King breaks ground for net zero research lab in first official engagement since coronation

The King has undertaken his first official engagement since his coronation by breaking ground for a new laboratory aimed at speeding up the development of net zero aviation.

The 74-year-old toured Cambridge University’s Whittle Laboratory, which recently secured funding to develop a new £58m lab.

Walking to perform the ceremonial breaking of the ground, where a lump of mud was already visible on the grass, The King joked: “I don’t suppose it’s already been done?”

He added: “It’s very unfair. I was rather looking forward to doing a bit of gardening.”

The King then sank the spade into the earth, used his foot to lift a lump of turf out, raised the spade aloft and jammed it into the ground, leaving it standing.

He then walked to the stage to give a short speech, saying: “I really wanted just to express my enormous admiration of what (director of the Whittle Laboratory) Rob Miller is doing here with the Whittle and his remarkable team.

“And of course the key exercise of all this is to keep the team in being and expand it, but not lose all these remarkable people who have the innovative capacity and the engineering skills to help lead what we need so badly and so urgently in order to save this planet from increasing catastrophe.

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“And of course the aviation sector is critical in all this.”

He also met leaders from the aviation industry and from government, including Energy Secretary Grant Shapps and science minister George Freeman.

The new Whittle Laboratory is designed to become the leading global centre for innovation in net zero aviation and energy by halving the time it takes to develop key net zero technologies, which can typically take six to eight years to reach the point of being considered for commercial use.