Invest Northern Ireland is supporting Bombardier Aerospace, Belfast to invest almost £9 million in a project to help develop the next generation of aircraft wing made from high-tech composite materials.
The project is part of the UK-wide Next Generation Composite Wing (NGCW) initiative, a £103 million industrial research programme led by Airbus UK in collaboration with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), industry partners and economic development agencies.
The Technology Strategy Board, an agency of DIUS, has offered around £25 million towards the initiative across the UK. Invest NI has offered over £2.2 million of R&D support, matched by the Technology Strategy Board, towards Bombardier’s £9 million investment.
The NGCW project will develop technologically advanced methods for the design and production of wings aimed primarily at the growing market for short range commercial aircraft. The wings will utilise the latest innovative and world-leading composite materials, which are lighter and more durable than metal. These benefits will help to reduce both the operating costs and environmental impact of commercial aircraft by reducing fuel consumption.
Bombardier is focusing on specific techniques which will optimise and refine the composite wing design process and methods for rapidly ramping up the volume of production currently possible with aircraft structures, or aerostructures, made from composites.
Michael Ryan, Vice President and General Manager of Bombardier Aerospace, Belfast, said: “Participation in this programme will help us to further enhance our skills and capabilities in the design and manufacture of large composite structures, particularly wings, thereby helping us to compete successfully in the international marketplace.
“Bombardier’s Northern Ireland operation already incorporates a centre of excellence for composites manufacturing in Dunmurry and is engaged in other major nationwide research programmes such as the Environmentally Friendly Engine and Integrated Wing projects. Our involvement in NGCW will complement the work of these initiatives and help us to continue to set new standards in aircraft development.”
Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, said: “With a long term commitment to innovation and research, Bombardier has already established itself as a world leader in composites development. This latest investment in R&D will help to consolidate and build on this position and is indicative of the high value-added activity that will help to increase the overall productivity and competitiveness of Northern Ireland going forward.”
Invest NI has offered research and development funding for this project through its START programme, which is part funded by the European Competitiveness Programme 2007 – 2013 under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).