Help for British SMEs leading the way on net zero air travel

British aerospace SMEs are poised to benefit from a new funding programme announced by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

This programme allocates £10 million annually for UK-based small and medium-sized enterprises to support their innovative research projects.

Industry Minister Nusrat Ghani unveiled the ATI SME Programme at the ATI’s 2023 Conference in Birmingham on 14th November, a collaboration between the ATI and Innovate UK.

Nusrat Ghani stated: “I’m delighted to announce the new ATI SME Funding Programme, which will help propel our world-leading aerospace sector to new heights in the pursuit of innovative, clean, green air travel. UK aerospace businesses, with their expertise and innovation, are helping drive the industry on its journey to net zero by 2050, and in the process are helping us grow the UK economy and support high-skill, high-wage jobs.”

ATI CEO Gary Elliott commented: “We know from the success of the ATI Programme that supporting advanced technologies secures market share for the UK, bringing economic benefit and delivering against the sector’s sustainability commitments on our journey to Destination Zero. By connecting capability and funding technology development, the SME Programme will benefit organisations of all sizes across the nations and regions of the UK.”

The programme, opening for applications in February 2024, aims to support SMEs in developing technologies that align with the Government's Jet Zero commitment. This commitment strives for net zero carbon emissions in commercial aircraft by 2050 while maintaining the competitiveness of the UK’s aerospace industry in sustainable design and operation.

SMEs can apply for grants of up to £1.5 million each, aiming to enhance high-skilled jobs throughout the industry in the UK. The initiative also builds on the Government’s ongoing support for UK aerospace R&D, as evidenced by the £685 million provided for the ATI Programme in 2022.

Support for participants in the SME programme will be facilitated by the ATI Hub, offering sessions with ATI technologists, innovation workshops, and pitch-panel presentation guidance. The ATI Hub also fosters connections among startups, SMEs, larger companies, and tier one organisations, potentially leading to consortia applications.

The ATI Programme, a joint government-industry investment, aims to competitively fund research and technology development in the UK, maintaining and enhancing the country's position in civil aerospace and accelerating the transition to net zero aviation.

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) supports the aerospace sector through various initiatives, including funding for the ATI Programme, the Aerospace Growth Partnership sector council, the Destination Zero strategy for aerospace, and support for airline sales campaigns. The new SME scheme will be funded through the ATI Programme.