Multi-million-pound aerospace programme celebrates helping hundreds of SMEs take off

Tuesday, 27 June 2023

The University of Nottingham’s Aerospace Unlocking Potential (UP) programme has come to an end, after supporting more than 270 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the Midlands over the past three years.

Designed to help smaller companies develop new technologies and solutions to make aviation greener, the £20 million programme was delivered by the University of Nottingham’s Institute for Aerospace Technology (IAT) and the Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA) between 2020 and 2023, supported by the European Regional Development Fund and Midlands Engine.

The programme not only provided funding for projects but also offered companies unique access to industry experts, academic support, and university facilities that might otherwise have been unattainable.

The past three years have seen us support more than 270 SMEs across the Midlands, with more than £11 million of private and public investment combined supplied to a plethora of projects. But this programme goes further than facts and figures, it’s afforded businesses the opportunity to create and improve a wide variety of new technologies that will take the aerospace industry to new heights.
Professor Pat Wheeler, Global Director of the University of Nottingham’s IAT and Head of Power Electronics in the Faculty of Engineering

Among the companies that have benefited from Aerospace UP is Skyfarer Ltd, which used its funding to develop a prototype system for drone operations that has created the capability to deliver medical supplies to a radius that extends 40km beyond the pilot’s line of sight.

The system is linked to an app that allows the customer to see everything about their deliveries, including position, temperature, and any shocks the payload has experienced. As part of the project, drones were successfully flown beyond the line of sight in remote areas of Wales, marking a UK first for drone operations over land.

Georgia Hanrahan, Chief Operating Officer at Skyfarer Ltd., said: "Being supported by Aerospace UP has allowed us to turn our vision into a reality and create some milestone achievements in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) regulations in the UK. A big thank you must go to the team for believing in us from the start and putting air under our wings, quite literally, so that we can start benefiting the healthcare industry with this technology."

The programme’s successes have been celebrated this month, first at a showcase event hosted at the university’s Jubilee Campus, where SMEs that Aerospace UP has supported presented more than 50 new technologies to the 150 people in attendance. Followed by the Paris Airshow, where a wall display next to the University of Nottingham’s stand with the MAA promoted projects and technologies developed by companies made possible through Aerospace UP. The University of Nottingham’s IAT team also discussed ongoing opportunities available for companies and supported the MAA Paris Airshow networking reception, which promoted and celebrated the strength and depth of the aerospace supply chain in the Midlands.

Aerospace UP has been a flagship programme that is showing the global aerospace industry just how innovative our small companies can be. It’s brilliant that we have been able to work alongside the University of Nottingham to support these companies to develop the new technologies the aviation sector needs for the future.
Dr Andrew Mair, chief executive of the Midlands Aerospace Alliance

Although the programme has come to an end, the IAT plans to continue to strengthen the links it has created with companies across the region and the MAA to create new opportunities for collaboration in the future.

Professor Wheeler added: “What we’ve been able to do with Aerospace UP is establish a flourishing innovation ecosystem that brings together industry, the university, and the MAA and, moving forwards, we can use this as a launchpad for further work in the future. For example, we’re using this as a template for the work we’re doing with the University of Nottingham Italy by collaborating with the aerospace cluster in the Campania region.

“Closer to home, we’re continuing to provide technical services for the Midlands community, as well as access to our world-leading facilities. So, while Aerospace UP may have finished, the relationships and collaborations we’ve forged are continuing to flourish, and this is something I hope will continue in the years to come.”

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Pat Wheeler, in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham at or Danielle Hall, Media Relations Manager at the University of Nottingham, at or 0115 846 7156.

About the Faculty of Engineering

Made up of six departments – Architecture and Built Environment, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering and Foundation Engineering and Physical Sciences – the university’s Faculty of Engineering is home to more than 5,600 students and 800 staff.

The faculty, which has educated engineers and architects for more than 140 years, was the first in the country to be accredited with an Athena SWAN Gold Award for excellence in advancing gender equality across higher education and research and is home to multiple state-of-the-art facilities, including the recently opened £40m Power Electronics and Machines Centre (PEMC).

With research at its heart, 21 research groups are undertaking pioneering projects for a sustainable future across several themes – including net zero transport, sustainable energies and the built environment, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare technologies – and has delivered a positive impact in more than 20 countries. Within those countries, the faculty’s research has supported 500 companies and three governments – that have changed their strategies as a result of its research – and has also directly created jobs for around 3,000 people across the world.

About the ERDF

The project (either has received or is receiving up to) £10,523,967.74 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. ERDF and ESF Branding and Publicity Requirements ESIF-GN-1-005, Version 5 Date published 28 September 2016 Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

Danielle Hall - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Engineering
Phone: 0115 846 7156

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798