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Midlands pivots regional expertise to help aviation go greener

Automotive and cleantech companies develop technology solutions for aerospace challenges

Three West Midlands companies have been selected for a pilot R&D funding programme, supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority, aimed at transferring their skills and expertise into business opportunities in new markets. The PIVOT programme – part funded through the WMCA’s West Midlands Innovation Programme to the tune of nearly £400,000 then boosted by £900,000 in match funding – is designed to help unlock innovation in the region’s business sector. 

PIVOT focuses on accelerating cross-sector innovation, by injecting R&D grants and expert support to help the region’s companies ‘pivot’ their vast technology knowledge to solve critical challenges faced by other industries. The pilot -- managed by the Midlands Aerospace Alliance -- will help companies mature their ideas so they can meet urgent aerospace and aviation market requirements for lighter aircraft that consume less fuel, and more sustainable aviation fuels based on recycled waste, helping aviation achieve its ambition of reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050.

Impression Technologies, Kew Projects and PyroGenesys have been selected to trial the concept. In addition to grant funding, the companies are benefitting from expertise around aerospace technology, engineering and innovation from the Midlands Aerospace Alliance, along with advice from potential customers across the region.

“We have a great opportunity in front of us to pivot our regional economy towards a greener future by accelerating technology crossovers in our engineering supercluster,” said Dr Andrew Mair, Chief Executive of the Midlands Aerospace Alliance. “The PIVOT pilot is proceeding to plan and, if we can all work together like this at scale, we can help create the green jobs of the future. That’s a win for the planet and for the region.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The PIVOT programme will help to unlock innovation in our region, enabling a stronger eco system to continue creating the high-quality jobs of the future. Congratulations to the three winning companies which draw on the great engineering heritage of the West Midlands. Technological advances are key to the future of the West Midlands, which is why I’m keen to see us grow the funding available.”

Impression Technologies, based in Coventry, is an expert in high-speed forming of complex aluminium components for critical lightweight structures. Thanks to funding from PIVOT, the company will apply its patented Hot Form Quench technology – currently used for high-performance automotive solutions – to aerospace, developing prototype parts for aircraft seats that reduce weight and enhance sustainability.

Kew Projects, based in Dudley, is an innovative company that is generating future fuels and decarbonising energy-intensive industries like transportation by turning industrial waste into valuable energy. The company will be using funding from PIVOT to carry out the complex tests required to ensure its low-carbon synthetic paraffinic kerosene made from waste – which refineries could process into final more sustainable aviation fuel – will meet industry standards.

PyroGenesys, based in Birmingham, is developing the reactors and processes required to transform waste wood and food processor wastes into energy and fuels. The reactors will be shipping-container sized which means fuel could be created close to waste sources in both developed and developing countries. PyroGenesys will be using PIVOT funding for the extensive development work needed to transform bio-oils – one of the products from the initial stage of the transformation process – into more sustainable jet fuel.