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Commission names new projects for greener and more competitive air transport

An EU-wide call for research proposals in aeronautics and air transport has resulted in the selection of thirty-six outstanding and innovative projects, to be funded under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7).

View from aircraft © Peter Gutierrez
Flying high with FP7
© Peter Gutierrez

"Several of the selected projects will work towards the EU's goals of halving aircraft carbon emissions per passenger kilometre by 2020," said EU Research Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik. "With the development of greener technologies, we can respond to our citizens' growing demand for air transport while meeting environmental imperatives."

Unprecedented response

This will be the first batch of projects funded under FP7 in the aeronautics and air transport sector. The total budget for projects selected under this call, which closed on 3 May 2007, is €217 million. The Commission says the response from potential participants was unprecedented; 196 proposals were received, with funding requests totalling €840 million, four times the level of funding available. Final budget figures (EU contribution) and project details are subject to the final signature of contracts, and so may still change.

The geographic distribution of respondents was also broader than ever, including many candidates from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as from third countries. "We were pleased with the participation of organisations from both new and old Member States," said András Siegler, Director of the European Commission’s DG RTD Transport Directorate. “The projects themselves were all of very high quality, with 89 projects, or nearly half the proposed projects, passing evaluation thresholds.”

The proposed projects will further develop research into greener, safer and more secure air transport, and improved cost efficiency in aeronautics – FP7's research priority themes.

Excellent range of initiatives

In order to remain within budget, only the best 36 proposals could be retained for funding in this first call. The selected projects include:

  • 26 small collaborative research projects
  • Six coordination and support actions aimed at stimulating participation of SMEs and new Member States
  • Four large projects (€18 to €40 million each in funding) aimed at bringing innovative technologies closer to market readiness.
  • DREAM– ‘Validation of radical engine architecture systems’ led by Rolls Royce, gathers 47 partners from 13 countries. It will develop new engine concepts based on open contra-rotating rotors, with a target of 7% reduction of CO 2 emissions and 3-decibel noise reduction. It will also develop specifications for alternative fuels as well as assessing and testing future potential fuels. The project will receive around €25 million in EU funding.
  • MAAXIMUS– ‘More affordable aircraft structure through extended, integrated and mature numerical sizing’, led by Airbus, with 58 partners from 18 countries, focuses on improving the composition and design of fuselages, to cut assembly time in half and reduce structural weight by 10%. A lighter airframe will lead to lower CO 2 emissions. MAAXIMUS will receive around €40 million.
  • HIRF SE– High-intensity radiated field synthetic environment’, led by Alenia, gathers 44 partners from 11 countries and will create simulators to test new aircrafts' reactions to electromagnetic interference. This is a field requiring more research due to the increasing recourse to composite materials in aircraft building. HIRF SE is set to receive around €18 million.
  • SCARLETT– Led by Thales, this project will develop new and advanced modular avionics platforms for a range of aircraft types and will receive €23 millionin EU funding.

See the entire list of selected initiatives  here pdf - 13 KB [13 KB] . 

Work will involve, among other things: research into flight physics and alternative fuels aimed at reducing CO 2 emissions; new systems to improve the safety of aircraft in bad weather; a 'self repairing' capability for aircraft materials; and blast-proof cabin secondary structures.

The importance of industrial competitiveness is also evident in the selection, with many projects presenting means of reducing production and development costs of airframe and other structures, engines and components.

The four largest projects together will receive a total €106 million, or half of the available funding, and will involve major air transport industry players working in collaboration. These projects represent a major thrust in European air transport research:

All projects are set to start in January 2008.

Under the combined FP7 calls (2007-2013), aeronautics and air transport will have a total budget of €2.1 billion, an amount that Commission officials say demonstrates the importance the EU now attaches to research in this area.