Boeing has become the founding member of the University of Sheffield’s Energy Innovation Centre (EIC), created to drive the development of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The announcement marks another regional partnership with Boeing, including the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the Sheffield Factory.
“This opportunity to build upon our existing partnerships with Sheffield and build new ones, while also working toward a more sustainable future for aviation, is a great privilege for us,” said Martin Donnelly, president of Boeing Europe and managing director of Boeing in the UK and Ireland.
Within the EIC is the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre (SAF-IC), the first of its kind in the UK to help test and certify SAF, and the Translation Energy Research Centre (TERC), which will include production facilities to investigate different methods of SAF development. The EIC is partially funded by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Innovation Programme. “This partnership, backed by £7 million government funding, will help accelerate the development of cleaner, fuel-efficient flight,” said Greg Hands, energy minister. “This will be vital as we work to end our dependency on volatile fossil fuels, to strengthen our energy security and slash emissions.”
SAF, which in neat form can reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 80 percent over the fuel’s lifecycle, holds an enormous potential to decarbonize aviation over the next two to three decades. SAF blends are certified for commercial use, currently by up to 50 percent with traditional jet fuel without modifying the aircraft. Boeing has committed to deliver commercial airplanes that are certified and capable to fly on 100 percent SAF by 2030. “In order for the aviation industry to meet its net zero carbon emissions commitment by 2050, it will take all of us collaborating and investing in scientific research and testing,” explained Brian Moran, Boeing’s v-p of global sustainability policy and partnerships.
Members of the EIC will have access to a platform to prove, test, develop, and optimize new technology on a cost-effective basis before investing in commercial-scale testing or production. Membership is available to industrial partners of any size, from small-to-medium enterprises to multinational corporations.
University of Sheffield leaders expressed similar excitement. “At a time when the UK’s commitment to net zero is questioned and debated, research and development into low carbon technologies and products couldn’t be more important,” explained Koen Lamberts, president and vice-chancellor of the University. Mohamed Pourkashanian, managing director of the SAF-IC and the TERC and head of the Energy Institute, added, “The EIC has an impact strategy built around delivering societal and economic benefit through rigorous research with industry, and this connection with Boeing takes a step towards making that aim a reality, especially in the exciting and vital realm of sustainable flight.”