Farnborough Air Show

Despite strong growth, leaders call for more aerospace funding

 - November 15, 2006, 4:58 AM

For member companies of Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) as a whole, 2005 was a remarkably good year, with revenues of €113 billion ($141 billion). Over the same period, employment also grew by 13,000 to reach 614,000, with the growth largely driven by the commercial aeronautics sector.

At its annual press conference during the ILA show in Berlin in June, ASD president Tom Enders, who is also CEO of EADS Defense & Security Systems division, said research and development is a key driver for the European industry, which spent €12.6 billion ($15.8 billion) last year. “However, to stay competitive and develop new products, spending on R&D needs to be increased,” he said. “The strengthening of our industry’s competitiveness continues to be the key issue for the industry, and ASD welcomes the EU authorities’ support and encourages them to commit significant budgets to the sector in the future.”

In early June, Aviation International News met with François Gayet, secretary general of ASD Europe, at the Brussels headquarters of the association of the European aerospace and defense industries, and Jean-Pierre Barthelemy, ASD director of operations, to discuss the status of European research.

The air transport sector–airlines, airports and associated services–has been at the center of the European Commission’s ACARE (Advisory Council for Aeronautical Research) strategic vision for long-term research extending to 2020, they said. It caters to the needs of users–that is, passengers–not just to the manufacturers’ goals.

“The European aerospace industry needs to be more competitive in front of the U.S. industry, not only in the aircraft sector but also for helicopters, engines and so on,” said Gayet. “We also must address society’s needs for safer, cleaner and less noisy air transport.”

The EC gradually expanded its approach to aerospace research to allow for integration of large projects in the forthcoming seventh framework program (FP7), an approach welcomed by industry and the ASD, which shares the views expressed by ACARE in its strategic research agenda. The association claims funding levels will have to be increased by at least 65 percent over the next 20 years.

“The EC proposal has been approved for the essential [research goals],” said Gayet. “It represents a significant increase but we need to be vigilant and set priorities to better spend the money allocated for research.”

In addition to air transport, the European industry has also benefited from the EC’s funding for the Galileo global navigation satellite system. The commission will also subsidize the Sesar air traffic management program.

Environmental Initiatives

The environmental sustainability of air transport is also a priority for European aerospace. According to the ASD, the industry has successfully managed to reduce perceived noise more than 75 percent and fuel consumption by 70 percent over the last 40 years. Now it is committed to the ambitious environmental goals set by the senior experts of ACARE. They aim to halve the current levels of perceived noise for new products entering service in 2020, to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per passenger kilometer by 50 percent for aircraft entering service that year and to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 80 percent in the same time frame. In the interim, European research programs are charged with continuing to achieve substantial reductions in both noise and emissions through changes to aircraft and engine design.

With this in mind, the industry has proposed the creation of a joint technology initiative (JTI) called “Clean Sky.” The JTI is intended to deliver innovative technologies and solutions enabling drastic reduction of fuel consumption, noxious emissions and noise for the next generation of air transport systems.

According to the ASD, “The Clean Sky initiative is an innovative, large program that will radically improve the impact of air transport on the environment while strengthening and securing European aeronautics industry’s competitiveness. Clean Sky will accelerate the delivery of greener products that contribute to reaching ACARE goals.” The program also promises to provide an opportunity for small-and medium-sized enterprises to participate in a large-scale project in pursuit of applications for their technology.

A final decision on the JTI is expected during the second half of this year, according to Barthelemy, who sees a “good convergence” between the views of the EC and the European Parliament on the issue. A formal launch is expected in early 2008 at the latest.

Space, the Frontier

Apart from Galileo, which is already a full-fledged program, space is getting a higher profile in the EC strategy. Until now, space research was funded by either a multilateral European Space Agency or on a national basis.

For the first time, space is included in FP7 with a project called global monitoring for environment and security (GEMS). The aim is to create a panEuropean capacity for monitoring the globe by 2008. GEMS will offer both commercial and public applications such as monitoring and analyzing maritime pollution, climate change, natural hazards and border controls.

“Space research will get some €200 million per year outside of the Galileo improvement program. It is a significant increase in spending,” stressed Gayet.

Meanwhile, the ASD strongly believes that European Union states need to pay closer attention to Europe’s defense market. It has taken a few steps forward to a common defense market but much is still to be done. The association hopes the EU will allocate adequate tools to the European Defense Agency to achieve those goals.

However, the ASD welcomes the inclusion of security as a new theme within FP7. At the same time, the association is monitoring with great interest the current negotiations at the European level as to the amount of funding and the rules of participation for security research in FP7.

Security research obtained €15 million ($18.8 million) in funding this year. The sector is set to get some €180 million to €200 million under FP7, according to Gayet, but the ASD remains concerned that the EU states have not fully agreed to all the aspects of the envisioned research and that moves may be afoot to cut back on this proposed financial backing.

However, ASD is still confident that an appropriate degree of coordination will be achieved among the different actors within the commission that will be involved in the funding of security research related projects. The association also would like to see more enhanced efforts toward fostering synergies between the commission and the EDA in the funding dual-use technologies. The ASD is committed to supporting the EDA’s work on R&D investment that will be conducive to spending more, spending it more effectively and in a more coordinated way.

Action on Business Ethics

Meanwhile, the ASD plans to issue a statement on business ethics on behalf of its membership. It might issue that statement, possibly in association with the U.S. aerospace industry, here at the Farnborough airshow this week.

There are also plans for the ASD to create a business and general aviation group alongside the existing eight groups covering various sectors from aircraft to equipment, and naval to land-based systems. The ASD board is expected to formally approve the group during its annual general meeting in Vienna this October.