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Science and Innovation Audits

What are Science and Innovation Audits (SIA)?

Science and Innovation Audits are awarded competitively by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. They are a process that brings together and supports local consortia of business, universities, research and innovation organisations, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and their equivalents in the Devolved Administrations. The Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) process broadens and deepens our understanding of areas of potential globally competitive advantage across the UK. Each audit therefore reflects a specific geography or “place”.  

Innovation for Sustainable Airports

This Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) focussed on Innovation for Sustainable Airports using Heathrow as the primary place.

Heathrow Airport represents 1% of UK GDP, is in the Thames Valley that delivers 10% of UK GDP, and is recognised for excellence in customer experience and operational efficiency, operating at 98% capacity. It is also an internationally recognised leader in environmental sustainability, a position reinforced by Heathrow 2.0, the airport’s recent sustainability leadership strategy. It is the most efficient 2-runway airport in the world, and while aviation is growing globally, research, innovation and business collaboration will be critical for this growth to be sustainable.

Heathrow Airport is a mixed economy delivering a single purpose -excellent journeys. This SIA looked to explore and validate specific areas of excellence across the Heathrow system and use these to demonstrate potential global competitive advantage. 

The study focussed on four key themes: Big Data and Cyber Security, Intelligent Mobility, Sustainable Construction and Operational Excellence, to help make Heathrow and the UK system of businesses the home of Sustainable Airport innovation by 2020.

The themes explored by the audit map closely to the Grand Challenges set out in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

Insert GRID here

Our Findings

The SIA highlights the importance of the sector to the UK economy. However four main challenges have been identified which if addressed could ensure that research and innovation is harnessed to deliver innovative technologies for future airports increasing productivity, exports and economic growth. The four challenges are:

  • The connection between the research base and industry supporting innovation in sustainable airports could be stronger and more diverse leading to higher productivity
  • The economic competitiveness of our study area means that space for businesses to grow is at a premium
  • There are no incubators or accelerators specific to our themes which relate directly to sustainable airports within our study area
  • There are significant higher level skills shortages to grow innovation in particular themes, e.g. Cyber Security for Aviation.

Additionally a wide range strategic and theme specific opportunities were identified and are contained in the Summary Report which can be downloaded below.

Download: Summary Report  |  Download: Full Report

Our Vision

To create a world leading research and innovation ecosystem,
focussed on the needs of sustainable airport development and operation,
anchored in the West London and Thames Valley area,
driving UK economic growth and productivity.


Next Steps

The process of carrying out the audit has led to the development of a network of organisations committed to collaborate together to meet the highlighted challenges and exploit the opportunities identified through research and innovation. Current plans include a dedicated research Centre, opportunity reviews and “living lab” approaches amongst others.


  • Brunel University London
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd
  • Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure Ltd
  • The Heathrow Strategic Planning Group
  • The Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP
  • The Smart Specialisation Hub
  • West London Business
  • BRE (Building Research Establishment Ltd)
  • Maidenhead & District Chamber of Commerce
  • Thames Valley Berkshire LEP
  • Conigital
  • ICE blue


Contact us

If you would like to discuss how your organisation can participate in this network in future,

Please click here to get in touch.