Cranfield University has been awarded £1.2 million to create a UK Aviation Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship cluster, named AVIATE+, aimed at helping small businesses develop the technology of the future.
One of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZ), Cranfield will use its expertise in this area to support start-ups and SMEs with specialist facilities, programmes and collaborations.
Professor Tom Stephenson, pro-vice-chancellor of research and innovation at Cranfield University, said: “Aerospace has been identified by the UK Government as being strategically important to our economy, yet there is a lack of specialist business incubators for this sector. With technology developing at pace, including drones and electric-powered flight, we are now in an ideal position to accelerate innovation in aviation. We’re delighted to support small firms who have high-growth potential in this sector, and bring to fruition the technology of tomorrow.”
Cranfield University already has the Cranfield Eagle Lab, supported by Barclays, on site. This is a business incubator for early-stage companies supported by the Royal Aeronautical Society, Garfield Weston Foundation and aerospace industry partners. The new UEZ funding will build on this offer and create more grow-on space for businesses with new workshops and aviation facilities with capacity for large components and data connectivity.
The Aerospace sector provides over 120,000 highly skilled jobs in the UK, and will receive up to £125 million in Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund public investment, through the Future Flight programme.
20 UEZs have been launched by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, to strengthen ties between universities and businesses. Alongside this, investment of £78 million is going into the second wave of UK Research and Innovation’s Future Leaders Fellowships.
Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and Bedfordshire has a thriving ecosystem of local businesses and entrepreneurs whose creativity and determination help underpin the UK’s position as a leading innovator.
“Alongside this, many of Bedfordshire’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world.
“This funding will not only help local scientists take their ideas from lab to market – but will also support an enterprise hub at Cranfield University. Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the UEZs will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital stepping stone to succeed.”