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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Aeronautics projects > Aeronautics research and EU policy
Graphic element Aeronautics research and EU policy

Under Commissioner Philippe Busquin one of the Research Directorate General's primary missions is to support the Union's policies in other fields such as health, transport and environment. Nowhere is this approach more evident than in aeronautics where, under the 5th Framework Programme for RTD, a variety of projects have been undertaken in support of EU policies.

Recent emphasis on the European Research Area (ERA) has highlighted the importance of an integrated and co-ordinated Europe-wide research network. Clearly, Europe has suffered from the lack of co-operation among its scientific and research communities, but there are some notable exceptions. Co-operative research in the area of aeronautics, for example, has already helped to establish Europe as the only serious competitor of the United States in that field.

Promoting cross-border RTD has become a priority for the EU as it comes to grips with the new knowledge-based economy of the future. It goes without saying that increased commercial competitiveness is a prime motivating factor for any such work, but aside from the obvious economic gains for European businesses, what is European research for? Specifically, we would like to ask why aeronautics research is important under the Growth Programme. What larger European policy objectives does it serve?

European transport policy

In 1992, even before the advent of the single market, the European Commission approved a White Paper setting out a new Common Transport Policy. It saw future transport as a single system in which the various modes would complement each other. This vision of 'intermodality' presupposes safe and efficient interfaces between the different modes ensuring optimum mobility and a more balanced distribution of traffic.

The Common Transport Policy underlies much of the work now being pursued in all of the transport sectors: the establishment of Trans-European Networks, fair pricing in transport, environmental protection, safety, social safeguards and the strengthening of the common market and its external dimension.

Thus, with EU traffic increasing at a rate of about 3.5% a year since 1980 and with freight transport alone set to double over the next 15 to 20 years, the EU is determined to encourage and invest in transport RTD. The Commission's action programme for 1995 to 2000 included a number of initiatives and the picture since its adoption has been one of significant and ongoing progress. The Fourth Framework Programme for RTD (1994-1998) included a specific programme of transport research with funding for 300 or so RTD projects.
The Fifth Framework Programme for RTD (1998-2002) concentrates on a smaller number of programmes, one of which is the Competitive and Sustainable Growth programme with a specific 'key action' in 'sustainable mobility and intermodality' and another in 'new perspectives in aeronautics'.

Aeronautics research and transport policy

Of all the forms of transport, aviation has shown by far the most striking growth over recent decades. Traffic through the airports of the Fifteen has risen fivefold since 1970, and since 1980, traffic has risen at an average rate of 7.4% a year.
On the other hand, the boom in air transport has led to airport overcrowding and overloaded air traffic control systems. Complaints of major inefficiencies and increasing delays mount daily as Europe's airport infrastructure comes closer to the limits of its capacity.

With this in mind, a number of research projects have focused on improvements in aviation infrastructure. For example, the AFAS and MA-AFAS projects are paving the way for the development of more autonomous aircraft for the future Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. The two consortia are seeking to elaborate a new operational ATM scenario which will ultimately lead to improvements in air traffic as a whole.

As long ago as 1971 the air transport authorities of a number of European countries decided to co-operate increasingly in certain areas of air safety. This led to the setting up of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) in 1989, and to the signing of the 1990 Cyprus arrangements aimed at drawing up common technical standards and procedures. In a 1991 regulation the Community decided to absorb these into Community law.

In 1996, the Commission proposed the setting up of a European Agency responsible for civil aviation safety. This new body was to guarantee a high level of safety in Europe's skies and to promote European standards worldwide. Today, barely one tenth of all air accidents occur in Europe, even though the region generates one third of the world's traffic.

In light of the prioritisation of air transport safety, a number of research projects have been undertaken. For example, the FIREDETEX project is developing new fire/smoke detection and fire extinguishing system, while the CAST project is aimed at developing a set of tools and methods for the design of crashworthy helicopters. Another recently completed project, ref: G4ST-1999-00018, addressed the problem of meeting more stringent fire safety regulations with respect to interior fabrics in private and executive aircraft.

   European environmental policy

Damage to the environment has been growing steadily worse in recent decades. Every year some two billion tonnes of waste are produced in the Member States, while CO2 emissions from our homes and vehicles are also increasing. The quality of life for people in Europe, especially in urban areas, has declined considerably with the increase in pollution and noise. Environmental protection is therefore one of the major challenges now facing Europe.

Environmental action by the Community began in 1972 with four successive action programmes. During this period, the Community adopted some 200 pieces of legislation, chiefly concerned with limiting pollution. Community action developed over the years until the Treaty on European Union conferred on it the status of policy. The Treaty of Amsterdam has now enshrined the principle of sustainable development as one of the Community's primary aims.

To achieve this, the Fifth EC Environmental Action Programme 'Towards Sustainability' established the principles of a European strategy of voluntary action for the period 1992-2000 and marked the beginning of a 'horizontal' Community approach which would take account of all the causes of pollution, including industry, energy production and transport. This across-the-board approach was confirmed by the Commission in the wake of its 1998 Communication on integrating the environment into European policies and by the 1998 European Council in Vienna.

Transport and the environment
The areas of transport and environment are profoundly interlinked. In the European Union the proportion of total CO2 emissions generated by transport rose from 19% in 1985 to 26% in 1995, and if current trends and policies continue, CO2 emissions will go on rising significantly, making it very hard to meet the targets set at the 1997 Kyoto summit. Air traffic currently produces only 12% of transport-related CO2 emissions, but the level increased by 57% from 1985 to 1995 while the level generated by road traffic rose by only 36%.

Aeronautics research and the environment

Against the backdrop of increasing environmental concerns, and considering the projected growth in air traffic, much research has focussed on environment-related topics.

No other effect of air transport operations is felt as directly as aircraft noise, a major cause of concern around European airports. On 17 January 2001 in Montreal, the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) developed a comprehensive series of recommendations to reduce the environmental impact of aircraft noise, endorsing a balanced approach to noise mitigation.

In April 2001, the Commission launched a major new project led by SNECMA called SILENCE(R), part of a co-ordinated strategic approach addressing air traffic noise issues. A consortium of 51 companies will collaborate for four years to validate new technologies for reducing aircraft noise by up to 6 decibels as of 2008. Other work being carried out in this area includes the TURBONOISECFD project led by Rolls Royce. Here, partners are developing a new method for designing low-noise turbomachinery components using existing Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software.

While noise affects a relatively small number of people, aircraft emissions can affect us all. In a recent report, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stressed the growing contribution of aviation emissions to global warming. While the impact is still relatively small, said the panel, the demand for air transport is growing rapidly and threatens to outpace the rate at which the application of new technologies can deliver improvements.
With this is mind, several research projects have focussed on improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. For example, the EEFAE project has been launched to develop more environmentally friendly aero-engines, while PARTEMIS, is concerned with both aerosol particles directly emitted by aircraft engines and with the new particulate materials formed within the aircraft wake.

Finally, the NEPAIR project is looking into new methodologies for controlling emissions over all the flight phases of aircraft operation.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

The European economy is undergoing a fundamental shift stemming from globalisation and the growth of the new knowledge-based economy. The Lisbon European Council set a new strategic goal for the European Union, to become the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy. This goal can only be achieved by making Europe more entrepreneurial and innovative.

The importance of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in stimulating new employment and innovation is well-established, and the EU has a long-standing history of supporting and promoting them. Most recently, the EU Charter for small companies was approved by EU leaders at the Feira summit in June 2000, demonstrating the Union's ongoing commitment to SMEs.

In keeping with this, a number of research projects have been undertaken to promoting SMEs in the aeronautics sector. The COLSME-ATR project, for example, is intended to support SMEs in preparing collaborative project proposals while the AeroSME project, being co-ordinated by the European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA), aims to stimulate SME participation in 5th Framework projects.

   The Group of Personalities and ACARE

In October 2000, research Commissioner Busquin set up the Group of Personalities charged with producing, in the context of the implementation of the European Research Area, a vision for aeronautics in the year 2020. The group was chaired by Mr Busquin and comprised 14 eminent figures from the aeronautics industry The Group presented its report, entitled "European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020", on 29 January 2001 at the Aeronautics Days conference in Hamburg, setting out a wide-ranging and inclusive common vision for European aviation with ambitious targets for research and development and tackling issues such as safety, the environment and sustainable competitiveness and innovation.

The Vision 2020 report recommended, among other things, the creation of an Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) . The Council began its work on 19 June 2001 at the 44th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. Its primary mission is to establish and carry forward a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), which will serve as a guide in the planning of research programmes, particularly national and EU programmes.

European transport policy
Aeronautics research and transport policy
European environmental policy
Aeronautics research and the environment
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
The Group of Personalities and ACARE

Key data

EU research on New Perspectives in Aeronautics supports a number of EU policies.


· AFAS - aircraft in the future air traffic management system;
· MA-AFAS - more autonomous aircraft in the future air traffic management system;
· FIREDETEX - new fire/smoke detection and fire extinguishing system;
· CAST - designing crashworthy helicopters;
· SILENCE(R) - testing novel concepts for low-noise aero-engines;
· TURBONOISECFD - developing low-noise turbomachinery design software;
· PARTEMIS - reducing aircraft aerosol emissions;
· NEPAIR - reducing emissions over all flight phases of aircraft operation;
· COLSME-ATR - supporting aeronautics SMEs in preparing project proposals;
· AeroSME - providing information and support for aeronautics SMEs;
· G4ST-1999-00018 - improving fire safety onboard private and executive aircraft.

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