Imperial War Museums and Gonville & Caius developing sustainable aviation R & D hub

04 Jul, 2024
Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Gonville & Caius College in Cambridge have revealed plans to develop a major new centre for the next generation of sustainable air transport at IWM Duxford.
Gonville & Caius Senior Bursar Robert Gardiner, left, and Endowment Property Consultant Martyn Chase with Jo Saunders, Head of Masterplan at IWM Duxford beside the airfield. Courtesy – Gonville & Caius.

Duxford AvTech will be the UK’s new home for the research and development, prototype testing, certification and manufacture of new low and zero carbon aircraft technology.

Duxford AvTech, a 45,000 sq m development on land adjacent to the existing IWM site, will be a new advanced technology aviation innovation cluster focusing on low and zero carbon advanced air mobility (AAM) technologies.

The venture will include the development of electric, hydrogen and hybrid powered aircraft, alternative power sources, new materials, and associated technologies and services to shape the next generation of air transport.

It is intended that the focus will be on small, short distance transport for cargo, as well as small passenger transport aircraft and non-commercial passenger transport. IWM Duxford will remain an airfield and will not become a commercial passenger or cargo airport.

Robert Gardiner, Senior Bursar at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge said: “Duxford AvTech is an exciting partnership with Imperial War Museums for facilities with a focus on research and innovation to develop the UK's presence in sustainable aviation.

“With centuries of both a presence in Duxford and of nurturing leaders and cutting-edge research within the University, the College is proud to support delivery of the next generation of aviation technology.”

Professor Rob Miller, a Fellow of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, and Director of the Whittle Laboratory at the University of Cambridge added: “Achieving an aviation sector with no climate impact is one of society’s biggest challenges. Solving it will require a complex combination of technology, business and policy.

“Duxford AvTech and its close proximity to the research taking place at the Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge offers an exceptional opportunity to bring together the best minds and skills to meet these challenges.”

With a strong and growing AAM global market, Duxford AvTech will create a new UK hub of excellence in Cambridgeshire, the partners in the project say.

AAM operators require direct access to an operational airfield with supporting infrastructure and space to research, test and manufacture. IWM Duxford is the only opportunity within Cambridgeshire and the region to meet AAM operator needs and will be the first of its kind in the UK, say the collaborating organisations.

The location of IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire is enhanced by its proximity to the University of Cambridge, they say, adding that ‘this is underscored by the University's recent announcement of the new Whittle Laboratory, a disruptive innovation laboratory designed to operate at the boundary of new science and emerging technologies in net zero aviation and expected to open in early 2026.

‘A highly skilled workforce, growing travel connections, an existing hub of aviation industries and a global track record of innovation clusters make IWM Duxford the ideal site for a centre of national innovation.

Duxford AvTech is expected to bring economic, environmental and social benefits to the region. It will include a wide range of employment opportunities in Research & Development, production and support services for some 1200 FTE roles including a wide range of local job opportunities and will allow for the provision of training programmes and apprenticeships to local residents.

It will also deliver approximately an additional £64 million GVA to the region’s economy, while also supporting a sustainable future for IWM Duxford to maintain and enhance its role as a regional and national museum and heritage centre, which already provides around £43m in GVA and over 1,000 FTE jobs in the East of England.

The IWM Lab is part of a 10-year, multi-million-pound plan to ensure IWM Duxford’s ongoing success as a regionally, nationally and internationally important museum, visitor destination and historic working airfield.

First announced in 2023, Transforming IWM Duxford will allow visitors to immerse themselves in a journey through the site’s history and the stories of the men and women who lived and worked there.

IWM and Gonville & Caius College are in the process of publishing a tender for a development partner for Duxford AvTech. Following the appointment of a developer, proposals will be subject to full public consultation as part of the town planning process.