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New round of funding announced for EU aeronautics and surface transport research

Forty-three new aeronautics research projects have been proposed for funding under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development. Results of the evaluation of surface transport proposals are still to be announced.

Aero engines © Peter Gutierrez
New funding for transport
© Peter Gutierrez

This was the second evaluation of projects in the aeronautics and air transport sector under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which will run from 2007 to 2013. The Commission received a total of 253 aeronautics proposals, requesting €918 million in total funding. Of these, 43 will now negotiate contract terms with the Commission, for a total budget of €200.6 million.

Commission officials have said both he overall response and the quality of proposals was good, providing reasonable coverage of the defined EU aeronautics research work programme.

Research towards innovative 'breakthrough technologies' was well represented and there was a good balance between industrial competitiveness and public good issues. Moreover, project proposals interfaced well with the EU's major aeronautics initiatives 'Clean Sky' and 'SESAR'.

Aeronautics and air transport will have an overall budget of €2.1 billion over the course of the seven-year programme, demonstrating the importance the EU is now attaching to research in this area.

Small partners holding their own

Figures show SME participation increased since the first call, while the share of funding remained stable. SMEs are present in 27 of the 43 selected projects and four of those projects will be coordinated by an SME. Meanwhile, international co-operation has been characterised as evident and improving.

Aeronautics project highlights

Among the key projects now slated for funding is 'CRESCENDO' (Collaborative and robust engineering using simulation capability enabling next design optimisation), led by AIRBUS SAS. Partners in this initiative will use advanced analytical design, manufacturing and maintenance tools, methods and processes to halve the time to market for new products in the aeronautics sector. Increased integration of the supply chain will also allow substantial cuts in operating costs and consequent reductions in travel costs.

Another key project, 'SANDRA' (Seamless aeronautical networking through integration of data links, radios and antennas) will design, implement and validate through in-flight trials an integrated aeronautical communications system based on an open architecture, a common set of interfaces and well-proven industry standards.

Project partners, led by SELEX Communications SpA, say SANDRA is fully in line with the EU's SESAR initiative for the modernisation of Europe's air traffic management system.

Smaller projects will explore the application of laser technology to detect air turbulence, the use of advanced electronics in the cockpit and for onboard communications, tools to improve the aerodynamic features of aircraft, as well as pioneering concepts for future air transport, among other subjects.

Good surface transport response

Surface transport research includes work on rail, road and waterborne transport. The Commission received a total of 353 proposals for research in these areas, requesting an unprecedented €1.02 billion in funding. The total available funding of €225.3 will be made available once the selection process has been completed.

Some overall trends in surface transport research are already evident based on the proposals received. For example, urban mobility- and competitiveness-related, and cross-cutting projects increased their share of the total number of proposals, while modal shift-, and safety and security-related projects lost ground. There was no significant change in the share of proposals in the area of 'greening of transport'.