Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA) in partnership with Medilink Midlands, Rail Forum and the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) hosted a free open house event to showcase the wealth of cross-sector collaboration opportunities in aerospace, health & life sciences, motorsport, rail, nuclear and beyond.
Midlands SMEs gathered at the fitting venue of the British Motor Museum in Warwickshire on 10 November to hear from businesses and industry associations working in aerospace, health & life sciences, motorsport, rail and nuclear about exciting recent developments and current and future opportunities in the region to diversify and collaborate. The event was delivered by Aerospace Unlocking Potential, which is led by University of Nottingham in partnership with MAA, and supports Midlands based SMEs to diversify into and out of aerospace and aviation
Starting from the shared understanding that great ideas and technologies from businesses that are experts in one sector can be applied to solve problems in another – the event sought to assist by providing a forum for Midlands SMEs to network across all sectors and learn from one another.
Speaking about the event, MAA Chief Executive, Andrew Mair, said, “We were pleased to work alongside our partner organisations and welcome SMEs from different sectors to the Aerospace UP Open House event. We hope the event was instrumental in starting conversations that will lead to a stronger regional economy through collaboration and technology crossovers in our engineering supercluster. We’re planning to build on this great start by keeping our companies engaged in conversations about growing opportunities in all sectors – even beyond those represented here”
Key information and examples of cross-sector collaboration and diversification shared at the event included:
- The UK is the world’s 2nd largest aerospace supplier with a quarter of industry in the Midlands (including Northamptonshire).
- Over 30 Midlands Aerospace Alliance members pivoted their manufacturing operations during COVID-19 to participate in the UK government’s Ventilator Challenge.
- Circular economy opportunities between waste management companies and authorities and the aviation industry to develop sustainable aviation fuel.
- The Midlands Aerospace Alliance is supporting the PIVOT cross-sector innovation programme as part of the West Midlands Innovation Programme. The pilot looks to accelerate cross-industry innovation in supply chains, building on a successful model developed in aerospace industry for supporting a significant portfolio of distinct technology development projects.
- Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) – it is predicted that the market for intra-city, inter-city, personal and emergency/parapublic air transport created by disruptive electric, hybrid-electric and air vehicles could reach $510bn by 2040. AAM company, Skyfarer, is currently conducting a UK-first trial to connect two Midlands hospitals by drone to speed up medical deliveries.
- Aerospace Unlocking Potential is a £20m project supporting the Midlands aerospace supply chain to unlock innovation potential. It is available to SMEs in 8 Midlands LEP areas.
- The motorsport industry is built around maximising energy efficiency. So there is much potential cross-over into other transport industries around light-weight materials and conserving energy.
- 8 out of 10 Formula 1 companies are based in the UK and 70% of UK motorsport businesses (a number of which are based in the Midlands Engine) export, generating £10bn in sales.
- Fortescue Metals Group has purchased Williams Advanced Engineering (a Formula E supplier) to help it build batteries for its largest 400-tonne haul trucks and freight trains.
- Regenerative braking for hybrid and EV vehicles was first developed as a technology for use in the motorsport industry.
- There are huge nuclear export opportunities emerging for British businesses in growing markets like Canada and the US.
- The Fit4Nuclear Programme by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is helping companies in aerospace and other sectors to see how their products and services can support the nuclear sector.
- Space and nuclear sectors have overlap as nuclear power is a potential solution for space stations on planets which don’t always have access to solar power.
Health & Life Sciences
- There are substantial opportunities for digital-related companies in the Health sector. Blueskye AI is an example of a digital company working in Health.
- As rail industry moves to new power sources like batteries and hydrogen, lightweight material technology to increase range will be important. Many motorsport companies excel in the development of lightweight materials.
- The UK space sector is worth £16.5bn and UK Space Agency has £1.75bn committed by 2025. Rolls Royce is exploring projects to use nuclear power in space to support space exploration.