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GKN Aerospace leads development of ground-breaking hydrogen propulsion system for aircraft


complete infographic (pdf)




press release



  • £54M collaborative H2GEAR programme to push hydrogen technology and accelerate aerospace decarbonisation to zero emissions
  • Public-private investment and collaboration aims to create more than 3,000 UK roles
  • Entry-into-service of hydrogen-powered aircraft could be as early as 2026
  • Project maintains GKN Aerospace’s position at forefront of next generation of sustainable aircraft technology 

GKN Aerospace will lead a ground-breaking UK collaboration programme, called H2GEAR, to develop the company’s first hydrogen propulsion system for sub-regional aircraft. Hydrogen is expected to play a key role in the decarbonisation strategy of aviation as it can power aircraft efficiently, leaving water as the only by-product. H2GEAR puts GKN Aerospace at the heart of the technology developments needed for the future of more sustainable aviation. The technology will first focus on significantly improving sub-regional aircraft hydrogen powered performance, in turn enabling applications on larger aircraft and longer journeys. The programme is supported by £27M of ATI funding, matched by GKN Aerospace and its industrial partners.

H2GEAR aims to develop a liquid hydrogen propulsion system for sub-regional aircraft that could be scaled up to larger aircraft. Liquid hydrogen is being converted to electricity within a fuel cell system. This electricity efficiently powers the aircraft, eliminating CO2 emissions. This would create a new generation of clean air travel, eliminating harmful CO2 emissions.

H2GEAR will reinforce the UK’s position at the forefront of aerospace technology research and development. GKN Aerospace will collaborate with Intelligent Energy, Aeristech, Newcastle University, The University of Manchester and University of Birmingham, throughout the programme, aiming to create more than 3,000 jobs in the next decade. The programme will be delivered from GKN Aerospace’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol, the company’s £32M brand-new collaborative space for research and development.

Russ Dunn, Chief Technology Officer for GKN Aerospace, said: “Hydrogen-powered aircraft offer a clear route to keep the world connected, with dramatically cleaner skies. The UK is at the forefront of this technology, and the H2GEAR project is an example of industry, academia and Government collaboration at its best. Working with our partners, and made possible by Government investment, GKN Aerospace will develop and industrialise the breakthrough technology to fly aircraft with zero CO2 emissions by the mid-2020s. This will not only create thousands of jobs, but it will keep the UK at the forefront of the next generation of cleaner air travel for decades to come.”

GKN Aerospace will use its long term experience and in-depth knowledge of electrical power systems and propulsion technology to accelerate the development of technology. The entry-into- service of the first hydrogen-powered aircraft could be as early as 2026.


H2GEAR partners:

Intelligent Energy (IE) will create new and innovative IP, know-how, skills and capabilities in the field of lightweighted fuel-cell stacks (utilising new materials, coatings and processes) and systems configured for zero emission flight propulsion requirements. These will be exploited through development by IE, and IE's supply chain, of new fuel cell products and services in aviation application.

Media Enquiries: Debbie Hughes -E debbie.hughes@intelligent-energy.com M +447885 879741

Aeristech was founded in 2006 and is a leading designer of advanced electric motor and control systems, winning the Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation in 2020. Aeristech’s technology enables it to manufacture the world’s fastest accelerating and most power dense permanent magnet variable speed electric motors, which are ideal for applications where efficiency, power density and speed are essential. Its Leamington Spa headquarters feature laboratories, pilot production and test facilities.

Media Enquiries: Hoda Awad – Madano, Aeristech@madano.com, +44  20 7593 4014

Newcastle University

As a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities in the UK, Newcastle has a world-class reputation for research excellence in the fields of medicine, science and engineering, social sciences and the humanities.

Its academics are sharply focused on responding to the major challenges facing society today. Our research and teaching are world-leading in areas as diverse as health, culture, technology and the environment.

The Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF) placed Newcastle University 16th in the UK for Research Power and the vast majority of our research was assessed to be world-leading or internationally excellent.

Newcastle University is committed to providing its students with excellent, research-led teaching delivered by dedicated and passionate teachers. This is reaffirmed by achieving the best possible outcome - a Gold Award - in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Media Enquiries: Helen Rae Helen.Rae@newcastle.ac.uk

The University of Manchester has a worldwide reputation for pioneering research in electrical networks and electrification of transport. The ambition of this project is to develop cryogenic technologies to create new electric drive concepts enabling power dense, highly efficient zero emission propulsion for aerospace.

Media Enquiries: Sandy Smith Sandy.Smith@manchester.ac.uk

University of Birmingham

The Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research at the University of Birmingham will work on the future aviation fuel cell stack concept. The future stack will be based on the Novel Intermediate Temperature Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell (IT-PEFC) technology being developed at University of Birmingham. The IT-PEFC stack will offer an increase in power density, improved performance and simplified balance of plant.

The School of Chemical Engineering and the University of Birmingham hosts the UK’s leading Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research. The centre is an integral part of the Birmingham Energy Institute and Energy Research Accelerator. Throughout the last decade, the significant contribution of the Centre towards the scientific and technology advancements in fuel cell and hydrogen research has been demonstrated through over 200 peer reviewed publications, and many contributions to international conferences. More than 50 highly trained graduates from the Centre have moved on to work in the field with industrial and academic institutions.

Media Enquiries Ahmad El-Kharouf  A.El-kharouf@bham.ac.uk

Partner quotes

David Woolhouse, CEO at Intelligent Energy, said: “We have a very exciting programme of work over the next few years, including developing leading lightweight fuel cell modules for aerospace. This programme will see us develop the next generation of fuel cell technology and supports the growth of manufacturing right here in the East Midlands.  We are planning to increase our manufacturing capability with a new state-of-the-art Gigafactory facility in the region, positioning the East Midlands as a centre of hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing in the UK. The entry-into-service of the first hydrogen-powered aircraft could be as early as 2026.”

Duncan Kerr, CEO of Aeristech, said: “This is a truly ground-breaking programme for hydrogen technology, bringing together some of the UK’s most established organisations for a cutting edge clean aviation solution. Aeristech’s world leading power dense and efficient compressor technology will play a vital role in powering GKN Aerospace’ first hydrogen propulsion system, helping to bring hydrogen-powered air travel closer to reality.”





GKN Aerospace to accelerate sustainable aerospace technologies in Future Flight Challenge


  • Three CO2 reducing technology programmes launched under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Future Flight Challenge: Skybus, Safe Flight and NAPKIN
  • Joint investment with 15 collaborators to further position the UK as a leader in the future of sustainable aviation
  •  press release

    GKN Aerospace is helping develop the next generation of sustainable technology through three ground-breaking collaborative programmes as part of the Future Flight Challenge. GKN Aerospace will take a leading role in the programmes, delivering them from its new £32M Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

    The Future Flight Challenge is a four year, £125m ISCF programme from UK Research and Innovation to develop more sustainable aviation solutions. The current phase is focused on the development of integrated aviation systems that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.

    With 15 collaborators and an initial investment of £4.5M, the programmes focus on electrification, unmanned commercial flight and more sustainable regional aerospace solutions to drive connectivity. The programmes maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of technology development targeting the decarbonisation of the industry.

    Skybus - Skybus explores a novel transport network, based on large electric Vertical Take-Off & Landing (eVTOL) vehicles capable of carrying between 30-50 passengers each, taking the "Park and Ride" concept into the air for mass transit over extremely congested routes thus eliminating the 2-Dimensional constraints of current surface transport modes including cars, trains and buses. This will not only offer direct benefits in reduced travel time at affordable fares but also reduce the congestion on current ground transport vehicles thus reducing overall travel time for all passengers travelling on these routes regardless of their chosen mode of transport. Skybus is led by GKN Aerospace with the following partners: Swanson Aviation Consultancy, Pascall+Watson and Connected Places Catapult.

    Safe Flight - As unmanned and autonomous systems evolve at pace, uncertainty remains around how to integrate autonomous systems in shared airspace in a safe manner. This proposal addresses technological challenges, in terms of the integration of a range of cutting-edge technologies in real-world use case demonstrations, but importantly it also looks at the underpinning business need of a clear route to certifiable aircraft systems and approved operations. Safe Flight is led by GKN Aerospace with the following partners: University of Bath, 3UG Autonomous Systems and Callen-Lenz.

    NAPKIN –NAPKIN will model and pilot a UK-wide domestic sustainable aviation network promoting zero carbon emissions, connectivity where surface infrastructure is lacking as well as UK business growth and competitiveness. NAPKIN is led by Heathrow Airport, in collaboration with GKN Aerospace, Rolls Royce, Highlands & Islands Airports, Deloitte, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, London City Airport, University of Southampton, University College London and Cranfield University.

    Minister for Business, Paul Scully, said: “We’re investing in ambitious projects to make flying more sustainable and ensure passengers have greater choice about how they travel. Pioneering research supported by government funding will help the UK build back greener from the pandemic, remain at the forefront of aerospace research and development, and provide global leadership in the next aviation revolution. I look forward to seeing such proposals take flight.”

    Max Brown, VP Technology GKN Aerospace, said: “We are committed to a more sustainable future for aviation and our technologies will keep us at the forefront of this challenge. No one company can achieve this alone and these Future Flight Challenge programmes highlight the importance of collaboration in achieving this aim. It is a great example of public-private collaboration as well as the importance of Government in supporting the aerospace industry, through it’s industrial strategy. We look forward to working together to deliver the next generation of sustainable air travel.”  


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