Sky's unlimited for international aerospace research project

27 Nov 2013 11:55:57.267

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The University of Nottingham has secured multi-million euro funding to lead a pioneering research project to create a blueprint for tomorrow’s air transportation system.

The Integration of Novel Aerospace Technologies research project, known as INNOVATE, brings together doctoral students from around the world with 14 industrial partners, including Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation and EADS, and expertise from The University Of Nottingham, led by its Institute for Aerospace Technology (IAT).  

INNOVATE is a €3.8m Marie Curie Innovative Doctoral Programme and will take a multi-disciplinary approach to look at the whole air transportation system, to investigate the core technologies which will reduce the impact of air travel and increase its efficiency.

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Each early stage researcher will develop novel technologies inside each of the core participating Nottingham research groups leading to their PhDs, while contributing to the formulation of the blueprint as part of a team effort. The project taps into the University’s world-leading research expertise in areas including gas turbines, power conversion and electrical machines, additive manufacturing, geospatial sciences and optimisation.

Nottingham is the hub of the project and will be home to all of the early stage researchers; industrial partners will form the spokes and provide technical insight and professional practices, as well as placement opportunities to the cohort.   

The project is timely, as the aerospace industry faces increasing pressure from government and society to meet growing demand for air travel and to develop better performing, greener aircraft, with fewer carbon emissions. As cities develop, there is increasing demand for quieter aircraft. At a higher level, the economic health of a region or country can be influenced by the availability of a strong air transportation system and a strong aerospace industry. The UK is currently second in the world behind the USA. 

In a departure from a traditional PhD programme, students will undertake a placement with one of the industrial partners, all of whom are major players in air transportation.  

The students were recruited from mainly engineering disciplines, but also include mathematicians, computer scientists, navigation or human factor specialists.

By breaking down traditional research silos and creating a new model, where researchers will be working as an interdisciplinary team to meet common problems, academics believe a new breed of engineers will emerge. One of the unique aspects of the project is the way in which the researchers work. Unlike a traditional PhD model, they will not be working in isolation and will extract and develop the technologies from their individual research, which will then immediately fit as part of an air transport system. The project seeks to address this industrial challenge of translating research into innovative, market-ready products.

Dr Hervé Morvan, Director of Research, IAT, University of Nottingham, said:  “Through this new model, we will be delivering a new breed of engineers and scientists who also understand that their expertise needs to fit into industrial systems. We firmly believe that this kind of integrated approach will be critical to delivering innovation to the marketplace.”

Community outreach is also an important part of the team’s work and of such Marie Curie Actions. The team want to create excitement about the aerospace sector and the new technologies coming through at grassroots level in schools in the hope that this will encourage young people to consider careers in STEM ─ science, technology, engineering and maths ─ subjects. 

“We are very aware that in order to sustain the UK’s position as a leading centre for aerospace technology, we need to be encouraging and inspiring the next generation,” Dr Morvan added

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Herve Morvan, Director of Research, IAT, University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 3728,

Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager

Email:  Phone: +44 (0)115 846 7156  Location: University Park

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