By Jonathan Davies

A new £60 million aerospace and 3D printing research facility was opened in Coventry today (Monday) by Business minister Anna Soubry.

The projects, which are jointly funded by industry and government, include work to develop ‘slippery wings’ and boost productivity. Ms Soubry announced them whilst opening the Aerospace Research Centre and National Centre for Net Shape and Additive Manufacturing — commonly referred to as 3D printing.

The minister also announced the launch of a new £10 million competition to find game-changing aerospace technologies, aimed at small firms. This will open for bids next week and is being run by Innovate UK.

Speaking at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry where the 2 new facilities are based, the Minister said: "Government and industry are working together to keep Britain at the forefront of the global aerospace market. We are currently second only to the United States, but there is more to do and it is important that we continue to invest in R&D and develop ground-breaking technologies.

"Demand for new aircraft is at record levels - around 45,000 new aircraft and 40,000 helicopters are needed between now and 2032, worth over $5 trillion. This will provide billions of pounds of work to the UK economy given our leading capability in wings, engines, helicopters, advanced systems and services.

"Getting this right will deliver economic benefit through our large, mid-sized and small companies across the breadth of the country."

The 4 projects announced today are receiving funding from the joint government and industry £2.1 billion commitment for aerospace R&D, guided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). The projects are:

- £7.2 million for Airbus to research ways to remove imperfections on wing surfaces which cause drag — making them ‘slippery’

- £5 million for 5 partners, led by Meggitt, to research how pioneering technologies, such as the Internet of Things, can be applied to aircraft factory production

- £6.4 million for Spirit AeroSystems, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Aeromet to research advanced automated assembly technologies — a factory of the future - to improve the cost competitiveness of the UK supply chain.

- £4.4 million to support UTC Aerospace Systems, working with the AMRC, to set up production lines to manufacture high volume, low cost advanced composite products

The Aerospace Research Centre and National Centre for Net Shape and Additive Manufacturing are jointly funded by government and industry, and were announced by the Chancellor in January 2014.

The aerospace centre will allow companies to develop new materials such as lightweight carbon fibre for use in planes, jet engines and civil helicopters. The 3D printing centre will develop new products for aero-engines and aircraft landing gear, as well as automotive and medical devices.

Chief Executive of the ATI Gary Elliott said: "Seeing the Aerospace Research Centre open and the launch of projects involving companies from within the heart of the supply chain are good examples of the collaboration between Government and industry creating a more competitive sector of enriched capabilities and increased productivity. The ATI’s focus on technologies and manufacturing is ensuring investments are focused and economically sound."