Interview of Mr. Ron van Manen, Head of Strategic Development of Clean Sky JU

Interview of Mr. Ron van Manen, Head of Strategic Development of Clean Sky JU

August 28th, 2019

Mr. Ron van Manen (short cv here) offered an interview about the challenges of the Aviation Sector for the next decades as well as the joint effort of the European Stakeholders to formulate the Clean Sky 3 Programme in the frame of the upcoming Horizon Europe.

What are the main challenges facing aviation in the decades ahead?

Apart from being the safest mode of transport, aviation is also currently the only option to cover distances over roughly 1000km reliably, affordably and efficiently.It is the preferred choice for millions of passengers each day, worldwide. Because of this, the aviation sector has shown continued and significant growth, and proven to be resilient to external shocks. Forecasters estimate that the growth in the next decades will lie between 3.5 to 5% annually worldwide. That means that air traffic will double approximately every 15 years and therefore is likely to quadruple by 2050 from today. Even if aviation has an excellent record of accomplishment to date in terms of improving aircraft efficiency and emissions, this rate of growth will continue to outpace technological improvements unless we accelerate innovation and aim for disruptive changes in the architecture and design of aircraft, and of the air transport system. At the current rate of technological improvements, aviation's global CO2 emissions would triple from 2017 to 2050.Arresting climate change at an acceptable level of global warming (seen as below 2oC temperature rise, preferably no greater than 1.5oC) will require all economic sectors to decarbonise rapidly and effectively. Aviation will need to play its part, or face the risk of heavy regulation and market-based measures, or even a public revolt against flying. Meeting this challenge will require aggressive technological renewal and a 'new breed' of aircraft within the next two decades, and making these available plus making them safe, reliable, affordable and acceptable to customers and the travelling public is a huge research and innovation challenge.

Equally, new emerging modes of air transport (such as unmanned systems and 'urban air transport') will lead to additional demands placed on airport and airspace. Without a fundamental renovation of airspace use and management, serious challenges to the capacity and safety of the air transport system are likely to surface.

How can research, technology development, and demonstration in a renewed 'Partnership' in the Horizon Europe period bring important steps towards meeting these challenges?

We need to act now, and urgently. New aircraft with a significantly lower environmental impact will need to enter the air transport system in the 2030s to have any serious impact by 2050. The same is true for the transition to low-carbon/sustainable fuels and/or energy carriers.

The research to give us the answers will need to come together from highly promising lower TRL efforts into large-scale and highly integrated concepts and demonstrators within the next decade. These large-scale demonstration efforts are the only way to remove the uncertainties, reduce the risk related to and accelerate the introduction of disruptive technologies; they are also the best way to allow the aviation sector and the public to gain confidence and trust in new technologies. Additionally, early engagement with the safety and airworthiness authorities across the research and demonstration efforts can help avoid blocking points in the path towards getting technology into the market.

All actors in the innovation chain (from academia to industry) will need to come together in an integrated, shared and mission-oriented approach. Public policy-makers and authorities will need to support the effort by helping to create the conditions for market acceptance. In addition, future aviation 'system users' such as airlines and service providers will need to be engaged and committed to the transition to a sustainable aviation system.

Why a strong ['Institutionalised'] European Partnership approach like in Clean Sky to date?

Aviation has very long research, development and operational cycles, and high entry barriers and costs, due to its complexity and its safety requirements. Investment risk over these long development cycles, in particular in the case of high-risk, disruptive technologies is beyond the capacity of private sector actors and private capital sources. A partnership approach between the public sector and the private sector is the only effective means of 'nudging' the overall air transport sector towards adoption of deep-change in terms of technology base and environmental performance.

No single country in Europe has the financial, technological and industrial capability to invest alone in an ambitious and transformative deep decarbonisation of aviation. This deep decarbonisation challenge needs a highly integrated, sector-wide and overarching approach with one common mission and roadmap. The case for European cooperation is beyond dispute.

Partnerships are a proven way of pooling and aligning expertise, scientific resources, validation platforms and investments and creating economies of scale. Such a partnership also provides access to an extensive network of research and collaboration with key industrial partners in the aviation sector.

The Institutionalised Partnership model proposed for Horizon Europe, building on the lessons learnt in the previous Public Private Partnerships [PPPs], is the most effective way to prepare and execute a shared, collective and integrated roadmap of technology development and demonstration across all research actors, the aviation industry and its supply chain. It provides an effective framework for innovation in close alignment with EU policy priorities. Other forms of cooperation would not allow the same level of ambition in facing aviation?s grand challenge of decarbonisation, and would not allow the high level of integration of stakeholders? contributions and activities, to work together and deliver the integration of technologies as flying demonstrators that can pave the way to market acceptance and insertion. Equally, other cooperative mechanisms would not be able to bind the public and private parties to implementation in the aviation system through fully matured, developed, and certified new aircraft, engines and systems. A European Institutionalised Partnership on Clean Aviation can manage this risk by bringing together the EU aviation supply chain and accelerating market uptake of technologies that have a significantly reduced environmental impact.

An Institutionalised Partnership on Clean Aviation will contribute to the EU maintaining its global leadership role, protect and create high-added value jobs in the EU, and will have significant direct and spillover scientific and economic impacts. It is the best way to assure a strong alignment of the research roadmap with public policy and to ensure critical enablers for market adoption, for which the public partner's participation and co-governance are essential, can be put in place. A partnership will also be able to exploit synergies at the European level, as well as with national and/or regional levels, and thus create economies of scale by pooling resources and aligning efforts across multiple fronts of research activity. By doing this, advances made through research and innovation in or with other sectors, such as in battery technology, fuel cells, digital transformation, etc. can be brought to bear on aviation and can support the transformation of aviation.

What steps are underway to prepare for aviation research in the Horizon Europe period and for a possible Clean Aviation European Partnership [or 'Clean Sky 3']?

The European Commission has asked the aviation sector to propose a detailed roadmap for technology development and demonstration for a potential Clean Aviation Partnership, and demonstrate how this research will ensure a significant and measurable impact in the aviation system within the decade after Horizon Europe.

Representative stakeholder groups are doing the preparatory work towards an aligned position on the technical scope and 'roadmap' for an ambitious programme that can deliver the technological solutions in time and in sufficient maturity and reliability to be available for introduction in the world's fleet in the 2030s. Together with this, a number of Working Groups have been established to identify the required large-scale demonstration areas and upstream research priority areas, capable of addressing the deep decarbonisation challenge, and reaching sufficient technology readiness in the 2021-2027 timeframe in order to allow market introductions of innovations in the 2030s and achieve a significant impact by 2050. EASN and Pegasus are key contributors to this effort with their representatives in the working groups and overarching 'Clean Sky Preparation Group'.

The Commission's strategic planning and the preparatory work towards a legislative proposal on a potential European Institutionalised Partnership on Clean Aviation is ongoing, including an Impact Assessment that will inform the Commission's decision on whether to propose the establishment of a European Institutionalised Partnership and to support the preparation of this initiative. This study will be based on desk research, Commission and stakeholder consultation, quantitative and qualitative data collection, analysis and inputs from panels of experts, and other available data and information.

Which technology solutions are emerging for inclusion within a possible Clean Aviation Partnership in order to achieve 'Carbon Neutral Aviation' by 2050?

The research programme is likely to develop large-scale research efforts, and demonstration programmes for fully electric and hybrid electric aircraft concepts; advanced ultra-efficient engine/aircraft architectures; and engines and systems capable of wide scale and full use of low-carbon sustainable aviation fuels (both 'drop-in' and 'non drop-in' options). Equally, several crosscutting-enabling activities will need focused research efforts. In the meantime, we cannot relax in terms of also pursuing innovations that will help secure reductions in other emissions such as NOx and noise; in improving the industrial competitiveness; and in ever more reliable, affordable, safe and secure air transport operations.

Sustainable aviation fuels will need to make a crucial contribution to mitigating the current and expected future environmental impacts of aviation. Low-carbon solutions such as drop-in fuels (bio or synthetic fuels) have the great advantage of requiring no substantial modification to the airport infrastructures in terms of fuel supply. Beyond these drop-in fuels, the more far-reaching options such as LNG and (Liquid) Hydrogen show very strong promise, and these potential solutions will need to be tested during the decade ahead. If their potential is confirmed, the key challenge will be to industrialise and scale up their production, and realise the infrastructural adaptations involving hundreds of billions of investment, as well as making the technological changes to the future fleet to enable aircraft to run on these fuels. The Clean Aviation initiative will investigate these challenges, and develop and demonstrate the aircraft technologies needed.

In parallel, significant research activity connected to the above demonstration 'thrusts' will be needed and close collaboration and coordination required. These will range from Member States' national innovation funding initiatives in aeronautical fields and structural funds for regional 'smart specialisation', to synergy areas such as batteries, fuel cells, sustainable fuels, and air traffic management.