Government gives £44m boost to development of electric aeroplanes

Money will also be invested in robots for nuclear power stations

Credit: PA

The government has made a multimillion-pound investment in technology to support the development of electric aeroplanes.

A total of £44m has been committed, via the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to “develop the next generation of high-performance batteries”. These batteries could be used to power existing types of electric vehicles and wind turbines, and “could also be used for new technologies such as electric aeroplanes”, the government said.

The money includes further investment in the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry, which was established in 2017 by a local consortium of public- and private-sector entities that received £80m of government funding.

“Organisations across the automotive, rail and aerospace sectors will have access a unique battery production facility combining manufacturing, experimentation and innovation,” the government said.

The cash boost is also intended to support the creation of “100 high-skilled jobs” at the centre.

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Alongside the investment in batteries, the fund has also put £15m into supporting universities and businesses “to build robots to inspect, maintain and repair nuclear power stations, satellites and wind turbines”. This technology could also help “address new problems resulting from the pandemic” by better enabling contact-free deliveries and manual tasks.

Some £6.5m will also be dedicated to the progression of cell and gene therapies that could treat diseases such as cancer, muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. This work will take place across the government-backed network of Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres.

Science minister Amanda Solloway said: “We want to build back better by putting the UK at the forefront of new technologies to create high-skilled jobs, increase productivity and grow the economy as we recover from coronavirus. This new funding will strengthen the UK’s global status in a range of areas, including battery technologies for electric vehicles and robotics, helping us develop innovative solutions to some of our biggest global challenges and creating jobs in rewarding careers right across the country.”

Following the publication of the government’s Industrial Strategy in 2017, the challenge fund was set up to distribute £2.6bn of public money to support research institutions and science and technology businesses whose work addresses one of the four “grand challenges” set out in the policy paper: artificial intelligence and data; ageing society; clean growth; and the future of mobility.


Sam Trendall

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