Clean Aviation is harnessing synergies to foster dialogues and cooperation for a sustainable future in aviation.
Europe is striving to bring cleaner aircraft into service by 2035 to maintain its global industrial leadership and to be on track for climate-neutrality in aviation by 2050.
The strategic importance of Europe’s aviation sector is clear — it generates more than 3.5 million jobs across Europe and in 2022 it contributed €258 billion to European GDP. The sector is committed to addressing aviation’s environmental footprint, which currently accounts for approximately 2.5 percent of global CO2 emissions and is expected to rise, given that global air transport is projected to grow by around 3-4 percent annually until 2050.
Clean Aviation, co-funded by the European Union through Horizon Europe and the major European private aviation stakeholders, will deliver key disruptive technological innovations by 2030. These innovations will support the entry-into-service of pioneering greener aircraft by 2035. Yet, the journey toward sustainable aviation is not a solo mission that a single country or an organization can accomplish. Significant investments are required to develop critical research and innovation (R&I) and bridge the ‘valley of death’ between R&I results and the launch of new products. To succeed in this mission, all resources (private and public), competencies, and capabilities made available at European, member state and regional levels need to be strategically aligned within a European roadmap to secure the entry-into-service of new cleaner aircraft by 2035.
The commitment to reduce aviation’s environmental impact comes at a substantial cost. The aviation sector estimates an investment of at least €12 billion in research and innovation funding in the Horizon Europe timeframe to be on track toward climate-neutrality objectives. To put this in perspective, the Clean Aviation program has allocated a total budget of €4.1 billion, comprised of €1.7 billion in EU funding and at least €2.4 billion in private contributions. To date, this budget supports 28 large projects engaged in developing disruptive technologies for hybrid-electric aircraft, ultra-efficient aircraft architectures and hydrogen-powered aircraft. These technologies are impact-driven and focus on the regional, short and short-medium range segments (routes up to 4,000km) which account for about 55 percent of CO2 emissions of the aviation fleet globally. Herein lie the greatest opportunities to make air travel more environmentally friendly. In a nutshell, Clean Aviation’s technologies aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions for commercial air travel by at least 30 percent, surpassing the capabilities of today’s best aircraft models. Together with the use of synthetic fuels or hydrogen as an energy carrier, greenhouse gases will be reduced by approximately 90 percent.
Beyond R&I, it is evident that investments in the sector will need to be even more substantial to reach net-zero aviation by 2050, as more support is required for eco-sustainable industrialization, market update of clean products, infrastructures and renewable energy production.
Acting now for impact in 2035
To help bridge the gap from research outcome to market, Clean Aviation is fostering collaborations and aligning financing sources from regions, member states and associated countries to Horizon Europe — such as the U.K., which is a crucial partner — as well as looking at mobilizing additional resources from the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework. The ultimate goal? Uniting Europe’s research and industrial resources on a joint European roadmap for Net-Zero Aviation, thereby achieving an entry into service of new, highly-efficient aircraft by 2035 with Clean Aviation’s technologies onboard.
More support is required for eco-sustainable industrialization, market update of clean products, infrastructures and renewable energy production
We are acting now to make impact in 2035 through cooperation between industry, research organizations, universities and SMEs along with their best researchers and engineering teams to ensure European leadership on sustainable aviation. Clean Aviation is also actively fostering synergies with fellow European partnerships, such as the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, and engaging with relevant EU funding instruments including the EU Innovation Fund to seek support to accelerate market uptake of our disruptive technologies. Additionally, we participate as a founding member in the Alliance for Zero Emission Aviation (AZEA) and closely cooperate with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to ensure a viable path toward market adoption of Clean Aviation innovations, while at the same time reducing the current aircraft ‘lead time’ through more efficient certification processes.
The ultimate goal? Uniting Europe’s research and industrial resources on a joint European roadmap for Net-Zero Aviation
All of these efforts are bolstered by the sustainability commitment of the European aviation sector, encompassing initiatives such as (but not limited to) Airbus’s ZEROe, the CFM International RISE Open Rotor concept (by Safran and GE Aerospace), Rolls-Royce’s UltraFan engine and MTU Aero Engines’ water-enhanced turbofan architecture.
Advancing through national and regional partnerships
Strategic collaborations are being formed with national and regional innovation programs, building upon the success of Clean Aviation’s predecessor program, Clean Sky 2. This includes regional strategies (for example, Smart Specialization Strategies) aligned to Clean Aviation and joint roadmaps on net-zero aviation supported by a larger volume of technical and financial resources, mainly from the Cohesion Policy Funds/European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Over the past six months, Clean Aviation has joined forces with the Occitanie region in France, as well as the Campania and Piedmont regions in Italy, renowned for their considerable initiatives in sustainable aviation. Unified in purpose, this collaborative approach promises not only to enhance innovation capabilities and employment opportunities but also to foster skills development, crucial for the transition to sustainable aviation, and ultimately boosting the regions’ competitiveness. Looking ahead, more collaborations are on the horizon to bring together the key aeronautics countries and regions of Europe.
Mark your calendars for March 4 2024
Join the High-Level Workshop on Synergies between European and national/regional R&I programs in the aviation sector. This workshop, organized in partnership with the European Commission and in cooperation with the European Committee of the Regions, will shed light on forthcoming developments and opportunities. It strategically aligns with our Clean Aviation Annual Forum 2024 taking place on March 5-6 2024 in Brussels.
More collaborations are on the horizon to bring together the key aeronautics countries and regions of Europe
Ultimately, the joint effort of numerous stakeholders will lead to the creation of a synergistic and comprehensive European framework. This will seamlessly integrate public and private resources at EU, national and regional levels, spanning the entire spectrum from innovation to market uptake, to create a unified European innovation architecture which supports the entry-into-service of cleaner commercial aircraft by 2035.
Let’s grasp the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming years to not only achieve this target, but to ensure that aviation remains a crucial part of the solution for achieving climate neutrality, while also enabling Europe to maintain and foster its global competitiveness and industrial leadership.