Cranfield and Dassault open centre of excellence to drive future aero sector skills

Cranfield University in the UK has joined forces with software giant Dassault Systèmes to launch a new centre of excellence aimed at driving collaboration, accelerating innovation and upskilling the UK aerospace sector’s future workforce.  

Cranfield University

The so-called 3DExperience Edu Centre of Excellence aims to help develop the digital knowhow that will be key to accelerating the pace of innovation in the sector by giving learners and researchers at Cranfield University's unfettered access to Dassault’s 3DExperience platform.

3DExperience is a cloud-based platform that enables access to all of Dassault’s design, simulation, information intelligence and collaboration applications and which enables engineers to collaborate online when developing and validating products. 

3DExperience is also used when applying approaches to product development such as Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE), which uses computer models of products as the primary means of information exchange instead of documents, to ease collaboration, increase efficiency and reduce development and testing time. 

First announced at the Paris Airshow in 2023, the partnership sees the university join a network of 16 similar centres of Excellence in France, Germany, Switzerland, the USA and Mexico. 

Speaking at the centre’s official opening Professor Dame Helen Atkinson, pro-vice chancellor of Cranfield's school of aerospace, transport and manufacturing, said: “It makes a difference in both teaching and research and in our relationships with industry. For us it’s incredibly important to be right at the forefront of MBSE, otherwise we’re not doing our job in preparing all these graduates to go out into industry and become leaders. It’s absolutely crucial to our identity.” 

Director of Aerospace at Cranfield, Prof Sir Iain Gray, added that the kind of capabilities offered by the new centre will bolster Cranfeld’s ability to convene and lead collaboration across the sector, a dynamic that is crucial if it is to meet its environmental responsibilities.  

“If we’re going to solve the challenges of 2050 we have to find good effective ways of communicating and collaborating with each other, and this is about how we can provide shared data across the whole eco system,” he said

Mark Westwood, head of the Centre of Aeronautics at Cranfield University, added that the facility will accelerate the process of innovation by joining the dots between fundamental research and real-world application.

“We’ve got lots of research going in in the labs, and we need to get those tools validated and quickly into the hands of OEMs," he said. "This tight collaboration between research and a toolset platform organisation is a key part of that challenge.” 

Describing the centre as a catalyst for change, Marc Overton, managing director of EuroNorth, Dassault Systèmes said: “The UK is not where it needs to be – in other parts of the world they are designing products in half the time and sheep-dipping entire student populations with these advanced engineering techniques. This is something the UK needs to pursue at pace and scale.”