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Aero 'Info Day' focuses on next generation of air travel

The greening of flying and the integration of air transport systems are the priorities in European funding for research into air transport, according to top European Commission officials on the second day of the FP7 Transport Info Days event in Brussels from 28-29 September 2009.

The Aeronautics Info Day in Brussels © Neil Maclean
The Aeronautics Info Day in
© Neil Maclean

“We need to invest in research to meet the social and environmental challenges raised by air transport,” said András Siegler, the Director of transport at DG RTD.

Whilst the EU’s overall emissions of greenhouse gases have dropped by 16% 1990, emissions from air transport have increased by 17% as the sector has grown rapidly. Meanwhile costs for air traffic management are double what they are in the United States with comparable amounts of traffic in times of growing economic pressure for industry.

“The urgency of addressing these issues is increasing,” said Mr Siegler.

However, he was upbeat on the research efforts to find innovative solutions. “The European transport sector has not remained idle,” he said, pointing out that the new technologies being developed by researchers would allow the EU to move forward to a low-carbon economy and remain competitive whilst responding to the global economic crisis.

Getting on track

Other speakers expanded on the themes raised by Siegler. Frank Smit from DG RTD estimated that 98% of transport ran on fossil fuels. “Transport is still not on a sustainable path. So new technologies are vital,” he added.

The priorities for the EU’s aeronautics research are technologies that increase competitiveness, exploit synergies between air and other transport modes and systems that look at interactions between vehicles, networks, infrastructure and transport services. “Interaction is an absolute priority. We need air transport systems that can give user-friendly services, with high levels of comfort, safety and efficiency,” he said.

Smit underlined that the overall aim of EU-level funding for research aims to build up a common research area across Europe. Projects therefore needed to have an international element and should complement separate initiatives from business.

Call for proposals

The focus of the event was the latest – the third – call for collaborative research proposals under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), with advice for organisations looking to submit proposals and help for them to find partners. 

The event featured brokerage activities where organisations with ideas for projects could give short presentations of their proposals and then meet potential partners and discuss collaboration.

In total FP7, which runs from 2007-13, allocates over €2 billion to air transport research, with €950 million for collaborative research projects; in addition to €800 million to the Clean Skies initiative to green air transport; and €350 million on SESAR, which focuses on air traffic control and infrastructure development.

All FP7 projects operate as public private partnerships with consortiums of organisations from several EU or partner countries. The current call, published in July and open until 14 January 2010, allocates €108.3 million to air transport research – the same amount allocated to surface transport – in three separate actions.

The main call will make €101.3 million available for ‘level one’ research i.e. fundamental development of new breakthrough technologies, with a maximum of €5 million per project.

Two separate calls allocate up to €1.5 million per project for collaborative research projects with Russia (for a total of €4 million) and China (a total of €3 million), the first such projects with these countries under EU framework programmes.


Liam Breslin, the Head of the Aeronautics Unit at DG RTD, gave further details of the call. There are three priorities for projects in this round of funding, he said – the greening of air transport, cost efficiency and the pioneering air transport of the long-term future.

Within each of these areas specific topics of focus there had been identified and there were other topics in the areas of time efficiency and ensuring customer satisfaction. There are also specific targets, for instance to reduce CO 2 emissions from aircraft by 50%, cut NO X emissions by 80% and noise by 50%.

Competition is expected to be fierce for the call, which opened at the end of July and runs until 14 January 2010. Proposals will be evaluated by March 2010 and contracts could be signed in September 2010.

Daniel Chiron, deputy head of DG RTD’s Aeronautics unit, warned that each successive call was becoming more competitive, with only 43 projects accepted out of 253 accepted in the last call. In addition budgets were smaller as they are now set annually, compared to every two years previously – making it even more important that proposals were completed correctly, he said.

Daniel Chiron © European Commission
Daniel Chiron
© European Commission

“Proposals have to convince the evaluators that they go beyond state-of-the-art. You have to show that you are fully aware of current technology and how your project goes further,” said Chiron. “Avoid topics that are well covered by other research.”

International partnerships

There are very specific topics for the research projects under the collaborative projects with China and Russia, identified through dialogue with stakeholders from each country and taking into account the skills present in each country.

For the Russian projects, these include novel composite structures, high lift aerodynamics, simulation tools for propulsion and use of plasma structures. Chinese collaborations need to focus on aircraft noise, flow control and the casting of titanium composites.

The month of October 2009 will see a delegation of EU researchers and policy makers travelling to Moscow for an EU-Russia Workshop aimed at building new research partnerships in the field of aeronautics.

On 21-23 September 2009, the Third AEROCHIN Workshop on EU-China Policy was held in Brussels, Belgium. Its aim was to foster co-operation between industry and the research community in the aeronautics sector in Europe and China.

Top tips

Several speakers advised companies looking to submit proposals to study carefully the identified priorities and ensure that their proposals were relevant. Other advice was to:

  • Ensure that they followed all the criteria in the call for proposals and how their projects answered the needs identified;
  • Ensure budgets were below the maximum €5 million;
  • Proposals were focused, clear and concise;
  • Allow themselves plenty of time for the final checking so that all parts of the proposal document were properly completed;
  • Give reasons for the costs that you quote if they are not obvious;
  • Think about dissemination and include this in your proposal;
  • Pick relevant partners for your consortium and ensure they complement each other. Explain the experience of each member of consortium.

How to participate

Calls are announced in the Official Journal of the European Union and on CORDIS News. The key documents relating to a call are the work programme and the guide for applicants. These and other useful sources of information are available on CORDIS as soon as a call is published. Calls are published on the CORDIS FP7 calls page. Users can also set up a CORDIS Rapidus profile to receive e-mail alerts informing them of new calls.

There are also national contact points to help companies prepare their proposals.