“A distinctive element of our approach to research has always been to combine the industrial footprint and research, focusing on the product, with the innovative approach of universities, research centers and SMEs. The consolidation of our network and its extension to new European participants will further strengthen this approach, creating the only collaborative innovation network of its kind, with skills specific to the European landscape and able to meet the many complex challenges facing the aeronautics industry with regards to climate neutrality.”

So says Enrico Casale, EU Programs & Research Network Leader in Advanced Technology Operations at Avio Aero, neatly encapsulating the significance of the EU Technology Development Cluster, the continental collaboration model made up of Avio Aero, Polonia Aero Laboratories, GE Aviation Poland-EDC, GE Aviation Czech, and a slew of R&D centers, universities and experts cooperating on sustainable innovation projects. Today the network spans 25 members, including highly respected universities and polytechnic schools in Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. It is an extension of the Technology Development Community (TDC) launched in 2016 to connect Avio Aero to a pool of the seven top Italian universities and polytechnic schools.

The EU Technology Development Cluster has succeeded in bringing together new participants from other technical and scientific communities across Europe. “Cooperation between the scientific world and the industry is one of the cornerstones of the Engineering Design Center, allowing us to create synergy and develop the most innovative technologies not only in Poland but worldwide,” said Artur Rudnik, director of the EDC Warsaw Institute of Aviation.

Top image: From the left, Jennifer Pogliano, Enrico Casale and Stefania Migaldi from the Avio Aero EU Programs & Research Network Team

The EDC is among GE’s biggest engineering centers—it’s the largest in Europe—and a talent hub for research and development programs focused on aircraft engines that has attracted more than a thousand engineers from all over Europe. “We can offer access to the most technically advanced facilities and tech solutions in the world and the universities provide their best and brightest minds” added Krzysztof Połomski, GE Aviation Business Development Manager. “This creates a higher level of synergy and launches GE Aviation to the forefront of innovation.”

GE Aviation’s global headquarters for turboprop engines in the Czech Republic has benefitted from its relationship with the EDC in Poland. “Joining this wide research network is a great opportunity to collaborate with universities across the EU on the future of turboprop engines” said Milan Slapak, GE Aviation Czech Executive Director. “The collaboration merges the best practices from both academia and industry and allows the best young talents to get their hands-on real engine industry projects of the future.”

And when it comes to advances in aviation technology, the future possibilities are boundless. “The key technologies that will characterize the next generations of aeronautical products range from electrification or hybridization and the development of new ultra-efficient engine architectures up to the qualification for the use of bio-fuels or alternative fuel sources, such as hydrogen, with zero emissions,” says Avio’s Casale. “These are therefore highly complex issues which, together with huge economic resources, also require structure and, above all, expert and diverse minds as much as talent.”

What better environment than that of a melting pot of young researchers who have the awareness as well as the ability to work side by side with experienced technologists from the aeronautics industry on the development of new eco-friendly products?

The expansion of the network comes at a critical time for the whole world. In Europe, Clean Sky 2, the continent’s largest aeronautical research program, is focused on reducing the CO2, NOx emissions, and noise pollution produced by air travel. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has put immense economic stress on the aviation industry. There is an old curse that says “may you live in interesting times”—but even an “interesting time” as disruptive as the current global state of affairs presents a golden opportunity for technological breakthroughs.

“The entire aeronautics sector is facing an unprecedented situation that, while it puts the entire supply chain in great difficulty today, could act as an accelerator for investment in sustainable technologies with regard to Clean Aviation,” says Casale. “Mobility is and will be a pivotal aspect of our way of life in the future and I am confident that our industry will soon recover and be ready to develop new technologically revolutionary products.”

GE Aviation European teams and Avio Aero are preparing to play a key role in the ambitious challenges that face aviation by continuing to invest in innovation.