How can the uk maintain leadership in Aerospace manufacturing?


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How can the UK  

maintain leadership  

in Aerospace manufacturing?

Raytheon UK Industry Debate 

and Parliamentary Reception


2

3

 Introduction



4

 

Peter Felstead



6

 

Raytheon UK report



8

 

Emma Reynolds MP



9

 

Dods research



11

 

Steve Baker MP



12

 

Dods research



14

 

Mark Tami MP



Cranfield University

Contents


3

O

n 3rd December 2012, Raytheon UK, 



supported by Airbus UK and the Royal 

Aeronautical Society, hosted policy and industry 

experts from across the Aerospace sector at the 

Institute of Mechanical Engineers to discuss how 

the UK can maintain its position as a global leader 

in Aerospace manufacturing.

This report not only contains research and 

case studies drawn from the panel discussions on 

the day, but also a series of exclusive articles from 

parliamentarians who offer their perspectives on 

the challenges and opportunities for the UK in the 

race for excellence.

During the day, delegates heard how with 

a culture of innovation, a vibrant research and 

development base and an influx of new recruits, 

who are inspired and enthused by the opportunities 

in Aerospace, the UK can continue to lead. 

Writing in this report, Emma Reynolds MP and 

Steve Baker MP set out their views on encouraging 

children to aspire to a career in aerospace 

engineering and retaining this talent within the 

sector, while Mark Tami MP argues the case for 

greater investment in manufacturing technologies 

to ensure the UK’s future global position.



We hope that you find the research and opinion 

informative.

Introduction



4

Despite a challenging global picture the UK retains its position of ‘true excellence’ in the 

aerospace industry. And whilst government-industry partnerships are to be commended, 

the potential of military aerospace is being overlooked, reports Peter Felstead

O

n 16 October 1908, when Samuel 



Cody took off at Farnborough for 

the first powered flight in the UK, the 

seeds were sown for a British aerospace 

industry that by the time of the jet age 

was leading the world.

Nostalgia, however, can be a 

misleading sentiment. From the post-

Second World War glory years onwards, 

many an aviation enthusiast would point 

only to indications of decline. From the 

controversial cancellation in 1965 of the 

TSR.2 – a potentially world-beating strike 

aircraft – to more recent low points, such 

as the retirement of Concorde in 2003, 

the decommissioning of the Harrier 

jump jet fleet in 2010 and the scrapping 

of the Nimrod MRA.4 maritime patrol 

aircraft that same year – the latter before 

the type had even entered service – 

our proud aviation heritage may have 

appeared to some have lost its place in 

the world.

The reality is that today we live in 

a very different world to when Britain 

had its ‘empire of the clouds’ and that, 

although we have seen the last of some 

iconic aircraft, the UK retains a true 

excellence in aerospace in niche yet 

crucial areas. While the globalisation of 

the aerospace industry now means that 

few whole aircraft are actually assembled 

in the UK, this country remains a world 

leader in the design and manufacture 

of wings, engines and advanced aircraft 

systems. 

Race for aerospace

“the UK retains a true 

excellence in aerospace 

in niche yet crucial 

areas”


Sowing the seeds of success: pioneer of 

manned flight, Samuel F Cody, seated in 

British Army Aeroplane No.1 during testing


5

The UK aerospace industry, in fact, 

remains the largest aerospace sector 

in Europe. It directly employs 105,000 

people and in 2011 had a turnover of 

£24.2bn – 75% of which was exported – 

and new orders worth £28.3bn. 

Global competition, however, is 

intense. Recognising that UK aerospace 

could not sit on its laurels, government 

and industry have combined over 

the last year to launch the Aerospace 

Growth Partnership (AGP) and its 

Reach for the Skies initiative, the key 

purpose of which is to retain – and even 

build upon – the UK’s 17% share of the 

global aerospace market. 

Under the aegis of the AGP, much 

has already been achieved through the 

pooling of government and industry 

funding, including: a £100m investment 

in a UK Aerodynamics Centre to provide 

focus for technical excellence; the 

funding of 500 masters-level degree 

places in aerospace engineering 

to head off any future shortage of 

home-grown aerospace engineers; 

an £80m investment into a series of 

new projects exploring low-emissions 

engine technology; and another £15m 

investment into 11 major business-led 

aerospace R&D projects.

As government-industry partnerships 

go, the AGP has much to be 

commended. It promises to be a truly 

symbiotic relationship that, according to 

the launch document, “brings together 

industry and government working 

together in a deep and joint dialogue to 

secure the future for UK aerospace. This 

is not about the government seeking to 

impose a strategy on the sector; its goal 

is instead to work closely with business 

to understand the opportunities, threats 

and barriers to growth that exist, and 

to identify where government has a 

legitimate role in helping to create long-

term sustainable value for the industry 

and the wider UK economy.”

Yet while the AGP says it will 

also “consider” dual-use technology, 

its focus is very much on civil – as 

opposed to military – aerospace 

initiatives. It is probably fair to say that, 

wherever issues of national security 

are raised, the potential to become 

tied down in bureaucratic knots 

increases exponentially. Add to that 

the contraction of Europe’s defence 

budgets and it is easy to see why an 

initiative such as the AGP is best left 

to focus on the civil side of things if 

meaningful results are to be achieved. 

It is worth mentioning, however, that 

the UK also still retains an excellence in 

military aerospace and that those ‘whole 

aircraft’ that are still produced in the 

UK – the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer, 

the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lynx 

Wildcat helicopter spring to mind – are 

predominantly military platforms.

Investing in future world-beating 

military aerospace technology is 

difficult: it’s expensive and these days 

will probably require multinational co-

operation to be affordable in the first 

place. Military programmes also take 

a very long time to come to fruition; 

hardly vote winners, they’re a long game 

with strategic considerations at stake way 

beyond the commercial ones. And yet, 

just like the civil sector, investment in 

military aerospace can deliver growth, 

market share and jobs, although market 

sectors such as unmanned combat air 

vehicle technology requirement R&D 

investment today if they are to pay out in 

decades to come.

And so, while government and 

industry should both be congratulated on 

their progress so far with the Aerospace 

Growth Plan, it’s worth remembering that 

first flight at Farnborough that started 

it all and, more crucially, the name of 

the aircraft that made it: British Army 

Aeroplane No 1.

Peter Felstead is Editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

“As government-

industry partnerships 

go, the AGP has much 

to be commended”

Computer image of an Ultra-High Capacity airliner designed 

by Cranfield University students: facing fierce global 

competition, the UK aerospace industry cannot sit on its laurels



6

O

ne of the key stated aims of the UK 



Government is to rebalance the 

economy away from financial services 

and to drive growth through exports. 

While Aerospace business is deemed as 

being essential to this, there has been a 

significant decline in the UK’s industrial 

capability in recent years in aerospace 

and also in defence. With this in mind, 

how can the UK maintain leadership in 

Aerospace manufacturing? 

This challenging question was poised 

in an industry panel debate and Q&A 

session hosted by Raytheon UK at the 

Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 

London on 3 December 2012.

Chaired by Emma Reynolds, Labour 

MP for Wolverhampton North East and 

Chair of the recently re-established All 

Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on 

Aerospace, Raytheon’s 75 invited guests 

heard the views of a panel of speakers 

selected from Parliament and well 

respected organisations in the aerospace 

manufacturing sector that included: Bob 

Delorge, Chief Executive, Raytheon UK; 

Simon Luxmoore, Chief Executive, Royal 

Aeronautical Society; Tom Williams CBE, 

Executive Vice President Programmes, 

Airbus UK; Howard Wheeldon, former 

Director of Policy and Public Affairs, 

ADS; and Conservative MP for Wycombe 

Steve Baker, who is also the Vice Chair of 

the APPG.

In the present business climate of 

declining government defence spending 

and rising global competition, the 

debate enabled Raytheon to raise the 

profile of issues in the UK aerospace 

arena and discuss the challenges facing 

UK manufacturing in the current 

marketplace with industry colleagues. 

Technology Transfer & Diversification    

Bob Delorge kicked off the discussion by 

explaining how Raytheon UK benefits 

from technology transfer and diversifica-

tion through its US parent and leverag-

ing existing regional infrastructure. He 

also pressed the importance of appren-

ticeships, STEM and Raytheon’s educa-

tional partnerships with universities in 

the areas of advanced electronics, cyber 

security and defence intelligence. 

“Aerospace in my view is the zenith 

of advanced manufacturing: sustaining 

highly-skilled engineers, generating 

economic value from international 

trade and flowing out cutting-edge 

technologies to other industries,” said 

Bob Delorge, who also touched upon 

government policy, skills shortage and 

skills maintenance, new investment into 

the UK and innovation.

No Right of Leadership

The debate encompassed all the key ele-

ments required to support the UK’s goal 

to remain a globally competitive player 

in aerospace manufacturing. However, 

Simon Luxmoore, Chief Executive of the 

Royal Aeronautical Society, cautioned 

that “a world-leading aviation industry 

has to be earned, by being not only 

world class, but by differentiation and by 

investing in partnerships.”  

Luxmoore said: “This is a global 

marketplace in which we operate and, 

whilst recognising the exceptional 

capabilities of UK companies today, there 

is no ‘right of leadership’; the ability to 

be world class will determine the future 

positioning of the UK in global aerospace 

manufacturing.” 

Skills and Talent

The requirement for skills in the aero-

space sector in the coming years, and 

existing shortfall to those requirements, 

was acknowledged by both politicians 

and industrialists alike. Each welcomed 

the many initiatives that are being pur-

sued by both camps to encourage indi-

viduals, particularly the young, to follow 

a career in the aerospace industry.

Luxmoore described the extensive 

collaborative work that the Royal 

Aeronautical Society is doing with 

its student junior members and with 

universities, and was confident this would 

reap benefits: “The material talent is out 

there,” said Luxmoore. “[In 2009] we 

had 3,000 student members, today we 

have 6,000. Three years ago, we had 220 

students attend our careers fair, in 2012 

we had 840... there are young people who 

are hugely attracted to our industry.”

However, “we must have people 

with appropriate skills,” warned Steve 

Baker MP, “we must nurture and 

Flight plan

Special Report from Raytheon UK: How can the UK 

maintain leadership in aerospace manufacturing?


7

CASESTUDY

A new UK-leading silicon carbide 

manufacturing ‘foundry’ was opened by 

Raytheon in Glenrothes in January – the 

first of its kind in the UK.

The facility is the culmination of 

several years’ research into advanced 

manufacturing processes and materials 

science that will now deliver major 

benefits to new international markets. The 

application of silicon carbide in electronic 

systems will place the UK in a leading 

position to develop next-generation, 

high-efficiency, smaller, low-weight 

power conversion products used in harsh 

environments across the automotive, 

aerospace, geothermal explorations, oil 

and gas, and clean energy sectors.

As well as employing industry-leading 

engineers and scientists, Raytheon has 

made substantial commitments to develop 

new engineering talent to maintain its 

technological edge in high temperature 

silicon carbide – supporting PhD 

students and undergraduates, and giving 

apprentices the opportunity to develop 

their careers.

“This places the company at the start of 

a journey to exploit new global markets 

for this cost-efficient material, which 

is estimated to bring significant new 

business to Raytheon in Scotland in the 

coming years,” said Bob Delorge, chief 

executive of Raytheon UK.

Raytheon’s ability to process silicon 

carbide utilises high-temperature 

annealing and high-temperature/

high-voltage ion implantation. The 

components provide unique properties 

in electronics: silicon carbide has the 

ability to operate at higher voltages and 

greater temperatures than pure silicon, 

and at a third of the weight and volume – 

improving operational performance and 

reducing system operating costs. Raytheon 

is the first company to have successfully 

tested silicon carbide circuit devices at 

temperatures up to 400 degrees Celsius.

“Growth stems from innovation,” said 

Delorge, “and our ability to produce new 

ideas, technologies and manufacturing 

capabilities.”

Advanced manufacturing: Raytheon’s new 

silicon carbide manufacturing foundry

encourage them to study those technical 

subjects.” He added that if that “interest, 

commitment and passion” is not captured 

“they’ll go elsewhere”, lured by the higher 

capital investment and expenditure, and 

higher salaries to be found in sectors such 

as Finance and IT.

It was a concern echoed by Tom 

Williams, Executive Vice President of 

Programmes at Airbus, having seen 

unfilled places on the Airbus apprentice 

scheme this year due to a number of 

applicants not achieving the appropriate 

grades in maths and science, and Airbus 

refusing to drop its standards. 

Government Relations  

and Capital Investment

So what should government do? Baker 

agreed that government must firstly 

tackle the skills shortage, although had 

made some headway in the areas of uni-

versities, apprenticeships and schools.

On capital investment, Baker said he 

was glad that the government is putting 

money into aerodynamics to help the 

industry maintain its leadership. He called 

for greater diplomacy on free-trading 

and supply chains, not merely in terms of 

tariffs, but also in terms of government 

procurement around the world. Britain’s 

greatest export, he said, was its rule of law. 

“I think this is still an excellent place to 

do business ...and I am still hopeful for 

the UK aerospace industry, what it means 

for us and for our futures.” 

Howard Wheeldon, the former 

director of Policy and Public Affairs at 

ADS, said that while we may be getting 

many things right, there remain many 

aspects that require urgent attention. He 

cited among these, “access to finance for 

small and mid-cap companies, attitudes 

towards venture capital, and the current 

lamentable government approach 

towards long-term science and technology 

investment, plus tax incentives for 

investment in the supply chain”.

Trust and relationships between 

government and industry, and 

sustainability of policy, will be vital to 

maintaining leadership in aerospace 

manufacturing, he said, adding, “Britain’s 

manufacturers are certainly lean and 

mean, but they cannot afford to sit on 

their laurels whilst other EU countries are 

preparing to challenge the lead.”

UK-leading technology: Secretary of State for Scotland, 

Michael Moore, views Raytheon’s new silicon carbide 

manufacturing foundry after he offically opened it this January


8

Young children must be encouraged to aspire to a career in 

aerospace engineering – or we risk further exacerbating the 

industry’s growing skills shortage, says Emma Reynolds MP

T

he UK aerospace industry is hugely 



successful. It is the largest in Europe 

and globally second only to the United 

States. 

 It is also an industry which has great 

potential for further growth.  Over 2,600 

aerospace companies across the country 

employ over 100,000 people. With 

proper investment and governmental 

focus, the UK can continue to lead the 

world in the design and production 

of quicker, more efficient and more 

environmentally friendly aircraft. 

 However, there is a key obstacle 

to the industry’s continued success. At 

present, there are simply not enough 

engineers, technicians, skilled workers 

and young people either in work, training 

or education to match the growth of the 

industry. Demand will soon outstrip the 

long term capability of the industry to 

research, design and produce the next 

generation of aerospace products in 

the UK. Companies in my constituency 

describe a potential cliff edge occurring 

in five years’ time.

There are many reasons for these 

shortages. In recent times, the rapid 

growth of the financial sector, and the 

size of the rewards it offers, has attracted 

engineering graduates into the financial 

services industry and away from careers 

in sectors such as aerospace.

Tomorrow’s people

 In addition, there remains concern 

over the number of young people 

studying STEM subjects at all levels or 

obtaining the required skills to train with 

an aerospace company as an apprentice.   

 The result is that although 

large aerospace companies can 

find apprentices, further down the 

supply chain, smaller businesses find 

it increasingly difficult to attract 

apprentices and sufficient numbers of 

skilled workers.

 It is therefore vital that the 

Government works with industry to 

encourage young people to consider 

a career in engineering, specifically 

in the aerospace sector, and takes 

practical steps to achieve this. We must 

for example, continue to encourage 

maths and science graduates to go into 

teaching as a means of spreading interest 

and enthusiasm for these subjects and 

examine ways in which vocational post-16 

qualifications can prepare young people 

for careers in engineering.

 Aerospace companies, schools and 

local authorities all have an important 

role to play in this. A fully integrated 

approach in which a number of 

organisations are working together to 

encourage a greater number of young 

people to pursue a career in engineering 

is highly desirable. Members of 

Parliament can also be key to brokering 

closer local partnerships.  

If together we are able to achieve this 

then the future of the aerospace industry 

in the UK will be in safe hands.

“We must continue to 

encourage maths and 

science graduates to 

go into teaching as a 

means of spreading 

interest and enthusiasm”

“There are simply not 

enough skilled workers 

and young people either 

in work, training or 

education to match the 

growth of the industry”

Emma Reynolds is Labour MP for Wolverhampton 

North East and Chair of the Aerospace APPG


9

survey carried out last year found 



that 86 per cent of senior executives 

indicated that access to appropriately 

skilled workers is essential for economic 

recovery in the UK but more than half 

said it is difficult to recruit candidates 

with appropriate skills.

1

 At the same 



time further survey results revealed that 

engineering careers topped the table 

of jobs employers were having the most 

difficulty filling.

2

 

Against this backdrop, the challenge 



of maintaining the UK’s leadership 

in aerospace manufacturing is clearly 

impossible without addressing the skills 

gap. However the panel at the event 

were unanimously positive that with the 

right action this would be possible.

There is indeed some cause to be 

optimistic. Applicants to aerospace 

engineering courses have increased 

77% in the ten years to 2010/11 and 

those accepted onto first degrees 

increased 57.7%

3

. In Engineering 



and manufacturing technologies 

apprenticeship starts there were similar 

improvements with an 86.8% in the nine 

years to 2010/11.

4

Challenges



However the panel were concerned 

that the pace of progress is still not 

rapid enough. Industry expert, Howard 

Wheeldon, observed that while accepted 

applicants reached 2,351 in 2009 this was 

still 850 places behind France and 1,150 

behind Germany.

Again the panel were unanimous 

that the damage is often done by the 

time children leave secondary and 

even primary school. They argued for 

a focus on inspiring and educating 

children at a much younger age. This 

Reach for the stars

Special Report: Inspiring the next 

generation of aerospace engineers

was backed up by Tom Williams who said 

that Airbus had unused places on their 

apprenticeship scheme this year due not 

to a lack of interest but a failure of many 

to meet their conditional offers. It also 

resonates with figures that show 90% of 

those who fail to achieve the SAT target 

(Level 4) in Mathematics at age 11 will 

go on to ‘fail’ GCSE.

5

Inspiration and Education



Peter Luff MP questioned the panel, 

focussing the debate on inspiring the 

next generation of engineers and 

arguing that primary schools need to 

do “much, much more” to persuade 

children that there are exciting 

opportunities in engineering.

Steve Baker MP agreed, pointing 



10

References

1  newsroom.accenture.com/news/skills-recruitment-

and-retention-challenges-could-threaten-uk-business-

growth-accenture-study-finds.htm

2 www.manpowergroup.co.uk/media/65570/ 

2012-talentshortagesurveyresults.pdf, p.35

3  Ibid, p.125

4  ibid, p.90

5 http://m.conservatives.com/News/News_ 

stories/2011/08/~/media/3E5F83EC3FC64C9

2923CBC7F857AA482.ashx, p.4

6  Ibid, p.82

out that schools are very good at 

“propagandising” when you look at 

convincing young people to recycle or 

reduce carbon emissions so if they can be 

equally enthusiastic about engineering 

the results could be significant. He 

also made one of the more radical 

suggestions for inspiring young people. 

Discussing his love for sky diving 

he struggled to conceive of a more 

interesting way to view an aircraft than 

seeing it rise away from you.

Airbus’s Tom Williams also concurred 

arguing that we need to improve the 

number of primary school teachers with 

mathematics qualifications who are 

comfortable and enthusiastic about the 

subject and can pass that enthusiasm 

on to children. Again the figures back 

this up. It is estimated that up to one 

in six secondary mathematics teachers 

have transferred from another subject 

and 25% of maths teachers have no post 

A-level qualification in related subjects.

6

 



He also urged companies to send 

people in to schools to extol the benefits 

of engineering careers. In particular he 

suggested sending young people from 

graduate schemes as they could be the 

most inspiring and enthusiastic. Airbus 

participates in the Ablaze programme 

which sees Direct Entry Graduates go 

into primary schools to provide regular 

literacy and maths support.

Raytheon’s Bob Delorge was equally 

enthusiastic about engaging further 

down the educational ladder stating that 

“at that age you can hook them and you 

can hook them for life”.

Conclusions

In concluding discussions, Emma 

Reynolds MP agreed that businesses 

could provide a great deal of benefit but 

struck a note of caution about putting too 

much emphasis on companies, pointing 

out that schools must also engage. 

She told of how her visits to aerospace 

companies to talk to apprentices had 

revealed that many had found out about 

the opportunities through friends and 

family, not through their schools.

In her experience, companies 

had been far more enthusiastic about 

engaging but it was often the schools 

which were not reciprocating. Research 

carried out for the UK Commission for 

Employment and Skills found that many 

businesses they interviewed had also 

struggled to engage with schools citing 

examples of not seeing the relevance 

of engaging with business or seeming 

to focusing on areas that related to 

performance tables such as exam 

results.  She therefore recommended 

that MPs could act as “honest brokers” 

in this respect.



11

The aerospace industry must offer competitive pay and 

fulfilling careers in order to attract and retain its workforce – 

or risk losing out to other professions, warns Steve Baker MP

A

bsent the fruits of engineering, the 



sky treats every person equally – it 

provides murderous contempt. 

Yet today, we take for granted fast, 

comfortable and safe transport across 

vast distances at altitudes where the air 

is too cold and thin even to breathe. No 

major armed battle can be won without 

air superiority – a superiority provided 

using weapons of unprecedented 

accuracy, flexibility and concentration.  

We can enjoy air sports characterised by 

exhilaration or serenity ranging from 

aerobatics through cross-country gliding 

and ballooning to skydiving. 

All this is possible only thanks 

to practical, patient and disciplined 

application of physics by engineers. 

Graduate engineers are crucial to 

engineering innovation. Graduates 

should be capable of solving complex 

engineering problems by developing or 

applying new or existing technologies. 

They may promote advanced designs 

and design methods, introduce more 

consistent and efficient production 

techniques or implement improved 

management methods. But, even at 

this level, few are involved in the most 

complex technical activity. Graduates 

must be prepared by their universities to 

appreciate the crucial practical realities 

of manufacturing and maintenance 

engineering.

Too few recognise the ultimate 

importance of technicians: those who 

have an intermediate understanding 

of theory but a highly developed 

proficiency in particular techniques. 

Without technicians to set up complex 

assemblies, precisely mill, turn or grind 

components and to advise on practical 

design, all is lost. Quality production 

Talent contest

is founded on the capabilities of 

people who know how to meet precise 

specifications in practice and who 

can gently correct the impractical 

aspirations of their more theoretical 

colleagues. Technicians will have first-

class foundation skills in maths and 

physics and may be the product of 

apprenticeships.

Engineering also requires mechanics 

and people with craft skills: the aircraft 

can’t fly unless someone does a good job 

of stitching the soft insulation around 

the engines. Every factory must correctly 

label, count and package the products it 

despatches.  It’s time we recognised that 

not every vital person in the engineering 

supply and maintenance chains requires 

the highest academic qualifications. 

There are jobs for everyone in this sector.

The education system cannot escape 

responsibility for producing people with a 

robust basic understanding of maths and 

physics. Employers cannot be asked to do 

the job of schools, which must produce 

people ready and willing to apply and 

develop theory in practice. Sixth forms 

and universities must invigorate young 

men and women with a sense of the 

practical worth of engineering to the lives 

of thousands, perhaps millions of their 

fellow human beings.

People need the right incentives. I 

doubled my pay in two years by moving 

from aerospace to software and doubled 

it again by taking work in the City. 

These price signals matter so the same 

employers who demand more taxpayer-

funded government action must accept 

responsibility for attracting and retaining 

talented people through competitive pay.

Employers must also accept 

responsibility for delivering fulfilling 

careers. That means developing the 

potential of good people through new 

challenges and opportunities, whether 

by offering work improving production 

processes or developing the latest air-

breathing rocket engines. 

The UK is number one in Europe 

and number two in the world for 

aerospace. We have 17% of global 

market share in wings, engines, aircraft 

systems and structures. The industry 

directly employs 100,000 people and 

generates £24.2bn for the economy. 

All that is at risk if our country fails to 

supply people with the talent, patience, 

passion and commitment to excellence 

which aerospace engineering demands.

The sky gives no one a second chance. 

Nor will our global competitors. That 

is the inescapable imperative behind 

the drive for greater skills which the 

Government is pursuing so vigorously.

Steve Baker is Conservative MP for Wycombe and a 

Vice Chair of the Aerospace APPG

“Employers must 

accept responsibility for 

attracting and retaining 

talented people”



12

T

his view and overall optimistic 



outlook for the sector’s future was 

echoed by all participants during the 

panel discussion, but this perspective was 

counterbalanced by recognition that the 

industry needs to remain vigilant against 

increasing international competition 

which challenges the UK’s leadership.  

The landscape against which UK 

aerospace sits may well be changing 

with a decrease in the number of large 

projects coming on line – beyond 

Eurofighter, there is not another 

manned aircraft programme, and there 

has also been concern in some quarters 

that the 2012 Defence White Paper may 

lead to more contracts going overseas.

1

  

To retain the UK’s leadership role, the 



potential to diversify technology emerged 

from the discussion as a principal 

action industry needs to explore, 

whether through lateral thinking about 

composites and components or about 

the vast potential to apply aerospace 

technologies to other sectors.

“Innovative companies can still 

make money by getting smart and 

solving other companies’ problems”, 

challenged Simon Luxmoore, Chief 

Executive of the Royal Aeronautical 

Society. There are a number of parallel 

industries where aerospace technology 

has great applications. Most SME 

aviation companies are looking at 

applications in the UK’s other world-

class manufacturing sectors, he added. 

“Companies need to think laterally”, 

Luxmore argued. “If you miss out on 

a programme you can still move the 

technology in to other sectors such as 

motorsport or marine.” 

Bob Delorge put forward a number 

of examples where Raytheon is making 

Soaring ahead

Special Report: Exploiting the potential 

of new technology in aerospace

progress in cross-sector application of 

technology. The opening of the UK’s 

first silicon carbide manufacturing 

facility on 31 January 2013 will place 

the UK in a leading position to develop 

next-generation, high efficiency, smaller, 

low-weight power conversion products, 

with applications across diverse sectors, 

including automotive, aerospace, 

geothermal explorations, oil and gas, 

and clean energy.

Making aircraft quieter, greener 

and the adoption of cost-effective and 

sustainable manufacturing processes 

will be primary demands for the next 

generation of aerospace technologies, 

all of which will be largely reliant on 

advances in wing and power plant 

design, as well as the application of 

advanced materials, electronics and 

software. Aerospace is indeed embracing 

the challenges of rapid technology 

developments and the UK has a solid 

foundation to build upon, with great 

strengths in wing design, engine 

design and landing gear. Steve Baker 

MP singled out the sound barrier as 

a significant challenge, but also an 

opportunity available to aerospace 

engineers. He also questioned panellists 

whether we will ever have a mass-

produced aircraft? “Will there be a 

Model T Ford of aircraft” he posited.

One thing is clear: access to both a 

highly skilled workforce and a vibrant 

research and development capability 

rooted in UK institutions will critically 

influence the UK’s ability to develop the 

next generation of aircraft capability. 

The UK’s strong aerospace foundation is 

based on the result of significant public 

and private investment in research and 

technology. Collaboration between 

companies and clusters are essential, 

while creating and consolidating 

partnerships with universities will also 

be integral to delivering this vision. 

Specific initiatives are already yielding 

results explained Howard Wheeldon, the 


13

CASESTUDY

The Department of Aerospace Engineering 

at Cranfield University is internationally 

recognised for its research and education 

in aerospace design, aerodynamics and 

control.  It is one of the world’s largest 

centres of university aerospace design 

education and research with 20 members 

of academic staff and more than 250 

post-graduate students.

The Department’s Rapid Prototyping 

Laboratory provides an in-house 

capability for the production of physical 

prototypes and demonstrators.  Facilities 

include a Dimension 3D printer, 3-axis 

CNC milling machine and CNC laser 

cutter, all of which are integrated with 

industry standard Computer Aided Design 

(CAD) software CATIA v5. 

The Rapid Prototyping Laboratory 

supports a wide range of research and 

teaching activities in the university, from 

the manufacture of moulds and cores for 

Uninhabited Air Vehicle structures, to the 

production of wind tunnel models. By 

providing a prototyping facility on-site we 

can produce physical models of design 

concepts early in the design process and 

rapidly investigate different design options.

The Space Research Centre at Cranfield 

University used the Rapid Prototyping 

Laboratory to produce a ‘fit and function’ 

model of their CubeSat satellite, named 

ΔDsat (www.cranfield.ac.uk/soe/

ddsat), that will be launched into space 

in mid-2015.  Cubesats are tiny, low-

cost spacecraft which can be launched 

‘piggy-back’ on larger spacecraft. In this 

case the spacecraft will increase the level 

of understanding of atmospheric drag on 

spacecraft in low Earth orbits. The satellite 

design was modelled using 3D CAD and 

then 3D printed and assembled using 

fasteners to check the fit and function of 

the design.

The laboratory also supports Cranfield’s 

post-graduate teaching by allowing 

aerospace design students to produce 

physical prototypes of their design work.  

Each year, a team of up to 70 students 

on the Aerospace Vehicle Design MSc 

work together to design a new aircraft, 

developing an initial concept through to 

detailed design. The subject of the 2011-

12 design project was an Advanced 

Blended Wing Body (BWB) Ultra-High 

Capacity airliner offering potential as a 

more fuel efficient aircraft for the future. 

The aircraft, with a maximum capacity 

of 850 passengers, was modelled in 

detail using CATIA v5 CAD software [see 

images on pages 3 and 5] and a scaled 

model was produced using the CNC 

machine and 3D printer.

Rapid Prototyping for Aerospace Teaching 

and Research at Cranfield University



Dr Helen Lockett, Department of Aerospace Engineering, Cranfield University

References

1 www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16840170

2  OECD, Science and Technology Indicators, (July, 

2012), www.oecd.org/sti/msti.htm

former Director of Policy, Public Affairs 

and Media at ADS, giving the example: 

“The Aerospace, Aviation and Defence 

Knowledge Transfer Network enables 

new relationships between  business 

engaged in R&D activities, increases 

research technologies and facilitates UK 

aerospace technology strategy.” There was 

a forceful argument from panellists that, 

while not overlooked, these partnerships 

are perhaps presently underexploited 

– as Tom Williams CBE, Executive 

Vice President Programmes at Airbus 

UK pointed out: “We need a broader 

and more diverse approach through 

greater cooperation between industries 

and academia in order to create better 

opportunities in the international 

market”. He added that, “we need a clear 

vision of what the UK is good at and 

make sure we have the right links with 

niversities to make that happen”.

Once again, the government’s role 

in instilling confidence is critical. It is 

not the only area of policy debate where 

industry has called for greater certainty, 

and it is perhaps unsurprising that a 

recurring solution voiced by panellists 

to addressing barriers to growth was 

for strong partnership working. In 

aerospace, the imperative to avoid short-

termism and provide certainty for UK 

industry in research spend was clearly 

elucidated: much of the new aircraft 

technology currently in development 

is based on research started 20 to 30 

years ago and within five years it will be 

too late to ask how we can replace or 

upgrade existing fleets. Meanwhile, the 

outspending ratio between the UK and 

other advanced manufacturing nations 

is already pronounced and growing 

further. For every UK Government 

pound invested in R&D, France is 

spending 10 euros, while Germany 

invests around 15 euros.

2

  



The panel nevertheless presented 

a strong case for the future of the UK 

aerospace industry: with a culture of 

innovation, the transfer of technology 

and a vibrant research and development 

base rooted in UK institutions, the UK 

can continue to lead global aerospace 

manufacturing. 

“Aerospace in my view 

is the zenith of advanced 

manufacturing: sustaining 

highly skilled engineers, 

generating economic 

value from international 

trade and flowing out 

cutting-edge technologies 

to other industries”

Bob Delorge,  

Chief Executive of Raytheon UK


14

Whilst the aerospace industry is a great British success story

more investment is needed in manufacturing technologies to 

ensure our future global position, says Mark Tami MP

W

e can be rightly proud of the 



British aerospace industry. It is 

everything that you could want it to be: 

high-value, high-tech and high-quality. 

The UK is 17% of the global market, 

making us the largest in Europe and 

globally second only to the USA. It is a 

great success story.

However we cannot afford to rest 

on our laurels – many nations would 

like to break into the global aerospace 

market and we must do everything we 

can to ensure that the UK remains at the 

forefront of aerospace design, research 

and manufacture. The sheer industrial 

scale and brainpower that go in to 

producing modern aircraft mean that 

the major players in this sector need to 

be truly global in reach and outlook.

Aviation in 21st century means fewer 

emissions, greater comfort and quicker 

passenger journey times. By simply 

maintaining our global market share, it 

is estimated that the UK could receive a 

£352bn return between now and 2029. 

That’s an opportunity we cannot afford 

to miss.


The High-Value Manufacturing 

Catapult is a good start. It builds 

on the progress Labour made in 

manufacturing. Since 1997, far from 

slipping back, productivity in UK 

manufacturing rose by 50 per cent. 

In high technology manufacturing we 

are now second only to the US among 

major economies. And although only 

11 per cent of our GDP, manufacturing 

accounts for almost half of our exports.

That’s why we need to make sure 

that Catapults work with the market on 

the application of commercially valuable 

technology. We have to make sure that 

public support reduces the risks for 

Innovate to generate

businesses in early-stage innovation and 

our efforts have to be focused in areas 

where there are opportunities for real 

growth.

The National Composites Centre 



in Bristol is a good example of co-

ordinated research into an area that 

holds the key to the future of many UK 

sectors and their endeavours to reduce 

CO2 emissions. We’ve seen over the last 

three years that the research conducted 

in Filton has helped Airbus use efficient, 

lightweight materials in the world class 

products assembled in my constituency, 

Broughton in North Wales. Six thousand 

Airbus jobs in my constituency depend 

on that vision to invest with thousands 

more in the supply chain, and with them 

the long term future of high spec wing 

making in the UK. 

I am glad to see that under the 

auspices of the Aerospace Growth 

Partnership (AGP), industry and 

Government are taking the first steps 

towards securing the UK aerospace’s 

future. The £60m investment towards an 

Aerodynamics Centre will pull together 

existing testing facilities into a virtual 

centre and coordinate Research and 

Technology (R&T). On the skills front, 

industry and Government will jointly 

fund 500 Masters places in Aerospace 

engineering so that the UK has the 

right people for the task ahead. Yet, 

undeniably there is more that we can 

do. I would suggest that a world class 

Aerospace Technology Institute would 

maintain and indeed improve the UK’s 

unrivalled knowledge and experience 

in designing and building aircraft. 

This is exactly what should be right at 

the heart of the Chancellor’s priorities 

for the forthcoming Budget. The 

Government has a duty to invest in our 

intellectual capital so that sectors like 

Aerospace continue to be amongst the 

very best. The seeds of the technological 

breakthroughs made in places like 

Broughton and Filton were sown 

decades ago. The UK needs effective, 

co-ordinated investment now to achieve 

success in the decades to come.

“The High-Value 

Manufacturing Catapult 

is a good start”

Mark Tami is Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside


15

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