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Enabling the Circular Economy in Aerospace Manufacturing through Industrial Digital Technologies

The challenge for aerospace manufacturers is transitioning from a linear economy to a circular economy (CE) to reduce adverse environmental impacts and associated economic costs in the development of new products. The UK has the world’s largest aerospace industry outside the USA, and it is the second largest contributor to the UK economy after pharmaceuticals. It provides over 120,000 highly skilled jobs and has an annual turnover of £35 billion, the majority of which comes from exports to the rest of the world. In 2018 the UK aviation sector pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. A key part of achieving this target is the introduction of new, and more efficient aircraft (saving 23.5 MtCO2/yr. by 2050) that requires the aerospace industry to investigate new strategies to reduce waste and by product flows, develop novel materials, and sustainable business models.

The world is experiencing the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) that is focused on the use of Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs) within production environments to deliver economic and environmental benefits through enhanced productivity, connectivity and efficiency. Aerospace is already supporting the development and adoption of the specific technologies, which will define the industrial digitalization revolution, including additive manufacturing, collaborative robots, artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). However, compared with other sectors such as financial services, widespread uptake of these technologies remains relatively low. Consequently, it is important to understand the barriers and facilitators for the effective update and application of IDTs in the aerospace manufacturing supply chain to realize the benefits of CE practices. This project aims to investigate how circular economy practices in different domains could be implemented in the aerospace manufacturing sector through the application of safe, secure and traceable IDTs.

Dr Crispin Coombs
(Principal Investigator)
School of Business and Economics 
Loughborough University 

Dr Crispin is a Reader in Information Systems and Head of the Information Management Academic Group in the School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University. Crispin’s research expertise concerns the impact of information systems (IS) on the delivery of benefits and value for organizations. Most recently, his research has investigated the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics on work. Dr Coombs has led externally funded research projects from EPSRC, ESRC, STFC, CIPD, British Academy, NiHR and Department of Health valued at over £670k. His work is highly cited and has been published in the top business and management journals including The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, European Journal of Information Systems, Information & Management, Information Technology & People, Journal of Organizational Behaviour, Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Human Resource Management Journal and Management Learning.


Crispin holds editorial positions at the European Journal of Information Systems, Information Technology and People and International Journal of Information Management. He is a member of the Association of Information Systems and a Director of the UK Academy of Information Systems.

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