To respond to the extraordinary technological evolution currently underway and address the industrial opportunity represented by the challenges of tomorrow’s aircraft, it is essential to implement a systematic approach involving all resources capable of building a vision of the future and drawing a roadmap for implementing it.
Salvatore Grimaldi, in charge of Innovation at Leonardo’s Aircraft, now at the helm of a team of about fifty people researching new directions for innovation and business, talks about this approach: “The aircraft of the next generation, for both civil and military applications, require development of enabling technologies, with implications for the industrial ecosystem that go well beyond individual programmes.”
This approach, which sees the involvement of operative resources in a number of Leonardo sites, in the Leonardo Labs and in Turin’s Officine Grandi Riparazioni (the innovation incubator chosen by Leonardo to facilitate relations among companies and start-ups, ed.), contributes significantly to building an ecosystem of innovation involving a complex system of players all over the country, with the goal of developing enabling technologies for the aeronautics of the future, such as aircraft electrification. “The amount of power required is several orders of magnitude greater than that of the automotive industry. This means alternative solutions are required that will substantially alter the way aircraft are designed. We’re working on the technologies of the near future,” explains Grimaldi, “such as hydrogen, fuel cells and high-power electrical systems that will prepare us to address the challenges the market puts before us.”
“The new paradigms in aeronautics, from autonomous aircraft to digitisation and emissions reduction, require innovation in many different fields of science.” Leonardo researchers are working on processes for the identification and modelling of new materials for the aeronautical industry, such as metamaterials and materials based on graphene, as well as the new systemic solutions enabled by their potential. “Examples include multi-functional materials combining mechanical capabilities with systemic ones, such as heat transmission or electromagnetic conditioning.”
Ecosystem creation is the fulcrum of innovation: the aim is to accelerate the process of innovation and the long-term diversification of the business, involving and systematically organising the capabilities of research centres, institutions, universities, SMEs, large enterprises, spin-offs and start-ups, in Italy and abroad.