The January 2001 report 'European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020', set the goal for Europe to become the uncontested world leader in the field of aeronautics by 2020. Reducing the environmental impact of air transport, with regard to emissions and noise, is a key element in achieving this goal. To facilitate the timely achievement of this goal a common framework for research and technological development, based upon a coordinated collaborative effort, is a pre-requisite. ECATS developed a robust research framework and delivered outputs that focus on the environmental competitiveness and sustainability of the air transportation system concerning emissions.
The ECATS Network of Excellence (NoE) comprised a number of leading research establishments and universities and provided the basis for a durable and long lasting means of cooperation in the field of aeronautics and the environment. The overall goals of ECATS were to create a European Virtual Institute for research on environmentally compatible air transport; to develop and maintain durable means for cooperation and communication within Europe and to strengthen Europe's excellence and its influential role in the international community.
The Joint Research Programme intended toaddress engine technology, alternative fuels, the impact of aviation on air quality, operational aspects of aviation and the development of alternative scenarios. Lasting integration was expected to be achieved by joint decision-making processes and joint management and working structures, and could be supported through specific integration activities including a common web-based information and communication system, common education, training and exchange programmes, coordinated use of facilities and equipment, dissemination and joint management of innovation.
In the integrating activities, the ECATS Network created a common level of knowledge on expertise and resources within the partnership by gathering and assessing information on existing research programmes, knowledge, equipment, facilities and infrastructure within the ECATS consortium. A Network Office had a central role in the structure of the Network and served as point of contact for communication. Within the NoE, efficient use of existing infrastructure was managed, any lack of facilities was identified, and duplication of resources and facilities were minimised. A critical function of ECATS were identified the research landscape required to address the impact of aviation emissions on the environment. It was also assessed its collective strengths and weaknesses, and its ability to meet the research objectives. This assessment, or gap analysis, identified where work was required and could be used to identify the needs of the virtual centre. Needs were identified in a number of areas and of various types, for example tool requirements, infrastructure requirements, skill deficiencies, etc. Mobility of researchers and the exchange of knowledge and experience between partners were fostered and facilitated.
Joint research was carried out in the capability enhancement and research initiatives activities. The three key thematic areas were:
- initial pollutant formation in engines and the subsequent chemical and physical transformation of constituents through the engine in the engine plume,
- local and regional air quality, and
- environmentally sustainable air traffic management and air traffic scenarios.
The ECATS Network utilised information and shared it with external communities of aviation, atmospheric science and industry. Education and training of research staff had a critical function of ECATS and this could be addressed through the development of common PhD programmes, summer schools and in the longer-term MSc programmes. The education and training of ECATS partners also was supported through workshops and seminar activities. Linkages to other projects within national and EU programmes and organisations, which have interests that were aviation-environment related, were established and managed through interface management. ECATS disseminated research and scientific deliverables to both the scientific community and the general public.
After five years of joint research and exploring closer collaboration, the ECATS Network of Excellence has been transformed into ECATS International Association, officially registered per 2 November 2010 by Royal Decree of Belgium. This website will therefore gradually change into the Association’s homepage in the course of 2011.
The objective of ECATS – as laid down in its Statutes – is to promote and support its Members’ joint activities and interests in the field of aviation & environmental impact. Its higher-level aim is to help making aviation sustainable, by:
- Building up, maintaining and extending scientific expertise;
- Further linking and integrating expertise in relevant thematic areas and to exploit the multi-disciplinary platform available in ECATS;
- Organising exchange of information in particular about experience and development of related research; e.g., on basis of workshops, reports and publications, education and training, and web-based information;
- Providing liaison between customers and experts to provide integrated and professional support;
- Fostering the technical, strategic and political debate, for instance to initiate research work where identified to be crucial.