On 30th August 2023 the Royal Air Force (RAF) visited the Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge to announce a strategic partnership with the Aviation Impact Accelerator (AIA). This partnership forms part of the Defence Aviation Net Zero Strategy and the RAF’s Net Zero 2040 aspirations.

Beth Barker, Dr Paul Hodgson, Air Vice-Marshal Paul Lloyd CBE, Prof. Rob Miller, Gp Capt Maurice Dixon, Sqn Ldr Andrew Sweeney, Ben Petty

Through its Aviation Net Zero Strategy the RAF have taken an internationally leading role in the decarbonisation of defence. The collaboration with the AIA will provide it with a unique understanding of the net zero challenge at a whole system level allowing it to accelerate it path to net zero.

During the visit, Air Vice-Marshal Paul Lloyd CBE, Director Support and Chief Engineer (RAF) said:
“I am delighted the Royal Air Force is partnering with the Aviation Impact Accelerator who have an exceptional reputation for their whole system approach to the aviation decarbonisation challenge. The tools they have available will help to refine the RAF’s decision making on operationally critical areas such as the resilience of fuel feedstock availability and the maturity of novel propulsion technology. In addition to this, as a Jet Zero Council member it will help us to understand how the RAF can potentially leverage positive impact across the aviation sector more broadly.”

David Pitchforth, AIA lead, CISL Fellow and former President of Boeing Defence, Space & Security (BDS) Global Operations, said:

“This collaboration will enable the RAF to have the system of system viewpoint to make the decisions and lead in aviation sustainability.”

The partnership will aim to support the RAF in several key areas including energy feedstock and resource availability, novel propulsion technologies and non-CO2 effects. There will be a focus on using the AIA tools to refine the RAF’s strategic modelling to inform policy and funding decisions and to understand how the RAF can communicate net zero considerations and influence sustainable decision making, as part of our day-to-day flying activity. Furthermore, the collaboration will explore how Defence Aviation can impact the wider net zero transition of the UK aviation sector, whilst furthering its own organisational needs.

Prof. Rob Miller, Director of the Whittle Laboratory, University of Cambridge, and AIA lead said:

“We are delighted to bring together the Aviation Impact Accelerator and Royal Airforce around the important mission to transform the aviation sector to one that is sustainable. Difficult problems require new mindsets and ways of working and we hope through this collaboration we can bring together the expertise of the AIA and RAF teams to provide insight to not only accelerate the transition to a net zero defence sector but also draw lessons from the RAF to unlock change in the broader aviation sector.”

The collaboration emerged following a visit by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Sir Richard Knighton to the Whittle Laboratory in December 2022.

Air Vice-Marshal Paul Lloyd CBE with Professor Rob Miller, Director of the Whittle Laboratory, University of Cambridge