HydrogenOne Capital Growth (HGEN) has announced that it and its co-investors have signed a Heads of Terms agreement, signaling their intention to merge Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Limited (CAeS) with Britten-Normen and to create the world’s first fully integrated, zero-emissions sub regional aircraft for entry into service in 2026. HGEN describes this as an industry first that will create a UK based global leader in green flight. CAeS is a pioneer in hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion technology, while Britten-Norman manufactures the iconic Islander aircraft (pictured). The merger is due to complete in mid-2023, subject to due diligence.
Additional investment in the new company
In a funding round led by HydrogenOne, a consortium of CAeS investors comprising HydrogenOne, Safran Corporate Ventures (the corporate venture arm of Safran, a leading aerospace company), and the UAE-based venture capital firm Strategic Development Fund have agreed to invest up to £10m in the new company, including up to £5m of investment from HydrogenOne. Britten-Norman’s existing owners, including lead investor Alawi Zawawi, will also join the new business. HGEN says that this investment will anchor further funding that is currently being raised to support the growth of the new company.
Responding to growing demand
HGEN says that the merged company can respond to the growing demand from airlines and operators for an original equipment manufacturer backed aircraft that will enable their move to zero-emissions operations. It says that, by combining CAeS’s pioneering development of a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion system with the existing and proven Britten-Norman aircraft technology, a new route to market has been created, with certification for a passenger-carrying service planned for 2026.
The two companies have been collaborating on Project Fresson for over 2 years, a project set up to develop the technologies required to enable the hydrogen propulsion system for the Britten-Norman Islander. The project has been backed by the UK government, via the UK Aerospace Technology Institute, and has secured over £14m in private funding from global investors.
Comments from Simon Hogan, chairman of HydrogenOne
“We are very proud to have led this funding round that will create a new leader in green aircraft manufacturing in the UK. Our commitment to investing in clean hydrogen for a positive environmental impact is central to this investment that will contribute towards moving global aviation towards zero-emissions operations.”