Nottingham co-founds new UK academic aerospace consortium on a par with NASA

The University of Nottingham is among top UK aerospace research universities joining forces to create a national aviation consortium; a single point of engagement for the world’s aerospace community.

Embracing the full aviation spectrum (airlines, aircraft, airspace and airports), the National Aerospace Research Consortium (NARC) will enhance the UK’s leading position within the sector.

NARC will also provide a clear means of communication with equivalent organisations in other countries and multi-national initiatives.

NARC will align itself with the Aerospace Technology Institute’s four technology pillars (Aircraft of the Future; Future Propulsion; Smart, Connected and Electric Aircraft of the Future; and Aero Structures of the Future) with an additional National Airborne Test stream.

“Nottingham strongly supports NARC,” said Professor Chris Gerada, Royal Academy of Engineering Chair of Electrical Machines at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham.

“NARC will be able to capitalise on the complementary skills of each partner to deliver a coordinated approach to impactful research programmes, training and state of the art facilities. It will also act a single point of contact for UK academic aerospace research on-par with organisations such as ONERA and NASA.”

The Consortium aims to create a UK-wide infrastructure of accessible, integrated and world-class research facilities to support each pillar. NARC universities are already working on the Future Propulsion pillar with a collaborative proposal for a network of advanced electric and hybrid-electric propulsion development facilities.

The University of Nottingham, for example, is leading the bid for the first coordinated National Aerospace Laboratory for Future Propulsion. Under the initiative, five core NARC universities with strong track record in electrified propulsion (Nottingham, Sheffield, Cranfield, Strathclyde and Manchester) aim to establish a new facility offering industry direct access to world-class facilities and technical expertise to address the challenges of developing future electrified propulsion systems.

Industrial partners are presently being invited to engage with the initiative to help shape what will be a first of its kind facility in UK.

At Nottingham, Aerospace is a flagship research area where a 400-strong team of leading researchers are playing key roles in major R&D programmes.

Professor Gerada adds: “This is demonstrated by our 10-year involvement in Clean Sky and delivering impact by working closely with industrial partners. Testimony of this are our Rolls Royce University Technology Centres. The University has also recently announced Propulsion Futures as one of its six beacons of excellence with an ambitious aim of developing key technologies for aircraft propulsion electrification. The beacons of excellence underpin the university’s research strategy with a 200m investment over the next five years.”

NARC will also seek to enhance the flow of highly qualified aerospace engineers of the future through closer integration of graduate and postgraduate learning provision. Through the combination of networked national facilities, integrated learning of the highest quality and a central point of access, NARC aims to make a significant contribution to the UK’s presence in the global aerospace sector.

As a founding member of NARC, the University of Nottingham added its support to the initiative. Professor Andy Long, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “The University of Nottingham has an established research track record in more electric aircraft and electro-mechanical propulsion technologies and is very excited to be part of this consortium which is the first of its kind for UK aerospace research. NARC will bring together a core group of leading aerospace universities to work with industry to strategically anchor and attract electrified propulsion innovation activities in the UK and ensure a first-mover competitive advantage.”

The other founding member universities of NARC are: University of Bristol; University of Cambridge; Cranfield University; Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine; University of Manchester; Queens University, Belfast; University of Sheffield; University of Southampton and the University of Strathclyde.

Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, who is acting as co-ordinator for NARC, said: “The National Aerospace Research Consortium (NARC), consisting of the UK’s leading aerospace universities, will aim to directly support UK-based industry through the provision of accessible world-class research facilities, future skills development and centralised research co-ordination. We aim to put NARC in the same league as other international entities, such as NASA, ONERA or NRC, and support the UK as a global leader in future aerospace research.”

Dr Simon Weeks, Chief Technology Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), said: “At the ATI, we welcome a strong and co-ordinated university research base that is able to support the aerospace sector and further develop the UK’s international reputation for high quality research. The NARC initiative, led by a number of the UK’s leading aerospace universities, represents a significant step forward in creating a national entity that can co-ordinate and promote the excellent work undertaken by our leading academic teams.”

ADS Chief Executive, Paul Everitt, said: “The UK science and academic community has an international reputation for excellence across the aerospace industry. Greater co-ordination between these leading universities to more effectively support industrial priorities will add significant value to UK capability. It is great to see this positive and pro-active initiative taking shape and it will help ensure early stage research can move more quickly through to industrial exploitation here in the UK.

“The UK aerospace Industrial Strategy and its focus on productivity, innovation and skills relies on great science research and a flow of top quality students into aerospace careers. The National Aerospace Research Consortium will be a further boost to the sector at this most important time.”