The UK government has today announced an investment of £113 million into new zero-carbo technologies such as electric flying taxis and hydrogen powered aircraft.

Through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme, funding will go to the following projects:

  • Hydrogen Engine System Technologies (HYEST) led by Rolls-Royce – £14.8 million project to develop technologies and sub-system architecture for the combustor element of a liquid hydrogen gas turbine
  • Robustly Achievable Combustion of Hydrogen Engine Layout (RACHEL) led by Rolls-Royce – £36.6 million project to develop key technologies and integrated powerplant architecture for a liquid hydrogen gas turbine
  • Liquid Hydrogen Gas Turbine (LH2GT) led by Rolls-Royce – £31.4 million project to develop technologies for the delivery of a liquid hydrogen fuel system for a hydrogen gas turbine
  • Category Enhanced Battery Development (CEBD) led by Vertical Aerospace – £30.8 million focused on developing a prototype propulsion battery system for aerospace applications, including as part of Vertical Aerospace’s electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft

The ATI Programme most recently saw the maiden flight of Zeroavia’s hydrogen fuel cell-powered 19-seater aircraft in January.

The Department for Transport is launching a Call for Evidence seeking views from the sector on how to reach the target for airport operations in England to be zero emissions by 2040. The target was set as part of the government’s Jet Zero Strategy, launched in July last year.

The moves are part of the government’s Jet Zero Strategy. It commits UK domestic aviation to achieving net zero emissions by 2040, and for all airports in England to be zero-emission by the same year.

The strategy has six priority areas:

  • Improving the efficiency of our existing aviation system, from aircraft to airports and airspace.
  • Increasing support for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), by creating secure and growing UK SAF demand through the SAF mandate..
  • Supporting the development of zero-emission aircraft, with the aspiration of having zero-emission routes connecting places across the UK by 2030.
  • Developing carbon markets and greenhouse gas removal technologies to drive decarbonisation and offset any residual emissions, including by enhancing the UK Emission Trade Scheme (UK ETS).
  • Providing consumers with better information so they can make sustainable aviation choices at the time of booking
  • Increasing the understanding of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, such as contrails and nitrogen oxides.

The Jet Zero strategy builds on the Prime Minister’s Net Zero strategy, the UK’s economy-wide plan for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, as well as the Transport decarbonisation plan, which outlines the commitments and actions needed to decarbonise the entire transport system.

It also coincides with the EU’s plans in this area – see What is ‘Fit for 55’ and how does it affect aviation?

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Guilt-free flying is within our reach, and we are backing the world-leading UK firms whose skills and ingenuity are going to make that dream a reality. As the whole world moves to greener forms of aviation, there is a massive opportunity for the UK’s aerospace industry to secure clean, green jobs and growth for decades to come. Together with the companies that share our ambitions, we are determined to seize this moment.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: ”The Jet Zero Council is helping to define the future of flying – one that’s more optimistic about the sector’s environmental impact while putting UK innovation at the forefront of international aviation. As well as developing the next generation of aircraft, it’s also crucial we make the sector greener on the ground, and the call for evidence we’re launching today will help us gather evidence on how airports can reach zero emissions by 2040.”

The investment was announced at the seventh meeting of the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between government and industry that’s been set up to fast-track ambitions for zero-emission flight by 2050 through investment and focus on advanced technologies and sustainable aviation fuels, as laid out in the Jet Zero Strategy. The Council is leveraging the UK’s world-leading aerospace and aviation sectors, which pre-pandemic employed 230,000 people in the UK and contributed £22 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy, to effectively tackle emissions while encouraging growth and green innovation.

Jet Zero Council CEO Emma Gilthorpe, Chief Operating Officer at Heathrow Airport, said:“The launch of the Jet Zero Strategy last year was a key milestone on the path to decarbonising aviation, and it’s fantastic to see the progress that has been made since then, such as on boosting the UK’s SAF industry and with the International Civil Aviation Organisation aiming to reach net zero by 2050. This investment, and the launch of the Call For Evidence on how airports in England can reach zero emissions by 2040, are another vital part of that journey and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners in industry and government to define the future of flying.”

Today’s meeting took place at Boeing’s London offices. In the UK, Boeing employs a highly-skilled workforce of over 3,000 people across 30 key locations and spends nearly £2 billion a year in the supply chain on high-value aerospace export parts.

Maria Laine, president of Boeing in the UK, Ireland and Nordic region, said:

“The meeting comes after significant developments in the government’s SAF programme. At the end of last year, five companies were awarded a share of the Department for Transport’s £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund, with projects from Teesside to Ellesmere Port receiving funding to build plants that will convert household and industrial waste into jet fuel.”

Virgin Atlantic will also receive government funding to complete the first ever net zero transatlantic flight on 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The flight from London to New York will take off from the UK this year.

The ATI Programme co-funds industry-led innovation in civil aerospace technology and manufacturing, supporting the development of next generation zero carbon and ultra-efficient aircraft, while growing the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace. It is open to UK businesses of any size to undertake aircraft technology and manufacturing research, aligned to the UK Aerospace Technology Strategy.

Alongside the main Strategic Programme, it will also run 2 funding streams targeted at delivering tailored support and mentoring to SMEs. The Spending Review 2021 allocated a record £685 million of government funding to the ATI Programme over 3 years, an increase of more than 50%. Grant winners are chosen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Innovate UK and the ATI.