An aeroplane with the words zero emission aircraft.jpg

Aerospace and jet zero

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.

Worker inspecting a jet engine.jpg

The UK aerospace sector is the second 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 delivering on the jet zero goal.

Opportunity highlights

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.

Propulsion

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’re developing ground-breaking new technologies and manufacturing techniques, which the industry can capitalise on. Additional focus is to research/develop battery, hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen fuel and sustainable air fuel (SAF) technologies.

Aerostructures

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.

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.

Aircraft systems

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.

Aircraft interiors

The UK’s home to several leading aircraft interior companies manufacturing all classes of seating, interior components and material design specialising in light weight and durable products, providing global customers with the best passenger experience.

Commercial maturity

The UK has a robust and well-developed aerospace sector that has proven its resilience through a global pandemic, turning over £25 billion in 2020, £24.3 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. The Sustainable Aviation Fuels Road-Map sets out how sustainable aviation fuels could contribute to UK aviation achieving Net Zero by 2050.

The aerospace sector is also supporting the UK supply chain to develop new hybrid-electric and electric technologies, including opportunities to develop robust electrical systems and storage and distribution capacity.

UK assets

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.

R&D capability

The UK financially supports a variety of programmes that promote R&D within the aerospace sector, including the Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) project. ZEFI supports infrastructure development for electric and hydrogen aircraft, such as charge points for planes.

The UK is also investing £15 million into FlyZero. This is a 12-month study into the strategic, technical and commercial issues in designing and developing zero-emission aircraft that could enter service in 2030.

Financial support for innovation and development is further bolstered by the Future Flight Challenge. This is investing up to £125 million on advancing electric and autonomous flight technologies to develop greener ways to fly, such as all-electric aircraft and deliveries by drone.

Over £15 million is being made available in the form of the Green Fuels, Green Skies (GFGS) Competition, supporting the production and development of Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the UK.

Business and government support

A range of institutions and partnerships help support the UK aerospace sector. They include the Aerospace Growth Partnership, a strategic partnership between the government and other key stakeholders.

This aims to tackle barriers to growth, boost exports and grow the number of high-value jobs in the UK.

Backed by a joint government-industry commitment to invest £3.9 billion up to 2026, the Aerospace Technology Institute also works collaboratively. It helps the UK achieve growth by creating an ambitious portfolio of research and technology projects.

The Jet Zero Council is bringing together industry and government stakeholders to drive the delivery of new technologies and ways of cutting aviation emissions.

Case studies

Boeing

From 2022 to 2026, Boeing, an American company, aims to double the aircraft manufacturer’s supply chain and create 200 new quality jobs in Scotland.

Boeing and Scotland will explore opportunities to work together and will initially focus on sectors including space, advanced manufacturing and digital technologies.

Spirit AeroSystems

Spirit AeroSystems Belfast is a subsidiary of the Kansas headquartered Spirit Aerosystems. It’ll lead Team MOSQUITO on further development of the Royal Air Force’s Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft concept to full demonstration capability.

Initially supporting more than 100 STEM jobs at Spirit Belfast’s facility, the project has the potential to sustain further expertise in the wider UK supply chain.

Vertical Aerospace

Vertical Aerospace is a global aerospace manufacturer based in Bristol that designs and builds zero emissions, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) powered aircraft.

Vertical recently unveiled the VA-X4, set to be one of the world’s first certified winged eVTOL aircraft, with initial commercial operations expected to start in 2025. Powered by Lithium-ion batteries, VA-X4 will fly completely emission-free.