King Charles got back to work today as he broke ground on a £58million research facility that will aim to develop net-zero flight technology.
The monarch’s first engagement following his coronation at the weekend saw him pay an hour-long visit to the Whittle Laboratory at Cambridge University.
The research centre, founded 50 years ago, is developing a brand new lab that will bring together the world’s top aviation and energy experts to achieve emissions-free flights as soon as possible.
It is a fitting first engagement for the King, who is a fervent environmentalist but can no longer speak out on such issues following his ascension to the throne.
Charles visited Whittle back in 2020, when the-then Prince said: ‘The need to de-carbonise flight must remain at the top of the agenda.
King Charles raises a shovel in the air after breaking ground at the Whittle Laboratory’s new research facility
King Charles III arrives for a visit to the Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge to break ground on the new laboratory
King Charles III is welcomed by (left to right) Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman, Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, and High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire, Dr Bharatkumar Khetani, as he arrives for a visit to the Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge
‘While many are calling for net zero flights by 2050, I would like to challenge you all to think about halving that time frame to 2035.’ He visited again last March.
But in his first speech following his mother’s death last year, Charles vowed to uphold the constitutional obligation of British monarchs to stay above the political fray, as the late Queen did.
‘It will no longer be possible to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I cared so deeply, but I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others,’ he said.
In a 2018 documentary to mark his 70th birthday, the then-Prince Charles also said he would change his behaviour when he became king.
‘The idea, somehow, that I’m going to go on in exactly the same way, if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense because the two – the two situations – are completely different,’ he said.
His Majesty took a short tour of the Whittle facility on Tuesday morning, which included demonstrations of the key technologies and methods that will be enabled by the new lab.
He was joined by Energy Secretary Grant Shapps and science minister George Freeman.
The main goal of the new lab is to halve the time it takes to develop key technologies for wider commercial use.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: ‘Today, it typically takes six to eight years to develop a new technology to the point where it can be considered for commercial deployment in the aerospace and energy sectors.
‘Recent trials in the Whittle laboratory have shown this timeframe can be accelerated by breaking down silos that exist between academia and industry.
King Charles got back to work today as he broke ground on a £58million research facility that will aim to develop net-zero flight technology (Pictured: Charles at the Whittle Lab on Tuesday)
King Charles III with Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman (second from left) and Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps (far left), during a visit to the Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge
The monarch’s first engagement following his coronation at the weekend saw him pay an hour-long visit to the Whittle Laboratory at Cambridge University (monarch pictured arriving on Tuesday)
King Charles III shares a laugh during a visit to the Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge to break ground on the new laboratory
‘Supporting this work, the new laboratory will play host to the National Centre for Propulsion and Power, built around a fast feedback innovation model, pioneered by Formula One.’
After the demonstrations, Charles attended a ‘collaborative roundtable’ of Government and aviation representatives which discussed how to make the industry more sustainable.
Charles then broke ground on the new laboratory while being watched by 100 members of Whittle staff, University students and professors, before unveiling a plaque to mark the occasion.
The Whittle Laboratory is an aerospace and energy research centre based at the University of Cambridge.
It was opened in 1973 by Sir Frank Whittle who founded the company that invented the jet engine while still an undergraduate at Cambridge. The lab has worked with the likes of Rolls-Royce, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Siemens.
The King has visited the lab twice in previous years, when he enjoyed more freedom to speak out on climate change issues.
In August 2021, he made one of his most powerful interventions ever when he told Britain’s business leaders that they must do more or the planet is ‘done for’.
King Charles III arrives for a visit to the Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge on Tuesday
Drawing emotionally on his family connections to wildfire-racked Greece, the then-prince issued a robust challenge to big business to join his crusade for action ‘before it’s finally too late’.
The then-heir to the throne said humanity’s ‘only hope’ is for business chiefs to join world leaders in an ‘epic battle’ to avert ‘climate catastrophe’.
He urged leading companies to sign up to his ‘Terra Carta’, a charter that committed them to putting sustainability at the heart of all their business activities.
It comes after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva revealed just this past weekend that Charles had personally asked him to protect the Amazon rainforest.
Lula and the British monarch met at Buckingham Palace in London last Friday evening, on the eve of the king’s coronation.
‘The first thing the king said to me was that I should take care of the Amazon,’ Lula told a press conference in London.
‘I replied: ‘I need help’,’ said the Brazilian leader, whose country is home to 60 percent of the world’s largest tropical rainforest, a vital carbon sink.
On Friday, after a meeting between Lula and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Britain pledged to contribute £80million ($101 million) to the Amazon Fund, created in 2008 to preserve the rainforest.