Research centres are the bridge between academia and industry

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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So far, 113 research organisations from 21 countries have taken part in Clean Sky’s projects. Their role within our ecosystem is vital – on top of initiating and developing their own new technical proposals, they act as incubators, taking ideas and concepts that have been developed through academia and transforming them into technologies that have useful applications for industry and subsequently, society.

Axel Krein is the Executive Director of Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking.

Research centres often bridge the gap between academic concepts and real-world solutions – and that is why they are an integral part of the Clean Sky Programme. They are skilled at identifying the best routes for technology transfer, opening up conversations around the potential of academic concepts for industrial use and investigating the most promising possibilities.

An additional value of research centres is that they bring expertise and knowledge from other sectors to the fore. A research centre might house experts in laminar flow technologies, or thermoplastics, or 3D printing, which might be used in another context but can be applied to aviation challenges. The automobile sector, for example, often develops technologies which can be modified for use in aviation, and vice versa.

At Clean Sky’s Spring Event in April this year, Professor Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla of DLR outlined this as a key benefit: “We combine our knowledge from aerospace and from other sectors,” she said. “This accelerates our research toward our common goal of sustainable aviation.”

Clean Sky believes firmly in collaboration, and we know that combining the best talent from academia, industry, SMEs and research organisations is a recipe for success. For this reason, we dedicated the latest edition of our Skyline magazine to the achievements of our research organisations – read it here to find out more.

Research organisations not only take part in our research projects, they also conduct important studies and evaluate Clean Sky’s progress.

For example, DLR, the German Aerospace Centre, leads the evaluation of Clean Sky’s success as part of the Technology Evaluator framework. Under Clean Sky 2, two assessments will take place – the first has just been completed, and concluded that Clean Sky delivers in line with its objectives. You can read about the results of the First Global Assessment of Clean Sky here.

Clean Sky research organisations recently took part in a study on what the future of aviation would look like, organised by EREA, the Association of European Research Establishments in Aeronautics. This interesting study designed four possible future aviation scenarios. “Scenarios make it possible to visualise a future direction and to build a plan of actions,” says Ligeia Paletti of the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre.

The French Aerospace Lab (ONERA) and the Italian Aerospace Centre (CIRA) are two research organisations that have a long history with Clean Sky. From DRAGON to HIGH-TRIP (ONERA) to SAT-AM and T-WING (CIRA) projects, their innovative work and out-of-the-box thinking has been an inspiration!

FIDAMC, with its focus on lightweight and robust composite materials, fits in perfectly with Clean Sky’s objectives. The use of composite materials will be extremely important in the sustainable aviation fleet of the future – and FIDAMC is helping to make their uptake a success!

The Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Aviation (Łukasiewicz – ILOT) is one of the oldest research facilities in Europe. The strategic research areas of the Institute are aviation, space and unmanned technologies, making them perfect partners for Clean Sky projects.

Together with ROMAERO SA, INCAS, the Romanian National Institute for Aerospace Research “Elie Carafoli”, form the Romanian RoRCraft Consortium, which is strongly involved in the RACER project. They recently reached an important milestone – the delivery of the central fuselage – and hosted a high-level event to celebrate the occasion in Bucharest.

The Aircraft Research Association (ARA), based in the UK, has worked closely with both Rolls-Royce and Airbus on various Clean Sky projects. Currently, Clean Sky research projects account for 10-15% of ARA’s annual research programme, which shows how important the goals of sustainable aviation have become!

Our research organisation partners are a critical part of Clean Sky’s success. They are constantly working on the interface between academia and industry, making them experts in transforming knowledge into actionable results. They are a binding force for connectivity and innovation, and with the diverse range of expertise available through them, they regularly come up with ground-breaking new ideas, pushing the boundaries in clean aviation technology.

If you would like to read more about how research organisations can help to drive innovation in sustainable aviation, I encourage you to read our latest edition of Skyline, where you will find out all about the great work being undertaken.

We trust that they will help us achieve our ambitious vision – climate-neutral aviation by 2050!

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