There is exciting news for the South West’s booming aerospace sector as £236,000 of funding has been secured to create a Future Flight Innovation Zone (FFIZ) in Somerset and Devon.

The FFIZ will help to create a safe and environmentally friendly future for aviation and it will form part of a Future Aviation Test and Innovation Zone that is focussed around two key sites; iAero in Yeovil and Exeter Airport.

The Future Flight Innovation Zone is a unique eco-system that brings together key stakeholders from Industry, academia, skills providers, Local Authorities, business support organisations and institutions that include the Met Office and the Connected Places Catapult. The Connected Places Catapult aims to drive innovation and create solutions for more efficient, sustainable, and connected environments.

Everyone involved shares the same vision and ambition to accelerate the decarbonisation of flight and will be able to provide professional advice and assistance to technology companies operating in this sector.

The funding that has been won will deliver:

  • A dedicated Sand Box with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which will allow up to 4 companies to seek support from the CAA Innovation Team to work through what they will need to do to enable certification for the testing and demonstration of their product
  • Specific CAA Innovation Advisor time to work with FFIZ to help further develop its activities
  • Funding for Future Flight Testing infrastructure to enable testing and demonstration

Cllr Ros Wyke, Lead Member for Economic Development Planning and Assets at Somerset Council was delighted with the announcement of funding:

“It is well known that the Aerospace sector is particularly valuable to the Somerset economy, with 4,300 people directly employed in the sector with the wider advanced manufacturing supply chain employing a further 6,000 people. It is key to the region’s future that such high-value jobs are sustained and developed over the coming years.

“This critical piece of work will not only help to decarbonise aerospace but has the potential to bring a much wider financial benefit to the region. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that if the UK fully adopts uncrewed air systems they could add up to £45 billion to the UK economy by 2030. With this potential in mind the FFIZ will aim to capitalise on the strength of the South West region being the number 2 aerospace cluster in Europe. We have some amazing assets already in Somerset to support this revolution which includes the iAero Innovation Centre in Yeovil and bespoke skills development for the sector at Yeovil College.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said:

“This investment is very welcome and it’s fitting that this is being announced as the Sustainable Skies World Summit gets underway. Establishing a Future Flight Innovation Zone (FFIZ) in Devon and Somerset will put our region at the forefront of decarbonising of aviation and aerospace and will help us achieve our carbon net zero targets.

“The sector is a vital part of our region’s economy so we must ensure that Air travel has a sustainable future. The FFIZ will build on the innovative work already underway at Exeter Airport and Exeter College’s Future Skills Centre and will bring together other partners to help shape the future of the industry.”

An electric Velis which is being used for pilot training.

About this article

May 21, 2024

David Blackwell

Press Release