Centre for the future of aerospace opens at Cranfield

The £35 million Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC), which is set to change the way the world thinks about flight, has been officially opened today at Cranfield University.

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Funded by Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Cranfield University, following an award from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Centre will be a flagship facility for boosting aerospace research capabilities in the UK, cementing the University’s reputation as the leading aerospace research institution in Europe.

Researchers from both the University and business partners, including Airbus and Rolls-Royce, will work under one roof. The Centre will be researching ways of integrating advanced technologies to reduce the time from academic innovation to industrial application.

To enable this, the AIRC is equipped with the latest cutting-edge aerospace research technology including air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) laboratories; flight simulators; a virtual wind tunnel; a FANUC robot in the intelligent automation centre; and a 1500 sq m open space work area, currently housing a full-size wing from an Airbus plane.

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Cranfield University, said: “Facilities such as the AIRC mean Cranfield is at the forefront of changing the way the world thinks about flight. Greater integration between research and world-renowned businesses provides us with the opportunity to tackle some of aerospace’s grand challenges by providing the technologies, facilities and skills that are needed to succeed.”

Trevor Higgs, Head of Landing Gear and UK Senior Site Representative, Airbus, said: “We at Airbus see the AIRC as a key part of the growing research ecosystem the aerospace industry has in the UK, and will help us foster closer relationships with research partners and to accelerate and deliver on our research strategy for the Wing of Tomorrow, to make sure our products remain the best in world.”

Henner Wapenhans, Director of Technology Strategy, Rolls-Royce, added: “We are delighted to be a lead partner with Airbus in the Aerospace Integration Research Centre, which will also strengthen the existing strategic partnership between Rolls-Royce and Cranfield University.

“This new Centre will help develop the next generation of highly skilled engineers and will play an important role in developing the innovative technologies needed to enhance performance, improve efficiency and reduce emissions of future aircraft.”

David Sweeney, Director (Research and Knowledge Exchange), HEFCE, said: “The AIRC is an excellent example of the government’s industrial strategy in action, linking research to industry needs which is what the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund supports.  The high-class facilities and the world-leading research at Cranfield University will contribute directly to the growth of the aerospace industry and the wider UK economy.”

Cranfield is the only university in Europe that brings together major aerospace research facilities such as the AIRC, an operational airport and runway on one connected site.