Mandelson unveils £7.4m investment in low-carbon aircraft technologies

The funding given by SEEDA is towards a state of the art pre-production facility and essential infrastructure which will assist GKN Aerospace and Rolls-Royce in the development of light-weight carbon fibre fan blades for use in aircraft engines.

The Environmental Lightweight Fan (ELF) blades, which are being developed on the Isle of Wight, will make aircraft more fuel efficient and reduce their carbon emissions. The overall programme is supported by a total £43m investment jointly derived from the Technology Strategy Board, Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace and SEEDA.

Encouraging the development of environmental technology is a key priority for the South East and this investment reflects SEEDA’s commitment to establishing the Isle of Wight as a centre for excellence in hi-tech composites.

SEEDA’s £7.4m contribution is part of an ongoing programme of investment on the Isle of Wight to deliver prosperity and help stimulate growth. It builds on previous funding of £1.25m provided to GKN Aerospace in 2004 through the National Composites Network (NCN).  This helped to fund the creation of a highly successful composites research centre on the island. Bringing together a number of Regional Development Agencies and industry bodies, the NCN connects all segments of UK composites expertise. This collaborative approach helps to enhance the global competitiveness of the UK.

Jonathan Shaw, South East Regional Minister said:  “We’re world leaders in engine technology and this project shows how the aerospace industry is using innovative materials to meet its commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

“I have visited GKN and seen first hand how this world leading technology is being used. I know how important this investment will be for the UK aerospace sector and the wider economy of the Isle of Wight. This investment has the potential to create high skill jobs and will help ensure British advanced manufacturing keeps us at the forefront of technology development.”

Rob Douglas CBE, SEEDA’s Chairman, added: “This is great news for the South East. It further strengthens our position as a global leader in high value advanced manufacturing and green technologies – key sectors to deliver economic growth for the region and the UK.

“We have worked closely with GKN, Rolls-Royce and the Isle of Wight Council over the past 12 months to create this groundbreaking production facility for this innovative technology. It is part of our continued programme of investment in the UK’s advanced composite networks, bringing highly skilled jobs and new business opportunities to the Island.”