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Commission hosts new Members States aeronautics workshop

The recent enlargement of the EU has brought ten new Member States into the European fold, many of which have strong national aeronautics legacies. On 8 September 2005, a major workshop in Brussels addressed how to promote their involvement in European aeronautics and air transport research.

Liam Breslin with Jonas Stakunas
Liam Breslin with Jonas Stakunas

“This meeting comes at a crucial time,” said Head of EU Aeronautics Research Liam Breslin. “As we near the end of the Union’s Sixth Framework Programme and prepare for the Seventh, the key for the new Member States is access. Each of you comes to the Union with your own unique history and expertise in the field of aeronautics, strongly linked to political events that have shaped Europe and the world. The goal now is to compete on an equal footing with other EU members and the Commission is here to help you.”

From vision to reality

The EU’s vision for aeronautics is guided by the Strategic Research Agenda, a groundbreaking document formulated by the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE). It sees two fundamental goals for European air transport in the future –meeting society’s needs for air transport and making Europe the world industrial leader in the aeronautics sector.

Speaking to more than 60 assembled delegates representing both young and old Member States as well as European industrial, research and institutional players, Jack Metthey, Director of the Commission’s Research DG Transport Directorate, said, “The Airbus A380 story is a prime example of shared European success in the transport sector. The key there has been the involvement of a wide-ranging and fully integrated industrial system. This includes the major companies and their supply chains but also education, which supplies the minds and enthusiasm that are our future. The key word for the new Member States and for this workshop must be integration. The next Framework Programme will be the most ambitious we have ever undertaken, including a rich palette of means and instruments for making the ACARE vision a reality. We want to bring you into the European aeronautics family, into the ACARE process.“

Representing EU Research Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik, Kurt Vandenberghe said, “The Commissioner attaches great importance to European aeronautics. Our ultimate goal is to turn knowledge into commercial success and in this sense the aeronautics sector is already a model. For the new Member States, making a real contribution is a challenge but also an opportunity. You are facing the prospect of major restructuring, a process which should be guided by the EU Framework Programme. The Commission is committed to involving you and supporting you and I can tell you that, for Commissioner Poto─Źnik, making enlargement a success is not just a personal priority, but a major strategic step for Europe.”

A variety of perspectives

Czech airliner heads for take-off © Peter Gutierrez
Czech airliner heads for take-off
© Peter Gutierrez

The workshop, entitled ‘Developing new Member States’ capabilities in aeronautics research’ included top EU officials, distinguished speakers from the research, industrial and academic communities, and representatives of ACARE.

Topics included:

  • Aeronautics and air transport research activities under the Union’s Research Framework Programme;
  • Experience and best practice of Member States;
  • Best practice from industry and research;
  • Challenges and constraints for the new Member States;
  • Ways and means of collaboration and integration;
  • New Member States’ contributions to the ACARE process.

Newcomers express their views

The new Member States are indeed facing some stiff challenges in the aeronautics sector, in some cases related to dire economic conditions, in others due the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Expressing the view from Poland, Mieczyslaw Majewski, President of The Association of the Polish Aviation and Defence Industries, said, “Poland lags far behind the EU-15 states in economic terms. Our new ties to NATO and the EU have given us a more positive outlook in the aviation sector, but many of our key players are still state-owned.”

Jaroslav Ruzicka of the Association of the Aviation Manufacturers of the Czech Republic explained, “Before 1989, our country was heavily involved in the production of airplanes for the Russian market, including commuter planes, jet fighters and commercial airliners. Then came the collapse. Since 1994 we have been making attempts to reconstitute our industry.”

The new Member States are not without ambition. The Czechs, explained Ruzicka, are promoting a bold vision for the production of small aircraft in Europe, an area where the Czech Republic has unique and impressive credentials. “In the last 30 years, no new products have been introduced in this sector,” said Ruzicka. “It will happen, and it will be either the Americans or us who make it happen.”

“Riga Technical University in Latvia was a leading institute for aeronautics studies during the Soviet era,” said Jonas Stakunas of the Aviation Institute of Vilnius Gediminas. Representing the Baltic States, he said, “Our region maintains many of its strengths from that period and we are setting up new institutional and educational initiatives, but we still face problems when it comes to participating as full partners in European co-operative research.”

Showing how it’s done

The workshop also featured presentation by established EU Member States and regions, providing examples of how to succeed in an industry dominated by a few major players operating in proscribed geographic regions.

Jack Metthey
Jack Metthey

José Juez Director of the Aeronautics and Space Cluster of the Basque Country explained how his group has brought together and promoted aerospace companies in his region with the support of local government. The key for many is the pooling of resources and the coordination of efforts. Arnt Offringa of Stork Fokker AESP in the Netherlands said, “ Involvement in co-operative research projects is really only a starting point. The real result is closer relationships with partners and this can lead to further business opportunities further down the line.”

According to Jim Lawler, Chairman of ACARE’s Member States Group, “There once was a feeling that the industry was a closed shop, dominated by four countries, and that no one else could ever hope to get in. But we see here today many models of participation. The rough and tough reality however is that this is not a charity industry. You will get in if you have something to contribute. You will need to find your place, to find where your expertise fits a demand. Your first challenge is to get to know the industry, who the players are, and where there are opportunities in the supply chain.”