive programme of research and development in order to develop world class technology.

In the afternoon, the delegates had the opportunity to visit the Aerospace Technology Centre at The University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP). The £5.1 million 2000m2 Aerospace Technology Centre enables researchers from industry and the Institute for Aerospace Technology, to work on specific projects to develop new aerospace technology and on ways to transfer that knowledge more effectively from academia to industry.

Professor Pat Wheeler, Director of the Institute for Aerospace Technology, concluded: “In the past there were big gaps in the links between universities and industry, and we may have missed out on opportunities. However, now we ensure that our work closely aligns with major initiatives such as the Clean Sky 2 programme.

“Our aim is to cement Nottingham as a world leading university for aerospace research. For instance, we are currently leading on a pan-European project called INNOVATE, which has a strong international, academic and industrial interdisciplinary dimension, with partner businesses and researchers from across the continent. INNOVATE will train the next generation of engineers and scientists in a multi-disciplinary environment.

“In addition, we are working on novel research to reduce the energy used by aircraft besides propulsion, to just one – electrical. We are also leading on ground-breaking work which examines the recycling of carbon composites used in the aerospace sector.”