Boeing, the American aerospace company, announced plans to establish a research and development (R&D) centre in Japan, in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti), according to a company’s statement on August 1. 

The new facility will focus on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), robotics, digitalisation, automation and carbon fibre composite materials for the aviation industry, and will expand the company’s R&D footprint in Asia, which already includes Australia, China and Korea, Boeing said in the statement. 

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The initiative is a part of a newly expanded cooperation agreement with Meti. In 2019, the two entities signed an agreement to strengthen innovative aircraft technologies, including advanced batteries, motors and controllers.

Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief engineer, said in the statement: “Working with terrific partners like METI, the new centre will expand upon Boeing-wide initiatives in sustainable fuels and electrification and explore the intersection of digitisation, automation and high-performance aerospace composites for greater sustainability in our future products and production systems.” 

The new facility will be located in Nagoya, where many of Boeing’s industrial partners and suppliers are based. It will expand the company’s R&D footprint in Asia, which currently includes facilities in Australia, China and South Korea. The company currently has 11 R&D centres globally.

Additionally, Boeing said that it has become a partner in Act For Sky, a voluntary organisation founded by 16 Japanese companies in March 2022, which works to commercialise and expand the use of SAF in Japan.

SAF is a cleaner alternative to conventional fossil jet fuel produced with sustainable feedstocks including cooking oil and solid waste from homes and businesses. SAF can reduce aeroplane carbon emissions by up to 80%, according to the International Air Transport Association, and has attracted significant recent investments this year.

In June, Australian flagship air carrier Qantas and Boeing’s European rival Airbus announced plans to partner and invest up to $200m to fast track the establishment of a SAF industry in Australia.

Meanwhile, Boeing has signed sustainability agreements with All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL), which both use Boeing aircrafts as part of their fleets. The companies will work together on research into advanced sustainable technologies, including electric, hybrid, hydrogen and other propulsion systems.

Boeing has previously collaborated with the two Japanese airlines on SAF-powered flights. In February 2021, JAL operated a commercial flight using jet fuel blended with SAF between Fukuoka and Tokyo Haneda airports. 

JAL and ANA are both members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, which includes 25 member airlines as well as Boeing and Airbus. Boeing has committed that all its commercial aircrafts will be compatible and capable of flying with 100% SAF by 2030.