Cranfield Aerospace and Britten-Norman to merge
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) and Britten-Norman have announced plans to merge and create a UK-based zero-emissions aircraft OEM with plans to be flying in 2026.
The merger, due to complete in mid-2023, also coincides with a new funding round which has raised up to £10m for the new company, including up to £5m from HydrogenOne Capital Growth once the merger is finalised. Cranfield University and Motus Ventures will continue to retain shares, whilst Britten-Norman’s existing owners, including lead investor Alawi Zawawi, will also join the new business.
A fully integrated offering forms the cornerstone of the merger, according to Richard Moody, chief iinvestment officer, CAeS. “Unless it is a clean sheet design like an eVTOL,or other new technology like battery electric, most of the current technology offerings, especially in hydrogen, focus on developing the fuel cell technology and then retrofitting that into a third party airframe. We believe that being vertically integrated has many benefits both in terms of the offering to clients in having to deal with just one party and, on the technology side, enabling us to get to market more quickly, especially in relation to addressing the certification challenges.”
The two companies have already been collaborating on hydrogen demonstrator Project Fresson for more than two years. The project has been backed by the UK government, via the UK Aerospace Technology Institute, and has secured over £14m in private funding from global investors. Earlier this week, CAeS also welcomed Evolito onto the programme.
The nine-seat Britten-Norman Islander is used by operators around the world for inter-island services and short hop operations. It has a proven ability to operate from smaller airports and short airstrips in all weather conditions. Paul Hutton, chief executive, CaeS said: “This deal accelerates our roadmap for the introduction of new zero-emissions aircraft. As other sectors optimise quickly, it is imperative that the aviation industry accelerates its own transition to new, clean aircraft. Looking to the future, we will use the combined experience of Cranfield Aerospace and Britten-Norman to produce an entirely new aircraft design, optimised around hydrogen fuel cell technology.”
The merger also acts as marriage between two periods of industry. Britten-Norman, founded in 1954, brings pedigree from a bygone age of British industry. Whereas CaeS, very much represents the ‘white heat’ of modern technology and science.
Moody said: “There has been a big push in the UK in terms of encouraging decarbonisation and achieving zero emissions flight and this starts with the sub-regional and regional sector. So, we are creating a UK hydrogen aerospace champion that we believe will be very much part of the UK government’s overall wider sustainability agenda.”
The integration also means CAeS can look at its entire supply chain and ensure that is fully sustainable. “We want to not only manufacture zero emissions aircraft but also do so in a responsible and sustainable manner from the production of the propulsion unit through to the airframe that houses it. We are also an MRO so we will also develop processes to maintain the aircraft in a sustainable manner.
“The merger will also allow us to be a more attractive investment proposition for both the public and private sector”, he said. The firm’s ambition extends beyond the Islander and the sub-regional market too, with plans to design a ‘clean sheet’ up to 100 seat aircraft powered using zero carbon technology.
William Hynett, chief executive, Britten-Norman added: “The merging of Britten-Norman and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions will create a new market leader in green aircraft manufacturing, bringing together joint strengths in aerospace manufacturing, certification and innovation. The investment will give a huge boost to UK aviation exports and will deliver the first OEM sub-regional aircraft powered by hydrogen. This merger will create many new high tech and manufacturing roles across the new business and a host of opportunities for apprenticeships and graduate placements in the sustainable aerospace sector.”