The supersonic speed of change
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The supersonic speed of change

The supersonic speed of change

Posted on 3rd September 2020

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My colleague, Freddie Kydd, wrote an interesting blog the other day which looked at the speed of change in the driverless car market.  Essentially, technology which has been many years in the making is now coming to fruition, with all that implies by way of increased safety, fewer road accidents and a reduced financial impact on GDP.

All this applies in spades to another announcement last week, this time in the field of aerospace. Depending on where you read the story, it’s either a supersonically hyped-up piece of British invention which could transform the world of travel (assuming we’re still allowed to go anywhere), or a simple investment by a major blue-chip in a smaller engineering company which has a product with massive potential.   Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media chose the former approach while the tech/trade press took the latter path.

No matter, it’s the stuff of 21st century dreams: electric airliners flying at five times the speed of sound.  To help make this happen, Rolls Royce has invested £20M in Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines, having previously taken an equity stake in 2018. The stated goal is “to develop high-speed aircraft propulsion systems (and to) explore applications for Reaction Engines’ thermal management technology within civil and defence aerospace gas turbine engines and hybrid-electric systems.

Achieving this goal would possibly mean that supersonic speed would become the norm for commercial aircraft within ten years. The tech involved, in particular, “a super-efficient heat exchanger which is light and compact enough to be used in aerospace,” is awesome.  However, like the driverless cars, this is stuff that has been in development for some time and will be with us in the relatively near future.   

It’s when you consider this sort of invention/innovation – or indeed the Internet of Things, driverless cars, 3D printed construction or the myriad of other staggering ideas being worked on daily, that you begin to realise just how rapidly our world is changing. The current crisis, with its monumental impact on the global economy, will not last forever and, as I write, there is a growing body of evidence that things are improving for businesses in many parts of the world.  Even with a return of higher COVID infection rates, we are simply going to have to learn to live with the virus in the same way we do with communicable diseases more generally, bearing in mind that they are responsible for around 30% of global deaths annually. Big data, STEM and mankind’s ingenuity, not to mention the profit motive, will help us all get out of the mess we’re in now and I look forward to my flight to the US taking only a couple of hours…

Alastair Philp, Be-IT

Posted in News, Opinion


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