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Vision 2020 'Personalities' speak

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Commissioner Philippe Busquin:

Hamburg, 29 January 2001

Translated from an original French text Checked against delivery !

Since the Panel of Personalities which produced the report that we are making public today was my idea, I intend to focus my speech on the reasons for setting up that Panel and on certain of the institutional and political conclusions to be drawn from this.

I will leave it to Mr EVANS and Mr LAGARDERE, both of whom are eminent members of the Panel and key players in the aerospace industry to describe its economic and industrial aspects. They will certainly also express their overall view of the matter since it is only an apparent paradox that, in this area, the dynamism of the industry outpaces policies and is frequently the driving force behind these.

Why the Panel of Personalities?

At the dawn of this new century, European aerospace must face major economic, industrial and technological challenges.
Certainly, we are not starting from square one: everyone, especially here in HAMBURG, is aware of AIRBUS's success story: the launch of the A380. With more than 50% exported and a trade-balance surplus of more than EUR 22 000 million, aerospace represents the highest-volume profit maker in Europe in terms of trade. The same also applies in the United States.

However, by its very nature, this situation will have to change. Two basic factors will shape that transition:

  • The age of "higher, further, quicker" has reached certain limits; the buzz words nowadays are "cheaper, safer, cleaner and quieter". Europe will need to have the ability to define a high-performance air transport system that incorporates the wishes of the public;
  • European aerospace will also have to consolidate its position on the world market. The current restructuring in the aerospace industry reflects the global competition, which can only be tackled if we gather together all of our strength. I would like to mention two striking points:
  • new entrants are in a position to make an appearance, as shown by the recent inroads into the regional aviation market made by the Canadian and Brazilian industries;
  • it would seem that public research in America, both civil and military, will continue to surpass its European counterpart in the long term. At the moment it is even gaining pace. Furthermore, since they are aware that their industry's position is being whittled away, the American authorities are in the process of setting up a presidential Commission to deal with this matter.

In order to take up these challenges Europe will have to rely on its innovative capacity even more than in the past. At the Lisbon European Summit the Heads of State and Government stressed the leading role to be played by research in guaranteeing the Union's economic and social prosperity. The STOCKHOLM Summit will enable the progress made to be measured in the spirit of that new dynamism.Chaque personne de cet auditoire sait que le secteur aéronautique investit en moyenne 15% de son chiffre d'affaire dans la recherche et le développement.

Aerospace is one of the first "knowledge-based industries" in Europe:

  • All of you here today know that you are, on average, investing 15% of your turnover in research and development;
  • It is a technological "hot spot": its range covers basic physics, computing and design techniques, new materials, and increasing use of information and communication technologies.

I note, however, that the advances made by the industrial organisation of the aerospace sector in Europe are currently taking place more quickly than those relating to the research systems. In certain respects research is proceeding more slowly than reality; it has thus become necessary to re-examine this situation.
With aerospace we have now reached that crucial moment when everything is possible, but nothing is in the bag.
The current strength of European aerospace derives from strategies hammered out several years ago. If this is intended to face new challenges, and meet the needs of society and its position on future markets, a new step forward must be taken.
It is thus essential that this sector, which is vital for Europe's economy and activity, should take a long-term view of its research needs.De fait, avec l'aéronautique, nous sommes parvenus à ce moment crucial où tout est possible mais rien n'est acquis.

The Panel

It was in order to work on that view that, during the second half of last year, I set up a Panel of Personalities from the aerospace world. One of this Panel's strengths is that it brings together people from various walks of life within the air transport system, and who represent all of its components: industrialists and manufacturers, airports, airlines, regulators, air traffic controllers, research workers.
I would like to offer my most heartfelt thanks to each of the members who have enthusiastically agreed to devote some of their time to this exercise. Furthermore, I would like to thank them for the quality of the discussions that we have had and for their commitment to breathing life into the conclusions that we have drawn from these.
The way in which this Panel has carried out its work, beyond its wide range of interests and points of view, is in itself a form of response. In my opinion a very interesting process has begun there, which shows that we in Europe are capable of sharing a vision, of identifying future challenges and a common way of dealing with these.

The vision

It was considered first of all that, in order to shape that vision, it would be most appropriate to focus on the year 2020. Aerospace and air transport both require long-term thinking. Certain parts of the basic research currently taking place will be incorporated into goods and services that will only see the light of day in ten or fifteen years' time.
The vision produced by the Panel is based on the following assumptions:

  • air traffic should continue to grow sharply by about 5% per year, or in other words traffic will have doubled 20 years hence;
  • in another 20 years new types of aircraft might emerge in response to the various regulatory or market constraints, all because new technologies will have become available;
  • progress will certainly have been made in Europe, with the introduction of a unified air traffic control system and an air safety authority. The work done by my colleague in charge of transport, Mrs de PALACIO, is heading in that direction. The liberalisation of those operators still under direct public control will probably continue. It will give rise to greater freedom of movement and more competition in the supply of this type of service;
  • one must also expect greater competition from the United States, which is determined to maintain its dominant position in this area, together with other "new-entrant" countries;
  • constant political pressure will be applied in order to reduce the environmental impact of the various transport modes, and in particular air transport. That will trigger challenges that are difficult in technical terms, but which may also become a major factor in competition;
  • the European industrial scene will have evolved yet further, ranging from multinational organisations (some no doubt spanning the Atlantic) to the network of small and medium-sized suppliers, where the concept of service will acquire growing stature. The general spread of electronic commerce will certainly play an important part in forging new relations between companies and between suppliers and customers.

The report puts forward ambitious quantified aims and is concerned as regards their credibility. The 2020 target that it has set for the environment, for example, is a reduction by half of perceivable noise as compared with the current average. It also advocates a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre, and one of 80% in nitrogen oxide emissions.
The industry itself will have to acquire market shares of more than 50% in the long term. This presupposes that very high quality products will be supplied, being at the cutting edge of competitiveness in all areas: from research to design, from development to production back-up, use and maintenance.


The report also highlights the particular relevance of the concept of a European research area and of its structuring effect on aerospace.
This is, indeed, a question of better organising research in Europe in order to make it more effective. Each of the suggested approaches to getting the European space area up and running may find applications in the aerospace industry. I am thinking more particularly of the following practical aspects:

  • removing any pointless duplication of effort by making sure that resources are directed to where they are of most use;
  • at a time when transnational companies are forming what is called "variable geometry" should be possible. This raises the question of the balance to be achieved between national and Community programmes and of their structuring in the best possible way in order to turn the shared vision of the future into reality. Slightly more than 10 years ago there was no aerospace research at Community level; it represents today roughly 30% of the civilian public activity in Europe;
  • optimising research infrastructures, such as wind tunnels and heavy in-flight testing equipment;
  • networking research centres wishing to expand their links yet further;
  • research and engineer mobility via the Union, as a result of harmonising degree courses;
  • improving the prominence given to excellence in order to create an aerospace "excellence clearing house" by making sure that the best brains in non-member countries are attracted to Europe.

Implementing the report's recommendations

Finally, the report puts forward recommendations and machinery for ensuring that the various aims are achieved, more particularly as a result of a new approach to research. It more especially identifies two key factors in moving towards a situation:

  • First of all, one must be equipped to develop and constantly update a vision of and a timetable for strategic research. This must be accepted and shared by all of the operators in this area who must express a willing commitment as to its content;
    The report recommends that an "Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe" be created, together with the underlying process for producing the consensus sought, that the necessary exchanges are provided, and that the strategy and the cooperation needed in order to achieve success are set out in detail. The Commission will make every effort to ensure that this Council is set up by the middle of this year;
  • Secondly, it must be ensured that the best possible use is made of the various forms of cooperation and of existing cross-frontier partnerships, particularly between the national and EU programmes - in order to implement that timetable.
    Where appropriate, it will have to be possible to call upon various new types of instrument. There is an emerging need, for example, for stepping up cooperation. This could be envisaged for carefully-identified and defined areas which could not be dealt with solely at national level, and for which cooperation among many would be more suitable.
    I am thinking more particularly of the arrangements permitted under Article 169 of the Treaty on European Union, which permits great flexibility in managing and defining the rules of the game, provided that some Member States agree to act in common.
    Let me make myself clear: I do not mean any machinery for exclusion, but a will to forge ahead and a process of shared ambition. It must be possible for all of those so wishing to join in that march forward and to do so on the basis of their skills and their will. Conversely, it goes without saying that if this has no place in their priorities, this should nevertheless not constitute a barrier.


I would like to say in conclusion that this report by the Panel of Personalities should be a stepping stone towards the future for European aerospace. Because of it we are entering a new era. A better-structured approach to research that is more effective and able to meet the challenges ahead may be provided on the basis of an overall vision.
If it organises itself in a shrewd manner, the European aerospace industry will be in a position to map out its own future. It may bring enormous benefits to the Union, its inhabitants and its industries. Not to act today would bring great disappointment tomorrow, since our competitors will not drag their heels.
It is true that establishing a European aerospace research area will be a gradual process. It will be spread over several years, forming part of the open, deliberate thrust towards coordination desired by the Heads of State and Government. However, it is essential to set that process in motion as soon as possible.
It is now up to the public and private decision-makers in Europe to take the action, and to release the resources, needed in the light of the recommendations set out in the report by the Panel of Personalities.
I myself feel, in particular, that the Community funds should channel all of their efforts into providing structures, and enabling progress to be made in bringing public research activities together at both national and Community level. The Sixth Framework Programme should, among other things, make use of the arrangements permitted by the Treaty both experimentally and on a reasonable scale.
It is with this in view that I intend to include aerospace among the priorities which will be set out in the proposed Sixth Framework Programme which the Commission should be adopting within a few weeks.
The Union can be proud of its aerospace industry and will be able to respond to its ambitions.

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