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‘Clean Sky’ research takes off

On 5 February 2008, research into the next generation of greener, more efficient aircraft took a major step forward with the launch of the Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative (JTI), the European Union’s largest ever research programme. The initiative establishes a Europe-wide partnership between industry, universities and research centres, with a total funding of €1.6 billion.

Marc Ventre, Chairman of the Clean Sky Provisional Executive Committee, addresses the Clean Sky event
Marc Ventre, Chairman of
the Clean Sky Provisional
Executive Committee,
addresses the Clean Sky

Clean Sky JTI aims to spur manufacturers to develop and produce greener aircraft, taking a number of cutting-edge technologies from the drawing board to commercial viability through joint demonstration projects. During its seven-year lifespan, the initiative aims to cut carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions by up to 40%, nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions also by 40%, and noise levels by 20 decibels.

Speaking at the launch event in Brussels, European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik outlined the importance of the initiative, both to the environment and the economy. “The challenges that stand before us today, such as boosting international competitiveness and tackling climate change, are common to all European countries, and research is a major part of the answer. We stand a better chance of making a difference if we work together.”

The aviation sector accounts for over three million jobs in Europe and over two billion passengers per year worldwide. It is estimated that 14 000 new airplanes will be needed by 2020. Potočnik underlined that the technological developments were necessary not only to fight climate change, but also to boost Europe’s competitiveness. The initiative would be especially important for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), he added.

Sustainable aviation

European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik speaking at the Clean Sky
European Science and
Research Commissioner
Janez Potočnik speaking
at the Clean Sky launch

Projects under the Clean Sky programme fall into six priority areas for greener aviation technologies development:

  • Fixed wing aircraft
  • Regional aircraft
  • Rotorcraft (helicopters)
  • Engines
  • Systems for green operations
  • Eco-design.

Air travel accounts for around three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, yet this is rapidly increasing as passenger numbers rise each year. There is also a public perception that the industry is a major contributor to climate change. Industry leaders said they recognise this and have been developing a plan to reduce the environmental impacts of flying since 2001.

Åke Svensson, ASD President and CEO of SAAB, said, “The carbon footprint aviation leaves behind is seen as not being acceptable and Clean Sky is an excellent way of addressing the challenges we face in developing more sustainable aviation.”

The Chairman of the Clean Sky Provisional Executive Committee (PEC) and CEO of the Aerospace Propulsion Division of SAFRAN Marc Ventre added, “The aerospace industry is highly aware of its environmental responsibilities and over the last few decades has managed to drastically reduce both emissions and noise. Today, with traffic expected to keep growing, Clean Sky is paving the way for a new major step in this ongoing process.”

Clean Sky currently incorporates 86 organisations from 16 countries, 54 companies, including 20 SMEs, 15 research centres and 17 universities. The programme is the first of the Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) to be launched under the European Union’s Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7). It will receive €800 million in EU funding, which will be matched by the member organisations.