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It’s Only the Beginning for Green Growth in Canadian Aerospace Industry

Dec 13, 2016

View opinion piece in The Hill Times website 

During the unveiling of Canada’s Innovation Agenda, the honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced that Canada should develop a daring and coordinated strategy for innovation that will produce beneficial results for all Canadians. The agenda stresses the importance of collaborative research and inclusive partnerships among all actors, including industrial companies of all sizes, academic and research institutions, and government agencies. This added value is crucial for the Canadian aerospace industry, which relies on intersectoral action, expertise and the importance of different organizations.

This is especially true when it comes to green aviation. The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), an international aerospace ecosystem, has set clear climate targets for the industry: improve the aviation fleet fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per annum between 2009 and 2020, stabilize net carbon emissions from aviation through carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and reduce by 50% net aviation carbon emissions between 2005 and 2050. Reducing the environmental impact of air travel is imperative for manufacturers and operators around the world, and the Innovation Agenda represents a tremendous opportunity for Canada to lead the way.

With the investment of $15 billion per year by the international civil aerospace sector on efficiency-related R&D, as well as the reduction by 75% the perceived noise since first jets, it is clear that we must accelerate our industry’s green growth by supporting their initiatives.

The Canadian industry has already achieved significant environmental milestones for the aerospace sector through collaborative research projects led by the Green Aviation Research & Development Network (GARDN). Among these is the first commercial flight powered by biofuel in Canada the first civilian jet in the world 100% powered by pure biofuel. We have also developed technology that could potentially lead to a 25% to 40% decrease in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from regional and business aircraft. Over the course of the last seven years, we have led 33 completed and ongoing research projects aiming for cleaner, quieter and more sustainable aviation.

These achievements are only the beginning.

We share the Canadian government’s goal of promoting the creation and growth of clean technology businesses, and are seeking to increase the country’s competitiveness in the aerospace industry while reducing the environmental footprint of airplanes, engines and avionics systems. By financing research projects with these aims, we, as a network, have succeeded in becoming a leader in green aviation. By working with the government on the development of the Innovation Agenda, as well as with the Clean Technology Program of the 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, we believe that the development of a greener, more environmentally sustainable aviation industry can be one of Canada’s great innovation achievements.

Challenges remain, however, and continued collaboration will be essential. Increasingly strict environmental regulations set by international organizations, different regions and airports remain both an issue and a motivating force for the industry. Green innovative transportation, to reduce air pollution to improve Canadians’ lives, is also at the heart of Transportation 2030, Transport Canada’s strategic plan for the future of transportation, which aligns with our efforts and work.

We have been working together with other actors in the Canadian aerospace field, including the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) and the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) to join forces and have a positive effect on the Canadian aerospace sector, and our momentum is growing. Green aerospace is already a significant component of a large number of dynamic organizations, and both GARDN and CARIC are experiencing increased participation from both Canadian and foreign organizations. Our network already gathers more than 50 members from the industrial and research spheres, as well as international organizations such as IATA, and keeps on growing. Canada has a rich ecosystem for aerospace innovation, and we bring undeniable expertise for incorporating sustainable development.

All of this creates a strong foundation for continued green aviation advancement in the context of the Innovation Agenda. Our work is not only crucial for the growth and competitiveness of the Canadian aerospace industry but also for achieving the government’s goals of being a country that is innovative, prosperous and conscientious about sustainable development. Bombardier C Series aircrafts, for example, set the bar high for foreign competitors to reach greener technologies. But to maintain Canada’s competitiveness, engaging upstream the innovation process is essential. We need to work towards effective and supportive green R&D with all stakeholders of the aerospace industry.

Green aviation represents a significant opportunity for exactly the kind of achievements the Innovation Agenda and the Clean Technology Program are seeking to develop. Consolidating a cross-Canadian innovation network, as GARDN has done, goes hand-in-hand with this vision and will result in better jobs, leading technologies, and a greener aviation industry in the future. We look forward to continuing to build on our achievements as the Innovation Agenda unfolds in the months and years ahead.