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New University-led aviation research project takes first steps to meet Climate Change Bill challenge

Participants in a £5 million Government-funded initiative spearheaded by Manchester Metropolitan University to help the aviation industry solve the environmental challenges caused by expansion – and those outlined in the Climate Change Bill – have met for the first time.

University academics rubbed shoulders with senior officials from the Civil Aviation Authority, Airbus and Rolls-Royce and other partner organisations at a two-day OMEGA workshop at Madingley Hall in Cambridge.

OMEGA (Opportunities for Meeting the Environmental challenge of Growth in Aviation) was announced by Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling in May and gets under way in the New Year. The project kick-off is timely in light of the Government’s proposed Climate Change Bill and the announcement that Britain’s airports are planning to treble the number of flights by 2030 with expansion plans at almost all airports. Recently released MMU research has already shown that aviation is expected to account for 5 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050.

“The workshop gave the OMEGA partners a feel for key stakeholder priorities which will guide the project and help us make a real difference to aviation sustainability over the next 20-40 years,” said OMEGA’s technical advisor Professor David Raper. “We analysed four different long-term scenarios, from a world where we travel less right through to continuing consumerism leading to greater pollution and environmental damage. We then narrowed the issues down to focus on what is needed to support policy development and the response from industry.”

OMEGA links universities, government, industry and pressure groups with the common goal to foster knowledge transfer from academic research centres to industry and help the aviation sector respond to the sustainability challenge. Professor Raper, who is based at MMU’s Centre for Air Transport and the Environment, said the brainstorm would enable the OMEGA partners to select up to 10 university-led knowledge transfer projects. “These will cover areas from economics and atmospheric science to innovative technology and air traffic management issues. Studies will draw in government, industry and other stakeholders and last up to two years.”

The project involves eight other universities in the UK – Cambridge, Oxford, Reading, Southampton, Sheffield, Leeds, Cranfield and Loughborough – and institutions in Europe and North America. Partners also include government departments, and commercial organisations including Manchester Airport, British Airways, Rolls-Royce, Airbus and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

Last month OMEGA appointed senior civil servant Roger Gardner as its chief executive. Mr Gardner, who is currently Head of Air Quality and Environmental Technology at the Department for Transport, takes up his new post in January.

Phil Smith | alfa
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