Axillium convenes new £39.6m composite materials industry consortium with lead partner GKN Aerospace

Axillium convenes new £39.6m composite materials industry consortium with lead partner GKN Aerospace

  • New £39.6m ASCEND consortium will develop and accelerate high volume composite technologies for next generation of sustainable aircraft and mobility technology
  • ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) brings together 15 industry partners with lead partner GKN Aerospace in a three-year innovation programme, managed by Axillium
  • Opportunity for bid identified and consortium convened by Axillium, using its e-Volution innovation framework

Friday 11 March, 2021, UK – Innovation management specialist, Axillium, has convened a new £39.6m composite materials consortium, funded by a £20.0m commitment from industry and a £19.6m commitment from the UK Government via the ATI Programme.

Named ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development), the consortium will focus on facilitating the adoption of new composite technologies, the industrialization of new technologies, as well as accelerating aerospace production rates to meet future high-volume requirements. The collaboration will help develop technologies from across the UK supply-chain to develop the advanced materials and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight structures for more sustainable aerospace and automotive applications.

Axillium supports knowledge intensive companies with end-to-end innovation management. The Axillium team initially identified the opportunity for a consortium-led approach to fund companies developing composite materials and processes with collaboration partner GKN Aerospace. After providing initial funding to catalyse the collaboration and define innovation outcomes, Axillium used its proprietary e-Volution innovation framework to convene potential partners around the industry challenge. Having defined the funding support with the ATI, Axillium and is now independently managing the ASCEND programme’s innovation delivery in line with Innovate UK’s monitoring processes.

Through a 3-year commitment, the consortium will bring together expertise, capabilities and resources from across the wider UK aerospace and automotive supply chain.  In doing so, ASCEND will strengthen the UK’s position as a technology leader in future lightweight structures and help to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions in the aerospace and automotive industry.

ASCEND lead partner GKN Aerospace will use its long-term experience and in-depth knowledge of composite engineering for integrated airframe structures, and is joined in the ASCEND consortium by partners Assyst Bullmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, Des Composites, FAR-UK Ltd, Hexcel Composites, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, the National Composites Centre, Rafinex, Sigmatex (UK) and Solvay Composite Materials.

The consortium will be led from GKN Aerospace’s £32M Global Technology Centre (GTC) in Bristol and will support up to 130 jobs through 2023/24, with a goal of creating up to 729 UK jobs by 2035.

David Brodie, Head of Ecosystems UK, GTC at GKN Aerospace said, “Axillium have been instrumental in bringing the ASCEND consortium together, and access to their network has enabled an exciting multisector collaboration. Using their innovative e-Volution framework to bring stakeholders together, Axillium enables organisations to pool resources and unlock common challenges. Following the launch of the ASCEND programme, Axillium helps us as ASCEND lead partner ensure successful delivery, by bringing proven innovation management experience, insights and value.”

Will Searle, Executive Chairman, Axillium said, “The future of sustainable transport will depend on the availability of super light-weight structures for aerospace, air mobility, and automotive applications. The UK is a leader in the development of new composite materials needed for more sustainable forms of transportation and has the world-class engineering and manufacturing know-how to bring these materials to market in volume. To succeed in this nascent market and help meet the government’s Net Zero goals, the UK must foster new industrial partnerships – that will require new multi-partner models of innovation like ASCEND.”

Helen Corney, Managing Director, Axillium said, “At Axillium, we identified the opportunity to bring together diverse companies to address the challenge of manufacturing composites at higher rates, for more sustainable mobility. The resulting ASCEND consortium is a £39.6m partnership of 15 companies and lead partner GKN Aerospace – the world’s leading multi-technology aerospace tier 1 supplier. We’re delighted to continue supporting ASCEND by managing the innovation process using our e-Volution framework to ensure the smooth delivery of the research outcomes – outcomes that will help ensure the future resilience and global competitiveness of the UK green economy.”


Editors Notes

About Axillium (

Axillium is an independent innovation management specialist working with businesses, public bodies and universities to identify, architect, convene and deliver multi-partner R&D projects, programmes and ecosystems, based around Axillium’s proprietary e-Volution framework. Working as partners with our clients, we share risk and earn value by transferring knowledge & expertise to shape, fund and efficiently operate long-term innovation outcomes.

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