The UK has a dynamic, innovative aerospace sector and is positioning itself to stay at the forefront of new aviation technologies by pushing forward with low carbon travel.
Aerospace and jet zero
The UK aerospace sector is one of the largest in the world. Capable of delivering whole-aircraft capability, we have expertise in aerostructures, composite material manufacture, propulsion, critical aircraft systems, aircraft interiors and through-life services.
Capability is spread throughout the UK, with 88% of aerospace jobs being located outside London and the South East.
As the sector accelerates its transition to cleaner, greener technologies to meet the government’s net zero commitments, its future global success depends on implementing the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan and the Jet Zero strategy to achieve net zero aviation by 2050.
Full aircraft capability
UK aerospace capability ranges deep and wide; whatever the requirement, the UK has the right knowledge and skills.
Continuous foreign direct investment helps to maintain the latest technologies and developments, which equates to opportunities offering significant export potential.
In addition to global engines leader Rolls-Royce, the UK has innovative suppliers such as JJ Churchill, Castle Precision Engineering, and many other SMEs.
They are developing ground-breaking new technologies and manufacturing techniques, which the industry can capitalise on. Focus is increasingly given towards zero-carbon emission technologies.
The industry can take advantage of a robust supply chain of Tier 1s such as GKN and Spirit AeroSystems, who make the leading/trailing edge and full composite wings for Airbus platforms who also have significant presence in the UK.
Several Tier 2 component and small assembly companies help maintain the UK’s leading position in design and manufacturing, investing in the next generation of lightweight aerostructures.
Delivering complete system requirements across the aircraft, UK industry has capability in avionics, landing systems, control systems and cabin systems, from air conditioning to in-flight entertainment.
The UK’s home to several leading aircraft interior companies manufacturing all classes of seating, interior components and materials specialising in light weight and durable products, providing global customers with the best passenger experience.
The UK has a robust and well-developed aerospace sector that has proven its resilience through a global pandemic, turning over £22.4 billion in 2021, £15.2 billion of which was exported.
The British aerospace industry is pioneering sustainable development with hydrogen and other fuel sources being trialed to help decarbonise the industry.
Key aerospace clusters can be found in the Midlands, the North West, the South West, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
Important assets are driving green innovation forward:
High-value manufacturing catapults
Catapults are located across the UK, developing sustainable innovation-driven solutions for the aerospace sector.
Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre at Cranfield University
The centre’s projects drive innovations in digital airspace and airport infrastructure that will help the UK reach its target of net zero carbon emissions. Cranfield is one of the few universities in the world with its own airport.
Rolls-Royce Research and University Technology Centre
A global network that tackles a wide range of engineering and environmental disciplines, from combustion and aerodynamics to noise and manufacturing technology.
UK Aerospace Research Consortium (UK-ARC)
UK-ARC has been created to help organisations identify and engage with the UK’s best aerospace research capability within its leading universities.
UK Global Technology Centre
The UK Global Technology Centre is the result of a joint £32 million investment between GKN Aerospace and the UK government. Its missions range from the development of advanced capabilities for highly rated aerospace manufacturing, to training and developing the UK aerospace technical community.
Supply Chains for the 21st Century (SC21)
SC21 is an improvement programme designed to accelerate the competitiveness of the aerospace and defence industry by raising the performance of its supply chains. Launched 14 years ago, it’s grown into the largest supply chain improvement programme in the UK aerospace and defence sector.
The UK financially supports a variety of programmes that promote R&D within the aerospace sector. This includes £685 million through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme over the next 3 years to support the development of new ultra-efficient and zero-carbon aircraft technologies.
The government also funded a £3 million research project on Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) in 2021 to 2022 to support airport preparations for the advent of new aircraft. Findings of the work were published in March 2022.
Financial support for innovation and development is further bolstered by the Future Flight Challenge. This is investing up to £125 million to develop the future air transport system to accelerate new classes of advancing electric, hydrogen and autonomous vehicles.
Support for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) development in the UK
In recent years, the government has introduced a world-leading programme to support the use and production of SAF within the UK. This includes a commitment to introducing a SAF mandate by 2025, with a target of at least 10% SAF in the UK fuel mix by 2030, and the launch of the £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund to kickstart a domestic SAF industry by supporting the development of first-of-a-kind commercial-scale plants. This will also drive our ambition to have at least 5 commercial-scale plants under construction in the UK by 2025.
We have also committed £12 million for a UK SAF Clearing House, which will support testing and certification of SAF for use and launched the net zero transatlantic flight fund. This £1 million grant funding competition will support the delivery of the first net zero transatlantic flight running on 100% SAF by the end of 2023.
Business and government support
In July 2022, we published the Jet Zero Strategy, which set out government’s approach and framework for achieving UK net zero aviation. Alongside the strategy, we published the Jet Zero Investment Flightpath (JZIF) which:
- highlights the opportunities for private investment in the UK’s aviation decarbonisation sector across system efficiencies, SAF and ZEF
- summarises the key government commitments as set out in the Jet Zero Strategy
- sets out clear milestones for government and industry to catalyse on and offering rewarding investment opportunities in major growth markets
A range of institutions and partnerships help support the UK aerospace sector. They include:
Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP)
AGP is a strategic partnership between government and the UK aerospace industry to tackle barriers to growth, boost exports and grow the number of high-value jobs in the UK. It launched a new strategy ‘Destination Net Zero’ during Farnborough International Airshow 2022.
Jet Zero Council
This advisory forum brings together senior industry and government stakeholders to drive the delivery of new technologies and ways of cutting aviation emissions.