Heathrow starts hunt for low-carbon aviation ideas

Airport’s ‘Innovation Prize’ puts Pound 30,000 up for grabs for entrepreneurs working to crack aviation’s carbon challenge

Heathrow Airport is offering a Pound 30,000 prize fund to an entrepreneur with a plan to cut the carbon footprint of flying, it announced last week.

The ‘Innovation Prize’ is available to someone working on an idea to reduce the impact of people travelling to and from the airport, or on technology for greener flights such as electric aircraft or biofuels. Projects to capture and use carbon at or near airports will also be considered.

Heathrow said the competition forms part of the airport’s new role as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for green aviation research.

The think tank, a partnership between Heathrow and a clutch of UK universities, aims to speed the arrival of truly sustainable air travel.

However, the emergence of zero emission commercial flights remains a huge technical challenge given batteries are not yet powerful enough for commercial planes and many existing biofuels face questions over their land use impact.

“Climate change is the greatest threat facing our generation and it is imperative we take meaningful steps to address our impacts – and we need to make them quickly,” said Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s director of sustainability. “Through the Centre of Excellence, and by partnering with top scientists we will continue to think radically about sustainability, translate ideas into action at Heathrow, and across our industry.”

The new initiative is part of a wide-ranging strategy from the airport to cut its operation greenhouse gas emissions, invest in new UK carbon offset schemes, and accelerate the roll out of green aviation technologies.

However, Heathrow remains at the centre of a controversial legal battle over its plans to build a third runway, which campaigners insist is at odds with the UK’s climate targets.

The UK government’s climate watchdog, the Committee on Climate Change, has warned expansion of Heathrow can only be made compatible with UK climate targets if new greener aviation technologies are developed and steeper emissions reductions are achieved in other parts of the economy.

Source: Civil Aviation Authority