About Future Sky

A Joint Research Initiative

EREA, the association of European Research Establishments in Aeronautics proposes Future Sky: a Joint Research Initiative in which development and integration of aviation technologies is taken to the European level. Future Sky is based on the alignment of national institutional research for aviation by setting up joint research programmes. EREA believes institutional co-operation of European research establishments is the best guarantee to ensure technological development to the benefit of European society and industry, beyond the current SESAR and Clean Sky timescales.

For research in general one can say that there is a difference between fundamental and industrial research. For the aeronautical sector in specific this means that universities are mostly focused on the lower Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) whereas industrial research starts at a higher TRL. The gap between fundamental knowledge and industrial research is bridged by Research Establishments (REs), or Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs). These research establishments transfer basic knowledge into industrial applications by further developing and integrating technologies. Research establishments therefore occupy nodal positions within innovation eco-systems, bringing together key players across the whole innovation chain, from fundamental to technological research, from product and process development to prototyping and demonstration as well as providing research infrastructures to the system.

The system as described above functions in perfect condition at the national level where national research establishments can transfer basic knowledge developed at a national university to a national industry. Nowadays we see that most industries have grown to a European level. This is especially true for the aviation industry with its long supply chains and international assembly lines. It is for this reason one sometimes refers to the aviation industry as the only true European industry. 

At present, two large Joint Undertakings are planned within the next EU Framework Programme:

  • Clean Sky 2, aiming for the next generation of European aerial vehicles, very much industry oriented
  • SESAR 2, aiming for the next generation of Europe’s air transport management, very much traffic control and airport related

National aviation industries have become European and European industries started to work on European programmes for industrial research, such as Clean Sky.

Whereas we see that national aviation industries have become European, the research establishments that traditionally supported these industries are still organised nationally. Their research programmes are funded by national governments that set national agendas. Activities of research establishments in aviation also take place at the European level, but are more fragmented than industrial activities. Not only because of a different organisational structure, but also because there activities are more fragmented. There is no European programme combining the forces of the research establishments, such as Clean Sky combines the efforts of industrial stakeholders.

As a solution to this problem in the past initiatives were installed that aimed at the integration of national research programmes. In the competitive environment of aviation none of these initiatives have proven to be truly successful. Only some bilateral collaboration can be mentioned as successful: DNW (the integration of the Dutch and German wind tunnels), ETW (a European wind tunnel funded by initially four and now three nations), AT-ONE (ATM alliance between DLR and NLR) and the Joint Helicopter programme of DLR and ONERA.

EREA, the association of European Research Establishments in Aeronautics, therefore proposes Future Sky: a Joint Research Initiative in which development and integration of aviation technologies is taken to the European level. Future Sky is based on the alignment of national institutional research programmes for aviation. EREA believes institutional co-operation of European research establishments is the best guarantee to ensure technological development to the benefit of European society and industry, beyond the current SESAR and Clean Sky timescales.

In order to prepare the future of aviation beyond that next generation vehicle and air traffic management EREA took the initiative to define a strategy for the next-after-next air transport system.

This strategy is based on the European aviation vision FlightPath2050, and first elements have been described already in the EREA paper on “The future Air Transport System 2050”. This so-called ATS-2 Study was fully funded by EREA and its members. In comparison to US NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation ERA plan, Clean Sky would be the “n+2” approach (2020), while this EREA initiative focusses on “n+3” (2025 and beyond).

The strategy will mainly be implemented through the Future Sky Joint Research Initiative, for which the organisational concept has been laid down in EREA’s green paper on JRI. The main Future Sky work will be carried out in four major and specific joint research programmes, in which EREA members will commit relevant national institutional funding. The Future Sky JRI results will already feed into CleanSky2 and SESAR2, but even more important, they will take care on the technology supply chain, so that new European technologies are available when preparing Joint Undertakings in the next decade.

In order to do so, EREA will not only bring in its member’s expertise, the various aviation infrastructure as operated by EREA members, but will rely on the outstanding European aviation network, consisting of industry, universities, and research establishments, the three pillars of any successful applied research. Universities will be invited to participate mainly on the lower TRLs, while industry is needed to provide demonstration capabilities in the joint research programmes on higher TRLs. By this, the complete scale of TRLs from 1 – 5 will be covered.

Overall, the EREA JRI will make use of existing funding schemes: CSAs shall be used to prepare the organisational concept, Level 2 like projects for the Joint Research Programmes, and Level 1 projects for technological support.

With such an approach the Future Sky JRI will work fully complementary to the presently planned JUs, strengthen the European aviation research network, and prepare the aviation future as outlined in FlightPath2050.

IN FUTURE SKY THE NEXT BUILDING BLOCKS FOR THE CLEAN SKY AND SINGLE EUROPEAN SKY PROGRAMMES SHOULD BE DEVELOPED.