Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor, Cranfield University, and Air Marshal Andrew Turner CB CBE FRAeS CCMI, Deputy Commander Capability, RAF, sign the Strategic Relationship Charter

Cranfield University and the Royal Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) have today signed a Strategic Relationship Charter setting out guiding principles for how the two organisations will work together more closely in research, innovation and education.

The strategic partnership agreement was signed at Cranfield’s Bedfordshire campus and recognises the importance of research and experimentation in defence science and technology to the strategic goals of both organisations.

Cranfield and the RAF have a long relationship going back to before the Second World War. The signing of the Charter marks a new phase in which they will work together on initiatives covering sustainability and the drive for net-zero, unmanned aerial systems, space, AI and autonomy.

Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, said: “The signing of the Strategic Relationship Charter is a fitting recognition of our links with the RAF and fundamental to our own strategic direction. The Charter recognises the alignment of Cranfield University with the aims and interests of the RAF at a time of increasing emphasis on sovereign capability.

“We look forward to continuing to work together to transform our specialist knowledge in science and technology through research, innovation and education into practical applications which serve society and contribute to the future wealth and security of the UK.”

Air Commodore Holmes, Head of the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office, said: “Research and development, and innovation, have always been at the heart of the RAF. The signing of the Strategic Relationship Charter with Cranfield University not only enhances a long-standing relationship between the RAF and Cranfield but also enables both organisations to move to a new phase and work collaboratively on developing the Next Generation Air Force.’’

Cranfield University evolved from the original establishment of RAF Cranfield in 1937 and subsequent founding of the College of Aeronautics on the same site in 1946.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded Cranfield – at that time Cranfield Institute of Technology – a teaching and research contract in 1984, which continues today with Cranfield Defence and Security’s presence at the Defence Academy of the UK in Shrivenham.

Many serving military officers, including from the RAF, graduate each year through Cranfield’s role as the Academic Provider to the MoD.

Cranfield is already working with the RCO on sustainability projects looking at carbon content on the MoD estate and net-zero in operational effectiveness.

The University is also broadening its educational offering through the Defence Academy to equip and enable RAF personnel in the space, AI and autonomy regimes.

Notes for editors

About the Royal Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office

The Royal Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) supports the delivery of enhanced capability to the front line. Through a broad range of programmes the RCO explores opportunities presented by emerging technologies, and leverages diversity in thought with novel and innovative ways of working.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.