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With the coronavirus pandemic grounding flights across the world, the economic future of the aerospace industry looks bleak. Responding to this challenge, as well as environmental pressures, will require innovation in strategy and logistics – but it’ll also require the development of new technologies. Government policy in the UK aims to support precisely that, by betting on innovative new projects to deliver the transport solutions of tomorrow!

A new government scheme aims to revolutionise the way we travel in profound ways. Setting aside a total of £125 million as part of something called the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Future Flight Challenge, the government aim to make the UK a world leader in aviation technology.

Included in this figure is £30 million being made available by Innovate UK, whose explicit aim is to support “projects that develop integrated aviation systems and/or vehicle technologies that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.”

The list of potential new technologies includes flying taxis and drones delivering medical supplies. While these technologies might have seemed like science fiction not so long ago, the fact is that they’re on the way – and the government looks eager to get them into production as quickly as possible.

What does the scheme look like?

The competition is split into two strands, both of which close on July 1st. The first is designed to cater to smaller businesses who aren’t already working within the aerospace sector, but who nevertheless have something to contribute. To be eligible for funding, projects of this sort must be led by an SME working with at least one other business. Grants for this tier will range in size between £150,000 and £500,000, the overall length should be between 6 and 18 months.

The second strand is for larger, more ambitious projects. It’s aimed toward businesses and consortia who are already established in the sector. Any size of business can take the lead on them, but at least one SME will need to be on board as partner. Projects will be funded for between £500,000 and £10 million.

This is the second of three phases, with the third due to commence in winter 2021. When it opens, it will invite new applications, even from organisations which did not participate in phase two.

What other funding is available?

Government projects like this one are a welcome source of support for aerospace innovators, and they look set to attract new investment to the UK. But traditional models of funding are still available. This might come from high street banks, and other lenders who can provide a business cash advance to promising aerospace projects.

If the UK is to establish itself as a destination for the world’s best aeronautical engineering talent, then it’ll need to not only provide the funding and infrastructure, but also have some success stories to point to. These new schemes look set to support exciting new projects, some of which could potentially transform the way we approach transport.