It opened with a spectacular lift-off and now Somerset’s Aerospace Innovation Centre – iAero – is flying high with tenants moving in, significant interest from industry leaders, and new collaborative equipment being installed.
The purpose-built centre, based in Yeovil, is a regional hub for research, design and innovation and was delivered in partnership between Somerset County Council (SCC), the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Leonardo
UK, with funding from HM Government and the European Union.
The centre was built to support the competitiveness and growth of the aerospace sector and associated high-value design and engineering technology supply chains – all vital to the South West’s economy.
Strategic partners met at the centre on Tuesday 1 November to review progress and to hear about future developments including a new, state-of-the-art 3D printing venture.
iAero opened back in February, heralded by a Jetsuit demonstration, positioned next to the world leading aerospace company, the Home of British Helicopters, Leonardo in Yeovil. The company soon became an anchor tenant and iAero is now the home to the company’s research and innovation team. Another industry leader and significant Yeovil employer, Honeywell Aerospace, is also taking up occupancy within the centre.
And a five-year agreement has now been reached with Markedforged Inc to open an additive manufacturing centre at iAero, equipped with state-of-the-art 3D printers by Mark 3D. Additive manufacturing involves building objects one layer at a time, simplifying fabrication – basically 3D printing.
The investment will enable students from Yeovil College, an investment partner in the project, to work side by side with industry professionals and add to their skills.
Since opening its doors, the centre has had a constant buzz of activity, with events including a West of England Aerospace Forum (WEAF) breakfast networking event; Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Innovator Workshop; Leonardo Graduate development workshops; and a Royal Aeronautical Society (South West Region) Lecture by Vertical Aerospace.
The Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce and Somerset Chamber have visited, while a visit by a delegation from the Department for International Trade is planned later in November. 3D printing open days are also in the pipeline.
The strategic partners’ summit brought together Somerset County Councillor David Woan, Associate Lead Member for Economic Development & Inward Investment, Paula Hewitt, SCC’s Director for Economic and Community Infrastructure; Adam Clarke, Managing Director at Leonardo Helicopter UK; Karl Tucker, Chair of the LEP; and David Ralph, LEP Chief Executive.
Cllr Val Keitch, SCC’s Executive member for Local Government Reorganisation and Prosperity, said: “The progress at iAero since it opened earlier this year shows the value and strength of our delivery partnerships. Since its inception, a key aim of the iAero project has been to deliver innovation through collaboration.
“The aerospace industry has a proud tradition in Somerset and iAero is providing the space and support to nurture research and innovation and encourage young people to gain the skills and training for successful careers.”
Austin Chick, Head of iAero, said: “In the short time that iAero has been operational, there has been significant interest in this enterprise, stimulated by the networking events held at iAero and the great teamwork within the strategic partners. I have no doubt that iAero will succeed in supporting economic development for the region. The centre marks the next frontier for the aerospace community in Somerset”
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “The iAero Centre is delivering innovation and growth for the region’s aerospace sector, and it’s fantastic to see the progress that has been made so far. This summit highlights the high level of collaboration and support between the Centre’s strategic partners, and we look forward to meeting with other key stakeholders to hear about iAero’s exciting next steps.”
For more information about the iAero Centre or to register your interest, please email iAeroCentreYeovil@somerset.gov.uk