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Smart and sustainable aviation in South West England

Smart and sustainable aviation will revolutionise travel and innovative companies in the South West of England are leading the way.

The South West is a global leader in new aviation technologies that will transform the way people and goods move in the 21st century.

This is a unique opportunity to design, develop and manufacture the next generation of urban, sub-regional and regional air mobility platforms. These will use the sustainable aviation fuels and propulsion technologies of the future.

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South West England

Investment type:

Foreign direct investment


Jet zero and green ships, Aerospace and jet zero

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Sector and market opportunity

This is an exceptional opportunity for an investor to plug into a smart and sustainable aviation ecosystem.

It’s a chance to play an instrumental role in the development, demonstration and adoption of emerging aviation and advanced air mobility markets. These will take full advantage of electrification, hydrogen, autonomy and disruptive technologies.

Growth prospects

By 2030, the emergence of entirely new aviation markets in the sub-regional and urban environments is expected.

Urban Air Mobility has the potential to bring about a mass-market solution to urban mobility, using electric aircraft, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), and eVTOL capability.

The decarbonisation of the sector will give companies exciting opportunities to test and validate new methods of propulsion in the aerospace sector.


South West England has a well-established aerospace and aviation industry with a large concentration of primes, projects, start-ups and technology companies.


Bristol and Exeter Airports are both in South West England and offer fantastic international connectivity.

The area also has excellent road and rail links to London and the rest of the UK. London’s Heathrow Airport is 1 hour and 40 mins by car. You can reach London by train in 75 minutes and Birmingham in 90 minutes.

Local talent and skills

The South West of England’s talent pool includes:

  • 5 world-class universities with skilled and gifted graduates
  • 5 elite research organisations devoted to smart and sustainable air mobility solutions
  • 59,000 engineers in aerospace, aviation and related activities

Research and expertise

The region is a world-class research and innovation cluster with facilities including:

  • The National Composites Centre
  • Bristol Robotics Laboratory
  • The Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems
  • The Centre for Future Clean Mobility and the Centre for Modelling and Simulation

The Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation Programme is a research, innovation and skills initiative expected to deliver £62 million of added R&D value. Under the programme, the National Composites Centres and leading South West companies are working to develop and accelerate digital engineering.

Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS)

IAAPS is a University of Bath led £70 million R&I centre focused on propulsion technologies. They recently announced a new green hydrogen manufacturing capability, the first in the South West of England. It will form part of a regional renewable transport energy research hub, working with over 30 cross-sector partners.

Airbus Zero Emissions Development Centre (ZEDC)

A priority for the ZEDC in Bristol will be the development of a cost-competitive cryogenic fuel system required for the successful entry-into-service of Airbus’ ZEROe passenger aircraft by 2035 and to accelerate UK skills on hydrogen-propulsion technologies. The launch of the ZEDC follows the opening of the £40 million AIRTeC facility in Filton in 2021.

GKN Global Technology Centre (GTC)

GKN’s GTC in Bristol is a 10,000 m2, ‘open access’ collaborative R&D centre located in Bristol. It is home to the £54m collaborative H2GEAR programme, which will push hydrogen technology and accelerate aerospace decarbonisation. H2GEAR will lead to the development of the company’s first hydrogen propulsion system for sub-regional aircraft.

Region Spotlight
South of England


The region is home to 21 million people. It offers opportunities across a wide range of sectors from nuclear and aerospace, to life science and new technologies. There are vibrant clusters of expertise spanning 5G, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

View all investment opportunities in South of England

Enabling clean growth

Demand for smart and sustainable aviation is being driven by the UK’s clean growth strategy.

The Jet Zero Council is a partnership between the industry and the government with the aim of delivering zero-emission transatlantic flights within a generation.

There’s also Fly Zero - a Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) project to detail how the UK might best contribute to zero-emission aircraft.

This programme will pull together expertise from several universities and across the UK supply chain in an initial 12-month programme to look at the design challenges and market opportunity of potential zero-emission aircraft concepts.

Local and national government support

The UK government has provided strong support for the Aerospace industry.

In 2020, the government signed off on £200 million in grants to support projects, including the development of high-performance engines, new wing designs for aircraft and ultra-lightweight materials to reduce fuel consumption.

Success story

Vertical Aerospace

Founded in 2016 by Greentech entrepreneur Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical Aerospace is a global aerospace manufacturer based in Bristol, England. It designs and builds zero carbon, vertical take-off and landing electrically powered aircraft.

With access to the best talent from the aerospace sector in Bristol and Formula 1 in Oxfordshire, the team now has 200 world-class engineers and experts, recruited from the likes of Airbus, Boeing and Leonardo.

Vertical disrupts the way aircraft are developed, combining aerospace rigour and discipline with Formula 1’s pace and agility of to develop cutting-edge aircraft.

It is a global pioneer in sustainable aviation technologies, one of a handful of companies worldwide to fly two full-scale all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) prototypes, with UK Civil Aviation Authority approval.   

Vertical recently unveiled VA-X4, the eVTOL aircraft it will take through certification. Capable of carrying four passengers and one pilot, VA-1X is set to be one of the world’s first certified winged eVTOL with commercial operations expected to start in 2025. Powered by Lithium-ion batteries VA-X4 will fly completely emission-free.

Vertical has also committed to building a truly sustainable supply chain.


Ampaire is a global leader in the development of Hybrid-Electric Aircraft, with a particular focus on the regional market, and the retrofit of electric propulsion systems to existing aircraft. Ampaire’s initial series hybrid electric system will cut fuel and maintenance costs by 25% to 30% for small workhorse airplanes like the Cessna Caravan and DHC Twin Otter that seat between 9 and 19 passengers, with no loss in range compared to conventional versions.

Ampaire decided to set up its operations in the UK as it offers an attractive proposition for aerospace companies. It is well renowned for its aerospace excellence, the investment landscape, and support at government level. An added benefit for Ampaire is the forward-looking approach to certification of Novel Electric Propulsion Aircraft. The Certification basis within the UK is already quite advanced, and the development process is eased versus areas of mainland Europe, with the provision of E-Conditions. In particular, the South West of England has an excellent aerospace supply chain, strong engineering talent and plenty of opportunity in the underdeveloped transport links.

Ampaire are the lead partner on the 2ZERO project which will use a holistic systems approach to simulate and physically demonstrate the viability of electric aircraft in regional air transport operations and the changes needed to achieve a scalable ecosystem with demonstrable economic and environmental impact. The 2ZERO project will carry out flight demonstration of a novel 365KW initial prototype of 6-seat hybrid electric aircraft to assess performance capabilities and operational requirements.

The project will also integrate a hybrid-electric powertrain and novel battery pack energy system into a 1MW 19-seat hybrid electric Twin Otter aircraft to prepare for flight demonstration in Phase 3. This would be the largest passenger capacity for which HE flight is demonstrated. Modelling and simulation will be used to optimise flights based on this class of HE aircraft. This research will uncover the system-wide changes necessary for future operations of HE aircraft, including new standards and certification, airport infrastructure, demand management for renewable ground power (storage, distribution, and charging), optimisation of ground operations and air traffic route systems.

Significantly, reduced operating costs and the Point-to-Point route structure will dramatically improve flexibility for airline operators and ease congestion at major hubs by creating viable routes from smaller regional airports.

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