The UK Government has launched its latest programme to fund the aviation industry’s net zero work, with a focus on supporting SMEs conducting “innovative research projects”.

Worth up to £10m ($12.38m) a year, the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) SME Programme will allow small and medium-sized businesses to bid for grants of up to £1.5m each to support projects in line with the government’s Jet Zero plan to reach net zero by 2050.

Industry Minister Nusrat Ghani announced the programme at the ATI’s 2023 conference and praised the country’s businesses for their work in driving the industry towards its net zero targets.

Ghani said: “I’m delighted to announce the new ATI SME Funding Programme, which will help propel our world-leading aerospace sector to new heights in the pursuit of innovative, clean, green air travel.

“UK aerospace businesses, with their expertise and innovation, are helping drive the industry on its journey to net zero by 2050 and, in the process, are helping us grow the UK economy and support high-skill, high-wage jobs.”

The programme will open to applicants in February next year and is backed by both government and industry investment through the wider £685m ATI Programme.

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Previously, the ATI Programme has provided funding towards the development of a hydrogen-electric powertrain for aircraft and also worked with Airbus to create new aircraft wing technology that will improve fuel consumption and lower emissions.

ATI CEO Gary Elliott said: “We know from the success of the ATI Programme that supporting advanced technologies secures market share for the UK, bringing economic benefit and delivering against the sector’s sustainability commitments on our journey to Destination Zero.”

The SME programme follows several other funding projects by the government supporting the aviation industry’s sustainability goals, including a transport research and innovation competition focusing on AI and airport decarbonisation.