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Leading universities unite to strengthen UK aerospace sector

[From left to right] Brian Falzon, Queens University Belfast; Andrew Long, University of Nottingham; Iain Gray, Cranfield University; Jonathan Cooper, University of Bristol; Roger Gardner, University of Southampton and Christopher Gerada, University of Nottingham

23 July 2018

The University of Bristol is a founding member of a national consortium of leading aerospace universities that will provide the global aerospace community with a centralised point of engagement to the UK’s top university aerospace research capabilities.

Embracing the full aviation spectrum (airlines, aircraft, airspace and airports), the National Aerospace Research Consortium (NARC), announced at Farnborough International Airshow last week [Wednesday 18 July], will enhance the UK’s already leading position within the sector and provide a clear means of communication with equivalent national organisations and multi-national initiatives.

NARC will align itself with the Aerospace Technology Institute's established 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.

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."

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, added: "As one of the UK's leading aerospace research universities, the University is delighted to be a founding member of the National Aerospace Research Consortium (NARC). This initiative is an excellent way for the UK's top universities to work together to provide the UK aerospace industry with access to world-leading research expertise, skills and facilities together with talented young research engineers."

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

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 is aiming to make a significant contribution to the UK’s presence within the aerospace sector.

Aerospace Engineering at Bristol is one of the leading departments in the UK and is known for its work in fluids and aerodynamics, dynamics and composites.  The department has strong links with industry, including Airbus and Rolls-Royce, and works closely with colleagues in Computer Science and Electrical Energy Management.  These areas of expertise will enable the University to make a positive contribution to NARC activities across all the industrial needs ATI has identified.

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

Further information

The National Aerospace Research Consortium (NARC) was launched on Wednesday 18 July 2018 at the Farnborough International Airshow.

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 coordination, putting it on-par with other international entities (such as NASA, ONERA or NRC) and supporting the UK as a global leader in relevant aerospace research. 

NARC Objectives

The NARC will:

  • Work in partnership with industry, research councils and government seek to create a UK-wide infrastructure of accessible, integrated and world-class university strategic facilities (National Aerospace Laboratories) that align with industry priority needs.
  • Create a future aerospace technology skills base that aligns with priority needs through integrated graduate and postgraduate learning provisions that will enable students to develop world-class expertise within the UK so that they may provide industry and academia with the next generation of technical capability.
  • Actively promote and engage with the global aerospace industry to promote the UK's research capability, enabling collaborative research and inward investment.
  •  Provide a single point of contact for equivalent national bodies aerospace bodies (NASA, ONERA etc) operating in close proximity to the ATI, EPSRC, leading UK and industry consortia. 

The NARC will focus on the priority needs of the UK industry as identified by ATI and others:

  • Future Propulsion
  • Aircraft of the Future
  • Smart, Connected and Electric Aircraft
  • Aero Structures of the Future
  • National Airborne Test and Research
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