Throughout the history of aviation, onboard avionics systems – electronic systems used on aircraft – have become more numerous and more complex. Avionics are used for communications and navigation, and for the display and management of many other vital flight systems. Early avionics solutions were based on a 'federated architecture', using separate dedicated hardware and software elements for specific functions. As the number of these functions has increased, manufacturers have turned towards an Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) concept. Here, numerous separate and dissimilar avionics elements have been replaced by fewer and more integrated common processing modules. The EU-funded project, 'Scalable and reconfigurable electronics platforms and tools' (Scarlett) is taking the next step forward, with its Distributed Modular Electronics (DME) concept. This comprises standardised hardware, communications and application interfaces that can support all aircraft functions. Furthermore, new and more complex 'middleware' elements enabling the smarter and more flexible configuration of avionics systems have been developed. Scarlett researchers are covering a broad scope of items, from architecture to hardware, middleware and software, to pilot- and crew-friendly tools and procedures. As new socioeconomic and market drivers continue to emerge, Scarlett's innovative DME concept is needed now more than ever by the aeronautics industry. New aircraft development programmes are being launched at an increasing rate, while airline operators are struggling to cut costs and reduce passenger fares. Scarlett stands to make a real and significant contribution to the European aircraft production industry, strengthening its position in a still-growing global market.