A new UK industry consortium named ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) has been established with the aim of developing composite material and process technologies for the next generation of energy-efficient aircraft and future mobility, and accelerating their introduction to market.
The consortium has a £40 million (US$55.8m) fund, including a £20.0 million (US$27.9m) commitment from industry and a £19.6 million (US$27.3m) commitment from the UK Government via ATI (the Aerospace Technology Institute). ASCEND will focus on encouraging the greater adoption of composite technologies, the industrialisation of new technologies, as well as accelerating aerospace production rates to meet future high-volume requirements. The collaboration aims to help develop technologies from across the UK supply chain to develop the advanced materials and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight structures for the sustainable air mobility, aerospace and automotive industries.
GKN Aerospace is leading the consortium, with members including Assyst Bullmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, Des Composites, FAR-UK Ltd, Hexcel Composites, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, the National Composites Centre, Rafinex, Sigmatex (UK) and Solvay Composite Materials, with collaboration and investment support from Axillium Research.
Through a three-year commitment, the partnership, backed by the UK government, will bring together expertise, capabilities and resources from across the wider UK aerospace and automotive supply chain. ASCEND intends to strengthen the UK’s position as a technology leader in future lightweight structures and to help reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions in the aerospace and automotive industries.
The consortium will be led from GKN Aerospace’s £32 million Global Technology Centre in Bristol and will support up to 130 jobs through 2023/24. GKN Aerospace will use its experience and knowledge of composite engineering for integrated airframe structures throughout the project.
John Pritchard, president of the civil airframe division at GKN Aerospace said, “Accelerating the next generation of lightweight, cost-effective advanced composite technologies is critical for the aerospace and automotive industries and its move to more energy-efficient aircraft and vehicles. Ensuring we can not only develop these technologies, but also manufacture them at a high rate across the UK supply chain, will maintain our position as an industry leader and underpin our commitment to sustainability. Combined with the ATI, which is providing vital support for the UK’s position on the next generation of aircraft, we will be able to deliver breakthroughs in technology as well as benchmark levels of price, quality and repeatability.“