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Airbus wings
Image credit: Airbus

The West of England’s aerospace and advanced engineering sector is worth over £2.7 billion.

Over 10 world-leading aerospace companies are based here. The area is Europe’s aerospace powerhouse, with specialist expertise in areas like composites, robotics, and additive-layer manufacturing.

In addition to the 51,000 aerospace, manufacturing and advanced engineering jobs in the West of England, the region is home to four world-class universities attended by over 39,000 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) students.

The region is home to the National Composites Centre (NCC) which is one of seven world-class centres comprising the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) research centre.

At the HVMC, businesses of various sizes and sectors can access new technology and specialist engineers to drive innovation for composites.

Major international businesses operate in the region, such as Airbus, GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo Group, and Boeing. Their supply chains lead in aerospace research, development, and design. These businesses feed the manufacture of aircraft, helicopters, military transport, satellites, and communication systems across the country and globally.

  • The region’s aerospace firms are supported by new ‘disruptive technology’ facilities. This includes the University of Bath’s new Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems, which supports joint research and 300 new engineering jobs.
  • Additional developments include the Airbus Wing Integration Centre, and the National Composites Centre’s announcement of a further £36.7 million investment in its current facility.
  • The West of England Aerospace Forum, a large aerospace and defence association which connects members to major industry and government decision makers, is based in the region.
  • Productivity in the sector has grown by 50% since 2009, at 20 times the UK average.

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Timeline of aviation history in the region


First balloon flight in Bristol


Aircraft production began at Filton in 1910 with Sir George White’s British & Colonial (later, Bristol) Aeroplane Company


The multi-role Bristol Blenheim was a tremendous leap forward in aircraft technology and became the backbone of the Royal Air Force early in the Second World War. The factory at Filton was the largest in Europe, and several shadow factories were set up around the country to support it


Bristol Aeroplane Company engine division merges with Armstrong-Siddeley to form Bristol-Siddeley, and subsequently merged with Rolls-Royce in 1966, retaining the Rolls-Royce name. The factory at Patchway is still operational today, focussing on military engines, like the EJ200 for the Eurofigher Typhoon, and marine engines


British Aircraft Corporation founded. Plans for a supersonic airliner were well underway. Development began at Filton and Toulouse on the jointly designed and built BAC/Aerospatiale Concorde


Work began at Bristol on the design and manufacture of the structure for the UK's Black Arrow technology satellite X3, which was launched as Prospero in 1971. It was and still is the only all UK satellite and launch vehicle combination


Concorde made its first flight in 1969, and ten years later the last Concorde flew out. In nearly 70 years, over 22,000 aircraft were designed and built by Bristol in the UK or licenced for production abroad


The technical expertise of Bristol in aerospace led to Intel and Fairchild being set up in the region in the 1970s


First Bristol International Balloon Fiesta


Airbus UK founded in Filton


Bristol & Bath Science Park opens


Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), the largest robotics laboratory of its type in the UK opened


National Composite Centre opens


Rolls-Royce announce Bristol the location for the firm’s centre of advanced fan system composite technology development


Vertical Aerospace lists on the New York Stock Exchange

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The West of England has the strongest composites R&D capability in the UK.

South West Aerospace

The South West of England is the ideal location for aerospace and advanced engineering businesses that want to set up or expand in the UK.


The West of England is home to a diverse space sector, with multi-national and SME companies active in the space ecosystem.