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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

AIA mission

To accelerate the transition to climate neutral flight by developing evidence-based, multidisciplinary tools that allow decision makers to understand, build and embark on the pathways to sustainable flight.    


About the AIA

The aviation sector offers society significant value – facilitating the flow of goods and services and allowing ideas and people to connect. However, the sector also makes a significant and growing contribution to climate change, and thus far has yet to show it is capable of responding to the global shift towards a net zero future.  

To achieve that shift will require joined-up thinking by decision makers – making the right policy and investment decisions. The scale of change required and the urgency of climate change means transformative change that requires simultaneously understanding aircraft design and operation; energy production; fuel production and supply chains; land use; and airport infrastructure. All of these factors need to be considered holistically, alongside economics and safety constraints involved.  

The AIA’s goal is to provide accessible tools for innovation, policy and implementation, that draw on a world-leading network of multisectoral and multidisciplinary expertise. The project benefits from its collaboration between deep academic insight and engaged industry stakeholders, allowing science and engineering-based computer models and simulations to be created that can evaluate solutions objectively, while also highlighting the uncertainties and risks involved, showing possibilities and probabilities for any chosen policy direction.  

Dr Andy Wheeler demonstrating the AIA’s model to HRH The Prince of Wales, Clare Shine (CEO, CISL) and David Cardwell (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Strategy and Planning, University of Cambridge)


About the Aviation Impact Accelerator

The AIA is an international group of practitioners and academics convened by the University of Cambridge. Benefitting from its ability to draw from a multi-disciplinary range of expertise, it develops interactive, evidence-based models, simulations, and visualisations. This provides tools for decision-makers and the wider engaged public to understand the pathways to net zero flight. The project provides an authoritative evaluation of possible future technology choices, emphasising the impact, opportunities and risks for aviation industry stakeholders and senior decision-makers. 

The project was born out of a series of discussions hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales in early 2020. These included roundtables at Clarence House and the Whittle Laboratory, convened by CISL and the Sustainable Markets Initiative. These initial meetings were attended by high-level aviation business leaders, academics and policy makers. 

Currently, the AIA has a core team of over 60 contributors and has gained from the inputs of over 80 different companies in the aviation sector. It has developed a broad range of academic and industry partners, and has structured itself into a range of small, cross-disciplinary teams looking at multiple aspects of the system including aircraft and propulsion technology; fuels; airports; network modelling; non-CO2 emissions; model design and the broader economic and policy context. The AIA team have built a holistic model which was previewed at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2020. 


Who’s involved?

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) leads this project alongside the University of Cambridge’s Whittle Laboratory. 

CISL’s role in coordinating the project ranges between the areas of industry engagement, communications and media, policy and business research, and project management. In its stakeholder management capacities, CISL works to engage new partners and foster wider collaborations and engagement within industry representatives with the project. Coordinating the various parties interested in the project, CISL works to promote the AIA’s wider work through convening media and communications opportunities. Using institutional policy expertise, CISL works to research how the AIA can have an impact on UK and global aviation policy. CISL’s wider work is focused on developing leadership and solutions and facilitating collaboration and dialogue for a sustainable economy within its business and policy leaders’ groups. 


The Whittle Laboratory leads the technical research and whole system modelling, alongside leading on industrial collaborations to make the AIA a truly academic-industrial endeavour which provides research excellence with real world relevance and impact.  

CISL works with other academic institutions to drive forward the initiative including, the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, Hopkinson Laboratory, BP Institute, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, and Judge Business School, together with the Air Transportation Systems Lab at University College London, University of Technology Sydney, and the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne.

The initiative is in collaboration with HRH The Prince of Wales’s Sustainable Markets Initiative, The World Economic Forum, Cambridge Zero, MathWorks, and SATAVIA, with the technical input of industry advisors including Rolls-Royce, Boeing, BP, Heathrow and Siemens Energy. 

Clare Shine (CEO, CISL) said: “International travel helps people and societies connect. To retain this opportunity for future generations, we must urgently address aviation’s environmental impact as part of systemic decarbonisation of the economy. This calls for imaginative and inclusive innovation, which is why the Aviation Impact Accelerator brings together insight from industry, policy, and civil society. CISL has played a central role in developing this project and we are passionate about centring people, nature and climate in all are work focused on systemic change.” 


HRH the Prince of Wales and Kwasi Kwarteng MP (Secretary of State for BEIS) interact with AIA Journey Impact Simulator

CISL’s mission is to drive transformative change for people, nature and climate. We work at the forefront of leadership, defining, evolving and challenging what good looks like – serving as a bridge between the future we want and the reality of where organisations are today. CISL works with leaders in the real economy who are open to transformation and through their ambition, influence, and actions have the potential to lead change and make a meaningful contribution to a sustainable economy – both in terms of changing their own company behaviour and driving systems change.   

The AIA is committed to its methodological independence from its funding organizations. Structures have been put in place to ensure the independence of the simulator’s outcomes, and industry members are not able to control the results it produces. 

For more information on the project please visit the AIA’s website.   

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The AIA benefits from a range of academic, business and policy stakeholders contributing their time, expertise, and networks. The initiative is seeking to include a wider range of supporters. 

If you would like to hear more about the opportunity to engage and support the Aviation Impact Accelerator, please get in touch with AIA Manager