Following the result of the UK’s referendum on EU membership, the UK government is likely to be locked up for the next two years with issues surrounding negotiating and enacting the country’s withdrawal from the EU.
In this environment, the UK aerospace sector needs to maintain growth and ensure we receive government attention without being tied up in endless conversations about the processes of Brexit.
Aerospace and space activities are, by their nature, international and UK businesses and research organisations are integral to many major, cross-border programmes.
For instance, we must stay involved in CleanSky, an aeronautical research programme to create more fuel efficient aircraft and a partnership between the European Commission and the European aeronautics industry, including companies such as Airbus and Rolls-Royce. We are core contributors to the Horizon 2020 programme and through the ACARE (Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe) working group, shaping a research vision for 2050.
Our role in the European Space Agency (ESA) enabled British astronaut Tim Peake to be part of a six-month mission to the International Space Station, stimulating excitement about and interest in space sciences amongst children and adults alike and acting as an ambassador for the British space industry, currently worth at least £10-billion. Cranfield plays a strong learning and research role in space engineering and automation and we must continue to be engaged with the ESA.
Here, at Cranfield University we are looking at leveraging our considerable assets and facilities to make a major addition to research and development in the aerospace sector. Our new Aerospace Integration Research Centre will open at the end of 2016. This new facility places an emphasis on collaborative working and the integration of new technologies, aircraft solutions within their wider systems or the integration of programmes and their management. This means researchers and students will benefit from a close relationship with major industrial players to address and solve more effectively challenges which will be faced by the sector in the future.
We need to ensure our continuing involvement with these programmes over the next few years, and beyond but during this time we need to ensure the UK government reinforces its support and funding to the rest of UK aerospace industry’s future needs and ensure it remains a key driver in our country’s economic growth.
The UK is not in a position to do this work on our own. Collaboration is key across companies, across universities, across Europe and across international boundaries.
Now, more than ever we need to continue to work with other European countries and not become myopic, looking only to our geographical borders. Aerospace research is international and we need to play a strong part in it to secure our future skills and capability in a competitive market.