Sunil Kumar M

Sunil Kumar

Senior Science & Innovation Adviser

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

17th May 2013 Bangalore, India

Sky’s the limit in Indo-UK aerospace technology

A couple of weeks ago I was involved in an event bringing together aerospace researchers and companies from the UK and India together for three days to discuss opportunities for working together. We asked Venkatesh Janakiram, Senior Trade & Investment Adviser in Aerospace at the British Deputy High Commission, to write about the event…

One hundred years ago, the slogan “Anyone, Anything, Anywhere, Anytime” would have meant leaving home when transportation permitted and then allowing nearly a week to travel between widely separated cities. Today, New York to London is a day trip. A package of any size mail arrives in a couple of days, anywhere in the world. We fly across the world at a moment’s notice, while watching feature-length movies, calling home or checking our e-mails.

The aircraft has provided us with this freedom of movement for over 60 years, but the story didn’t end with the De Havilland Comet (the world’s first commercial jetliner) – it’s been constant innovation ever since. The Boeing 747 (first introduced in 1966), is still flying.Yet the 747 that rolls out of the factory today is lighter, faster and more efficient than its earlier siblings. It is only natural therefore that the aerospace industry today relies heavily on inputs from the scientific community for better technology such as better wing designs, making engines powerful, lighter aircraft materials and provide for greater autonomy. The scientific world is more intertwined with the industry than ever before. It’s a good thing, therefore, that the UK has the very best academic institutes in aerospace research and can proudly boast of a 2500 strong company base (the largest in Europe) which is involved in cutting edge developments all around the world.    Aerospace and Technology Exchange and Partenering Programme

To understand the challenges in aerospace innovations, consider Airbus’s new A380… it was built to beat the 747 as the global work horse and designed on the premise that a small increase in wingspan (50 ft) can carry many more passengers (555 versus 416). Sounds simple, however, the supply chain for the A380 is probably the most complex in the world – with major structural sections being built in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The wings, for example, are shipped by a barge since they are too large to be transported by traditional means. One can imagine the engineering challenges when parts built around the world are required to mesh to perfection for the final assembly!

Composite materials comprise more than 20% of the A380’s airframe. A variety of materials such as carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, glass-fibre reinforced plastic and quartz-fibre reinforced plastic are used extensively in the wings, fuselage sections, tail surfaces, and doors.

Set in the context above, a delegation involving academics from the best universities in the UK and UK companies developing cutting edge products, were in Bangalore to interact with their Indian counterparts from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Defence Research and Development Organisation labs, Indian Institute of Science and aerospace companies. The UK Science and Innovation Network in India and the UK Trade and Investment led on this Aerospace Technology Exchange and Partnering Mission from 22nd to 25th April 2013 to Bangalore. The mission included events such as a workshop on advanced airframe technologies hosted along with NAL, industry interaction session along with the aerospace arm of the Society of Automotive Engineers, and visits to research institutes and companies like Mahindra Aerospace and Tata Advanced Materials Limited.

The mission provided a platform for developing areas of common interest and synergy for further collaboration. For example, India has strong and growing aerospace programmes which involve large-scale use of composites (such as the LCA and the ALH)- an area the UK leads in. It also provided an opportunity for industry and researchers from both countries to meet up on a common platform to understand research needs and applications.

Aerospace and Technology Exchange and Partnering ProgrammeThe UK companies comprised Peter Anderton from Group Rhodes (renowned for its super plastic forming and diffusion bonding machinery), Phil Barnaba from BAE Systems (who need no introduction!), Yoge Patel and Mike Humphreys from Blue Bear Systems (specialises in avionics and unmanned airsystems) and Mihir Pradhan and Suresh Kanakwadi from Delcam Software (known for its advanced CAD/CAM software solutions). The UK academics were Prof. Brian Falzon and Dr. Adrian Murphy from Queen’s University, Belfast, Prof. Ian Jennions and Andy Shaw from Cranfield University and Prof. Costas Soutis from University of Manchester.

India and the UK already have several aerospace collaborations: from the BAE-HAL collaboration on software simulation or Rolls Royce and HAL’s JV for manufacturing parts, to Cranfield University and Marshall Aerospace’s collaboration with NAL.

This visit provided several research and commercial opportunities for companies and researchers from both UK and India to collaborate. Some interesting conversations have begun which we are following up so that it can fructify into a solid relationship between both the countries. We plan more such interactions  so if you are interested in taking part, please get in touch with us.

Venkatesh Janakiram

8 comments on “Sky’s the limit in Indo-UK aerospace technology

  1. Hi Venkatesh Janakiram,

    It was intresting to hear the coolabrative approach through UKIT. We are corpoorate Law firm having client base on Aerospace side and i am also on few corporate boards. Intrested in taking part in connecting with UK and India. Let me know next meeting to join.

    J L N Murthy
    Managing Partner
    Jonnalagadda LLP
    Advocates and Solicitors

    1. Thanks Murthy. I am happy to connect with you offline and link you with our activities.

  2. Many thanks Srinivas especially for help and support in organising the event


  3. High growth economies have significantly high R&D investments. Specifically aerospace R&D and manufacturing drives high value added manufacturing and consequently strong positioning for countries. UKTI’s initiative is very timely, with right content and treatment — and from feedback received the audience had a rare treat of listening to and interacting with applied researchers who directly contribute to UK industry. It is now the challenge to translate this to productive R&D programs for UK and India.

    – Srinivas Duvvuri, Rolls-Royce India

  4. Hi Nice article on how air travel has started and right referrence to De Havilland Comet is very apt.

    Among many industries, Aerospace represents a truely global world. The standards across the world are same in aerospace industry – Single airplane touches many countries in span of 10-24 hours and this plane need to be flown, fuelled, serviced, repaired, inspected by different people of different languages – all these are possible because of one standard approach.

    Hence aerospace industry doesnt belong to one country and it belongs to whole world. This kind of colloborative approach by UKTI to bring in two countries together to explore and learn from each other is commendable.

    1. Many thanks, especially so beacuse we couldn’t have done without your help and support!


Comments are closed.

About Sunil Kumar

Sunil leads on developing research collaborations in Advanced Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies and space. He has varied interests ranging from aerospace, environmental sciences, media to life-sciences. He has a…

Sunil leads on developing research collaborations in Advanced Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies and space. He has varied interests ranging from aerospace, environmental sciences, media to life-sciences. He has a MSc in Environmental Science and diplomas in Environmental Law and Mass Communication. Sunil has a work experience of 17 years. He started his career working on ant ecology at Indian Institute of Science. Later he worked on areas such as conservation practices, protected areas and water pollution at the Centre for Environment Education. He also worked as a journalist at Deccan Herald writing on science and environment. Sunil has also worked on knowledge management with an IT company. Prior to joining the Science and Innovation Network, Sunil worked with UK Trade and Investment as a lead officer for the aerospace sector. Sunil has authored two books and more than 200 popular articles.

Follow Sunil