Donation of £25m supports sustainable aviation institute at Imperial College London

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Imperial College London is establishing the Brahmal Vasudevan Institute for Sustainable Aviation, a research facility dedicated to net-zero flight that is supported by a £25m philanthropic donation.

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Researchers at the Institute will look at all elements of air transport - from fuel and aircraft design to airport infrastructure, air traffic control and aviation policy - to support the aviation industry’s transition to zero pollution. The £25m donation has been made by aeronautical engineering alumnus Brahmal Vasudevan, founder and CEO of private equity firm Creador, and his wife Shanthi Kandiah, founder of legal firm SK Chambers. 

In a statement, Professor Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, said: “We are deeply grateful to Brahmal and Shanthi for their generosity and vision. They have provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to take on one of the greatest challenges in the fight against climate change.   “The Brahmal Vasudevan Institute for Sustainable Aviation will focus Imperial’s world-class research, recently ranked top in the UK, on the grand challenge of low-carbon flight. Translating scientific breakthroughs for societal benefit is Imperial’s mission, and this Institute will empower our researchers to collaborate, innovate and pursue new ideas across fields. The benefits of this work will be felt for generations.” Brahmal Vasudevan’s previous support includes a £1.25m donation to establish the Brahmal Vasudevan Multi-Terrain Aerial Robotics Arena in the Department of Aeronautics. Vasudevan said: “Moving towards zero pollution is a mammoth task and aviation, in particular, is a complicated sector to decarbonise. Tackling the problem in a systematic and coherent way to achieve the goal of a net-zero, sustainable economy requires high levels of eco-innovation to succeed. Shanthi and I believe that there is no better institution in the world to drive pioneering work in this field, and we are delighted to support Imperial’s efforts.” Aviation accounts for 2.5 per cent of global CO2 emissions but its overall contribution to climate change is higher because planes affect the concentration of other gases and pollutants in the atmosphere, which causes warming. COP26 saw the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition agree to support measures to reduce the sector’s carbon emissions including through a new global goal and promotion of cleaner fuels and technologies. 

Professor Paul Robinson, head of the Department of Aeronautics, said: “We know that flying is making a direct contribution to climate change. It also affords us many benefits – it brings people together, supports trade, research, economic growth, medical aid, internationalism, and enables connection between remote and urban areas. Urgent changes need to be made, but we must also ensure that the process is done smoothly, fairly and in a way that maintains the economic and social benefits of flying.  “Achieving net-zero flight will require a radical shift across the whole system of aviation. There is much to do and not much time, but there is a will and determination being shown across the sector and beyond. Through this Institute, we have the talent, resources and research strength to make this happen.” Based in the Department of Aeronautics, the Brahmal Vasudevan Institute for Sustainable Aviation will be interdisciplinary in its approach, utilising expertise from Imperial’s faculties and research centres. Priority areas of research will include the development and exploration of new low and zero pollution propulsion technologies and the associated developments in engines, aerodynamics, structures, materials, fuels systems, control and aircraft configuration.