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  • The UK Government finalised its sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) mandate, which includes a sub-target for power-to-liquid (PtL) fuel, buy-out price and sustainability criteria to be met.
  • There are several existing funds that the Government has delivered in support of SAF, but the industry still requires further financial support.
  • The policy landscape for SAF will likely evolve in the short term, with the potential for new proposals targeting fuels and net zero aviation more broadly as the UK heads into a General Election period.

The UK Government is in the process of designing and delivering its policy framework for achieving net-zero aviation. The UK aerospace industry is the second largest in the world1 and aircraft, engine and parts manufacturing is expected to be the country’s third biggest export in 2024, totalling $24.6 billion2. The Government views the sector as a vital part of the UK’s economy, alongside being an influential player in the global market. However, with international and domestic aviation accounting for around 8 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions3, there is an urgent need to implement policies that will ensure the sector aligns with climate targets.

The Jet Zero Strategy, launched in 2022, outlines the Government’s strategic vision and plan for reaching net-zero aviation by 2050. The Jet Zero Council, formed of senior industry representatives and policy-makers, provides strategic oversight of the Government’s plans as key stakeholders in the sector’s transition. Within these current plans, sustainable aviation fuel – or SAF – is noted as ‘one of the key levers available to government and industry to accelerate the transition to net-zero aviation’4, and they are aiming for 5 plants to be under construction in 2025. The UK’s SAF industry could be worth £16.7 billion per year in exports by 2050, supporting approximately 130,000 highly paid jobs5, and it is our view that the Government has a leading role in delivering this huge opportunity by establishing a sustainable, high-integrity SAF market for the UK and beyond. 

SAF mandate

The UK Government finalised its SAF mandate in April 2024, which once enforced will require jet fuel suppliers to blend SAF into conventional aviation fuel at increasing concentrations, much like the European Union’s ReFuelEU SAF mandate. These blend quantities increase from 2 per cent SAF as a percentage of total jet fuel demand by 2025, to 10 per cent by 2030 and 22 per cent by 2040. They also launched a ‘SAF Clearing House’, to provide technical support and funding towards the development, testing and qualification of SAFs6.

Similarly to ReFuelEU, the policy has included a sub-mandate on ‘power-to-liquid’ (PtL) fuels – referred to as synthetic aviation fuels in the EU mandate – due to their ‘high GHG emissions savings potential and low land use change risk’7. The Government has noted that this type of high-integrity SAF will require more support to get to market and help in bringing costs down for their inputs such as green hydrogen and renewable energy, therefore it was expected that the sub-target would be ambitious. However, the PtL target has fallen short of expectations and is lower than the counterpart target within ReFuelEU, requiring only 0.5 per cent PtL by 2030 and reaching a significantly lower target of 3.5 per cent PtL by 2040 as compared to the EU’s 10 per cent target for the same year.

The Government has included a cap to hydroprocessed esters and fatty acid (or ‘HEFA’ fuels) which, though cheap and abundant, don’t align with their commitment to only use waste residues for fuels and to leave space in the market for newer SAF technologies to become competitive. The HEFA cap starts at 2 per cent in 2025 and rises to 7.8 per cent by 2040. The mandate also includes a buy-out price whereby jet fuel providers have a cost penalty should they not supply enough SAF. The buy-out mechanism for the main SAF obligation is £4.70 per litre and the PtL obligation is £5.00 per litre. The Government has also said it would change key parameters within the mandate to block higher price rises in case of SAF shortages to reduce the risk of impacts on consumers. Figure 1 compares the mandate targets within the UK’s SAF mandate to those of ReFuelEU.

Figure 1: SAF blending targets in the UK SAF mandate compared to ReFuelEU Aviation mandate


The UK Government has allocated significant but insufficient funds to support the growth of the SAF market. The Department for Transport (DfT) estimate the costs for one SAF plant could exceed £1 billion, therefore there is a significant gap in plans sufficient to meet the ambition of ‘having 5 commercial SAF plants under construction in the UK by 2025’8 and ‘no clarity on who will fund them’9. These funding mechanisms target activities across the TRLs, from the innovation stage through to demonstration. This mapping provides a snapshot of funding available as of May 2024:

Fund nameOrganisation(s)DescriptionTotal fund
Currently closed
Advanced Fuels Fund – Department for Transport (DfT)
– RicardoE4Tech
Grant funding to first-of-a-kind commercial and demonstration-scale projects in the UK at all development stages up to construction starting.£135 million to March 2025. The application window closed in 2023.
Green Fuels, Green Skies – DfT
– Ricardo
Competition to support UK companies that pioneer new technologies to convert household rubbish, waste wood and excess electricity into SAF.£15 million.
SME Programme– ATI
– Innovate UK
A funding programme tailored to the needs of SMEs to strengthen and further encourage technology innovation within the supply chain and civil aerospace sector.Grants totalling up to £10 million a year.
Hydrogen Innovation Initiative Demonstration– Connected Places Catapult
– Hydrogen Innovation Initiative (HII)
Connected Places Catapult, acting as a partner of the HII, is looking to procure results from near-term demonstrations.A budget of up to £50,000 per project to contribute to the costs of the demonstration activities. 
Jet zero: aviation’s non-CO2 impacts on the climate– DBT
– DfT
– Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Collaborative research which focuses on the underpinning science of aviation’s non-carbon dioxide (CO2) impacts – including from SAFs – and how they interact with climate over time with the view to identifying benefits, mitigation options, informing industry and government policy decisions.£10 million.
Strategic Programme– Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI)
– Department for Business and Trade (DBT)
– Innovate UK
Targeting innovators, this programme provides funding for research and technology development in the UK to maintain and grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace£685 million to 2025, with industry co-funding taking the total to >£1 billion.
Future Flight Challenge Fund– DBT
– UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
– Innovate UK
This fund builds the aviation ecosystem needed to speed up the introduction of electric sub-regional aircraft, advanced air mobility vehicles and drones into the UK.£300 million co-invested by government and industry.
Accelerating research outcomes to deliver a prosperous net zero– Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)Provides follow-on funding to research outputs that are ready to move beyond fundamental research and need additional resource to be taken up as a solution by users.£7,500,000.
UKRI SME innovation loans– UKRIFunds businesses to develop innovative products, processes or services that can maximise return on investment to the UK’s economy and society.Not specified.
Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges– EPSRCFunding opportunity supporting diverse teams from across disciplines to forge new research capabilities.£7,000,000.
Emerging Energy Technologies Fund (EETF)– Scottish GovernmentFunding to accelerate low carbon infrastructure projects that will be essential to deliver net-zero.£180 million.
Table 1: Mapping of UK funding mechanisms relevant to sustainable aviation fuels

Possible government interventions

The UK Government is still building its policy framework to support the growth of the SAF market as part of an evolving global industry. Activities from the public sector alone will not be enough to see this market take off, and we are working closely with the investor community to accelerate action. To find out more, visit our website or get in touch.

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