Future of Aerospace: Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland’s dynamic and rapidly evolving aerospace ecosystem is shaping the future of aerospace and positioning to take advantage of future technology.
Northern Ireland is a global leader in aerospace technology. It has a dynamic, rapidly growing international aerospace industry founded on a strong engineering heritage that is rich in knowledge, skills and experience.
Companies can benefit from barrier-free access to both GB and EU markets. Businesses can establish themselves in this unique location, operating free from customs declarations, rules of origin certificates and non-tariff barriers on the sale of goods to both GB and the EU.
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Foreign direct investment
Aerospace and jet zero
Sector and market opportunity
Tap into an exceptional opportunity to develop, produce and integrate lightweight structures, connected and cyber-secure cabin systems and advanced air mobility products in Northern Ireland’s award-winning aerospace ecosystem.
Access support from, and collaborate with, regional and national programmes in working towards the UK’s Jet Zero ambitions. Companies can benefit from free trade access to both UK and EU markets, tapping into a highly skilled engineering heritage spanning over 100 years that drives a £1.5 billion annual aerospace turnover.
By 2030, the emergence of entirely new aviation markets in the sub-regional and urban environments is expected.
Northern Ireland has the potential to become a world-leading, specialised hub for the development of drone and advanced air mobility technologies. Estimations value future exports at up to £2 billion.
Work alongside world-leading multinationals in addressing aerospace decarbonisation and increasing aircraft connectivity through the development of:
- novel aerodynamic structures
- critical internal cabin systems
- protective cybersecurity countermeasures
Northern Ireland has a well-established aerospace and aviation industry; home to primes and many innovative companies taking advantage of a long heritage in manufacturing, engineering and a highly capable workforce.
Belfast International, Belfast City and Derry airports offer wide-reaching domestic and international air travel connectivity.
Northern Ireland has a modern road network, facilitating rapid transportation to anywhere in the country with little congestion, as well as seamless transition from north to south with no border checks.
With 5 commercial ports, Northern Ireland has excellent shipping connectivity with additional access to the Rosslare Europort, one of the largest, busiest and best geographically-positioned ports in Ireland to access Europe.
Local talent and skills
Northern Ireland’s talent pool includes:
- 2 world-class universities and an extensive network of further education colleges providing excellent academic and vocational training
- 42.1% of the population educated to degree-level or above - the highest proportion in the UK. Queen’s University Belfast is currently home to over 25,000 students across 15 schools.
- 8,000 people directly employed in the Northern Irish aerospace industry
It is an integral, uniquely positioned part of the UK and is the ideal location to grow your company. Its combination of a business-friendly environment, highly skilled workforce, quality skills pipeline, excellent infrastructure, and unique market access offer a compelling proposition for your business. Over 1,300 international companies across a range of sectors are based in Northern Ireland (NISRA, 2023). The region has a long-standing history of international trade performance, hosts globally recognised universities and offers investors unfettered access to both the UK and European Union markets.
Research and expertise
Northern Ireland is home to world-class innovation and research centres, including:
- Institute of Electronics, Communications & Information Technology (ECIT)
- Northern Ireland Technology Centre
- Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE)
- Ulster University’s Engineering Composites Research Centre (ECRE)
Northern Ireland is also in receipt of City and Growth Deals (C&GD): a series of capital projects driving sustained economic growth. Major C&GD investments include the £100 million Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre development, a state-of-the-art factory of the future.
Northern Ireland offers a resilient supply chain with expertise in key technologies including:
- composites design and manufacturing
- advanced metal forming
- precision machining
- seating and interiors
- design and stress
- tooling design and manufacturing
Enabling clean growth
Demand for cleaner and smarter aviation is increasing in the UK and across the world – Northern Irish aerospace is in a prime position to benefit.
The Jet Zero strategy sets out how the UK will achieve net zero aviation by 2050. It focuses on the rapid development of technologies in a way that maintains air travel benefits whilst maximising opportunities.
The Aerospace Technology Institute’s Destination Zero strategy provides sector-wide guidance on the UK’s aerospace technology strategy to meet 2050 goals.
Local and national government support
The UK is prioritising the development of cleaner and smarter aviation technologies by offering support and funding to projects and companies that meet the requirements of the UK’s net zero trajectory.
Northern Ireland offers inward investors one of the most attractive support packages available in Europe. These packages are tailor-made for each individual investment project. Their tailored support packages include cash grants for capital investments and employment, interest relief and support for a variety of business operations such as research and development (R&D), training and marketing.
Moyola Precision Engineering
Moyola services businesses in the civil aerospace and defence sectors and holds full machining and assembly approvals from companies such as BAE Systems, Airbus, Saab, Bombardier and Boeing.
High investment in technology and R&D has resulted in Moyola having the latest machine tool solutions backed up by world-leading processes. As a result, Moyola is a participant in the Airbus Wing of Tomorrow programme.
Spirit AeroSystems’ Belfast operation boasts a century of aircraft innovation, from the development and application of advanced composite technology to large aero structures, such as wings and engine nacelles.
The company’s patented Resin Transfer Infusion (RTI) composite technology process is used to produce the wings for the Airbus A220 aircraft. This unique process involves dry fibre lay-up and encompasses the receipt of raw materials to deliver complete, integrated and tested wings all under one roof.
Collins Aerospace, an RTX business, manufactures innovative aircraft interior seating solutions. It accounts for an estimated 40% of all global aircraft seating, over 70% of which are manufactured in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland.
The company’s site in Kilkeel currently employs circa 900 staff and is the largest seating manufacturer in the world. The facility is firmly established as one of the global leaders in main cabin and premium seating.
Carbon fibre in Tees Valley
Carbon fibre can help revolutionise wind power and drive efficiencies in aerospace and automotive sectors, and Tees Valley companies are well-placed to make this happen.
Photonics in the South West
The South West is geared up to support the UK’s transport decarbonisation strategy through the design and integration of photonics in connected and autonomous vehicles.
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