The UK’s aerospace manufacturing sector is to receive a £90 million cash boost, according to an announcement from the government.

The funds will come from a mix of public and private sources, via the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme.

Automation and additive manufacturing (3D printing, which is increasingly being used with metals in the aerospace and automotive sectors) are among the technologies being backed by the investment.

It comes ahead of consultation on the government’s Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy later this year.

The money could help “secure” 1,400 jobs across the UK, according to the government. However, it is not clear if any of these are new positions, or jobs that are being saved by an investment in more competitive production lines.

In total, five major projects to improve manufacturing in aerospace will benefit from the money, developing technologies to make production lines faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective.

They are:

  • GKN Aerospace-led ASCEND in Bristol. With McLaren Automotive joining the consortium, the project seeks to develop new lightweight, composite technologies for the aerospace and automotive sectors, including parts for aircraft wings. It also aims to improve supply chains for more sustainable mobility.

Alongside its well-known automotive interests, McClaren has research interests in robotics and AI.

  • Renishaw-led LAMDA, in Gloucestershire. This project will develop a 3D metal printing machine to mass-produce smaller components for aircraft, increasing production and consistency while reducing costs. Manufacturing itself will take place in South Wales.
  • Q5D-led LiveWire in Somerset. The venture aims to create a machine that can automate the manufacture of wiring and embed it into aircraft parts, including airline seats and flight desk control panels, reducing costs and introducing lighter, higher-quality components.
  • Airbus-led Smarter Testing, in Filton. The programme aims to develop a novel test and certification process for aeronautical structures, combining virtual and physical tests to provide a step reduction in development lead-times and costs.
  • Thales-led COREF (Connected Reconfigurable Factory), based in Crawley and Belfast. This project will focus on Industry 4.0 smart tools and processes for low-volume, high-complexity manufacturing, creating two open-access, digitally connected innovation laboratories.

Minister for Business Paul Scully said, “This multimillion-pound cash injection will safeguard vital jobs and support the aerospace sector as it builds back stronger after the pandemic.

“Manufacturing is at the very heart of UK industry, and innovative processes will ensure that the UK is at the forefront of global efforts as we develop technology that can power a green aviation revolution.

“A particular focus of the project proposals is on creating lightweight materials and parts that will reduce how much fuel is used and that can be adopted onto future hybrid and electric planes.

“This will help the wider aerospace industry build back greener as it innovates and adapts to more sustainable travel over the next few decades.”

Aviation Minister Robert Courts added, “Net Zero aviation is the future, and this cash injection will boost capabilities as we look to build back greener and make businesses sustainable.

“We are committed to working closely with industry, including through the Jet Zero Council, to accelerate the development of new aviation technology and Sustainable Aviation Fuels to help us realise net zero flight.”