Partnership looks to propel sustainability in the aviation sector

Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre

Sustainable aviation fuels which will reduce the carbon emissions associated with flying will be driven by a new partnership between Boeing and the University of Sheffield.

The leading aerospace company has signed a new research partnership with the University, becoming the founding member of the Energy Innovation Centre, a new R&D scheme to develop new low carbon technologies.

The centre which is being launched by the University of Sheffield Energy Institute, offers partners from industry access to two of the University’s newest world class research facilities – the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre (SAF-IC) a first-of-its-kind facility in the UK that will help test and certify new sustainable aviation fuels and the Translational Energy Research Centre (TERC), which will contain pilot-scale production facilities suitable for investigating different methods of producing SAF.

Boeing plans to use the partnership to test, develop and assess new sustainable aviation fuels, which are vital to reducing carbon emissions and reaching net zero.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) offer the most immediate and greatest potential to decarbonise aviation over the next two to 3 decades, with sustainably produced jet fuel potentially reducing CO2 emissions by as much as 80% over the fuel’s lifecycle with the potential to reach 100 percent in the future. SAF is certified for commercial use and can be blended by up to 50 per cent with traditional jet fuel without modifications to aeroplanes, engines or fueling infrastructure and Boeing has committed to deliver its commercial aeroplanes capable and certified to fly on 100 per cent SAF by 2030.

The partnership, announced at the Farnborough International Airshow, builds on Boeing’s longstanding relationship with the University of Sheffield and its presence in South Yorkshire.

The aerospace giant co-founded the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in 2001 – a hugely successful model for university and industry R&D on the border of Sheffield and Rotherham that contributes more than £55 million to the South Yorkshire economy each year. This successful relationship then led to Boeing opening its first European manufacturing facility in the city, Boeing Sheffield, in 2018.

With the first membership agreed with Boeing, the University of Sheffield hopes to welcome more industry partners to the Energy Innovation Centre, which could provide a major boost to regional and national efforts to decarbonise industrial processes and transport, enhance the innovation capabilities of UK businesses, and strengthen vital academic and industry partnerships.

Professor Koen Lamberts, president and vice-chancellor of the University Sheffield, said: “At a time when the UK’s commitment to net zero is questioned and debated, R&D into low carbon technologies and products couldn’t be more important. We are delighted to welcome Boeing as a founding partner of the University of Sheffield Energy Innovation Centre. Our partnership with Boeing spans over 20 years, and together we are committed to developing the type of innovation needed to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Sir Martin Donnelly, president of Boeing Europe and Managing Director of Boeing in the UK and Ireland said: “Boeing has a long history in South Yorkshire, having set up the AMRC to drive innovation in aerospace manufacturing, and subsequently opening our first European manufacturing site there. This opportunity to build upon our existing partnerships with Sheffield and to build new ones, while also working toward a more sustainable future for aviation, is a great privilege for us.”

Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, head of the University of Sheffield Energy Institute, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Boeing as our first member of the Energy Innovation Centre scheme. The EIC has an impact strategy built around delivering societal and economic benefit through rigorous research with industry, and this connection with Boeing takes a step towards making that aim a reality, especially in the exciting and vital realm of sustainable flight.

“Active engagement with industry and commerce is especially critical to ensuring that research is relevant, timely and positive in its practical applications. We look forward to the growth of this scheme, welcoming future partners of any size and any sector, and boosting the UK’s net zero ambitions through innovation R&D.”

Brian Moran, Boeing vice president of global sustainability policy and partnerships, said: “In order for the aviation industry to meet its net zero carbon emissions commitment by 2050 it will take all of us collaborating and investing in scientific research and testing. We are honored to partner with the University of Sheffield on the UK’s first major SAF hub which highlights our global commitment to developing SAF as a safe, proven, near-term solution to decarbonize aviation.”

Energy Minister Greg Hands said: “This partnership, backed by £7 million government funding, will help accelerate the development of cleaner, fuel efficient flight. This will be vital as we work to end our dependency on volatile fossil fuels, to strengthen our energy security and slash emissions.”

Aviation Minister Robert Courts said: “This new partnership is a great opportunity to boost the use of sustainable aviation fuels. The University of Sheffield has two of the world’s greatest research facilities which Boeing, and hopefully many more, can now use – a crucial step towards a jet zero future.

“Decarbonising the aviation industry remains one of the Government’s top priorities, and earlier this year we set out plans for the first transatlantic flight powered by sustainable aviation fuel to take to the skies in 2023.”

South Yorkshire’s mayor Oliver Coppard who is currently leading a trade mission in the US said, “It’s great to see this fantastic new partnership between Boeing and the University of Sheffield cementing South Yorkshire’s place at the cutting edge of low-carbon innovation. Sustainable aviation fuels will be a game-changer in cutting our emissions; vital if we are to reach our net-zero targets, not just here but around the world. I continue to be hugely impressed by the work done by Boeing and the University here in South Yorkshire, an important partnership helping to create hubs of excellence in our region.”