It’s what makes the world go round

Harry Malins, chief innovation officer, Aerospace Technology Institute
Harry Malins, chief innovation officer, Aerospace Technology Institute

When Harry Malins, chief innovation officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) discovered an industry that really does make the world go round, he never looked back!

I’ve always been interested in the big picture – the things that make the world go round. Growing up I loved reading history books, and trying to get to grips with politics and geopolitics. I was interested in industry, and liked the idea of finance and economics, although I had very little understanding of them at that point.

The result was that as a student, I had pretty much no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about journalism (which is why I jumped at the chance to write this article) – but homed in on aerospace & defence when I saw an advert for the Rolls-Royce graduate scheme and thought it would be worth looking into.

Digging deeper, I started to discover an industry that really does make the world go round, that’s on the cutting edge of technology development, and whose market dynamics are driven by the interplay of politics, geopolitics and economics. It didn’t take me long to decide that this was the sector for me, and I’ve never looked back!

And how glad I am that I made that choice as a relatively directionless student. Nearly twenty years later, as chief innovation officer at the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), I get to play a role in the transformation of a sector that’s going through its biggest change since the introduction of the jet engine.

As a society, we’re going through a period of major disruption that’s impacting every sector, not to mention all of us as individuals. Imagine taking a combination of the Spanish flu after WWI, the descent of the iron curtain after WWII, the social change of the 1960s, the computer revolution of the 1980s, the post-2003 instability in the Middle East, and the post-2008 global economic volatility – and condensing all of that into a period of five years. That’s pretty much what we’ve just been through as a society, and we definitely haven’t seen the end of the changes that are going to result.

Aerospace now needs to address the dual challenges of rebounding from the pandemic in an environment of supply chain disruption and skills shortages. At the same time, the sector must meet its Net Zero 2050 obligations – including both CO2 emissions and the less understood warming impact of non-CO2 effects including contrails.

I believe that technology will be at the heart of how we address this dual challenge, and at the ATI we’re investing in the development of technologies that will do just that. If you’re interested in finding out how, I can’t miss the opportunity to plug our technology strategy for UK aerospace – Destination Zero – which outlines the ultra-efficient, zero-carbon and cross cutting enabling technologies that we need to develop to secure growth in the coming decades.

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the world and to help them to transform and grow. I’ve spent time directly in industry in a range of strategy, programme delivery and general management roles, but also as a consultant. I’ve kept learning throughout, both on the job and through additional training and qualifications.

Something that I’ve noticed consistently throughout my career is that aerospace is full of people who are curious – who want to understand a problem, whether technical or strategic, and find a way to address it. When you get curious and brilliant people trying to address tough problems you often see the most remarkable results. That gives me a lot of confidence that aerospace will keep innovating and keep making the world go round, even if it can feel like the world is going a little crazy sometimes!

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