ECARE promotes aerospace research in the regions
Europe’s 25 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a vital role in promoting new ideas, creating employment and maintaining economic prosperity for Europe and its citizens. In the aeronautics industry, where big players such as Airbus, British Aerospace, Bombardier, and EADS dominate, hundreds of smaller companies that often lie at the cutting edge of innovation face serious problems moving forward with research. Even for the sector’s largest and most successful corporations, aerospace research is an expensive and high-risk endeavour, with any return on investment coming up to decades later. It is a virtually insurmountable challenge for most small companies, with only a fraction of their financial resources. The failure of the industry to include SMEs in its major research initiatives slows progress on important issues of direct interest to European society, including air transport safety and security, efficient mobility and increasing transport capacity, reliability and environmental performance.
The EU-funded ECARE project aims to increase awareness of aeronautics-related activities under the Union’s Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and to encourage the participation of SMEs. On 16 June 2005, at the Paris Air Show, ECARE participants, EU officials and representatives of both big and small companies met to discuss how to move forward on Europe’s transport agenda, highlighting SME participation in EU-funded aeronautics research. Under the EU’s FP6, the Commission has committed itself to supporting not only the high-profile aerospace names but also up-and-coming players that often provide impetus well beyond their size. A major part of the ECARE conference was devoted to work being undertaken in the European regions, where stimulating economic growth and competitiveness remains a major political and social issue. Representatives of the larger industrial concerns indicated a strong willingness to bring more SMEs, from all European regions, into the research process.
Full project title: European Communities Aeronautics Research
Science in society significance
Around 13% of the aerospace sector’s annual turnover is spent on research and development. Long
lead times, high costs and the preference of big companies to deal with tried-and-tested suppliers
all tend to work against smaller and newer businesses. Marked consolidation within the sector
is another factor that can freeze out small firms. By focusing on work being undertaken in the
European regions, including SME clusters in Ireland, Wales, the Basque region, Austria, Germany
and Naples, the ECARE conference in Paris has emphasised the important economic and social
roles played by SMEs, where new ideas flourish yet where financial limitations curb progress.
Beyond regional considerations, getting SMEs involved in EU aeronautics research can mean
important benefits to all European citizens, moving the Union forward on important air transportrelated
issues while stimulating economic prosperity and renewal.
Project acronym: ECARE
Project coordinator: Eric Jourdain, European Federation of High-Tech SMEs,
- Stimulating SME participation in the EU Framework Programmes, promoting existing and proposing new means of access to information and funding;
- Contributing to the efficient and sustainable matching SME offers to RTD project needs;
- Promoting an ‘active partnering system’ based on mapping of SME competences and regional complementarities;
- Expanding the group of regional associations established by the AeroSME initiative and providing methodological support to initiate or expand SME involvement in European research;
- Providing coordinators of large aeronautics Integrated Projects with processed information on the relevance of SMEs to their specific technological needs.