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ECARE sponsors SME conference at Paris Air Show

The EU-funded ECARE project aims to increase awareness of aeronautics-related activities under the Union’s Research Framework Programme and to encourage the participation of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). At this year’s 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 research agenda.

Helicopter on display at Paris Air Show
Aiming higher at the Paris Air Show

Global players such as Airbus, EADS, Snecma and Thales have long dominated Europe's aeronautics industry, but below the big names, there are hundreds of smaller companies, often at the cutting edge of innovation, that face serious challenges in breaking into pan-European research programmes.

The ECARE conference at the Paris Air Show on 16 June 2005 brought together the European Aeronautics clusters and other stakeholders to discuss SME participation in EU-funded Aeronautics projects. Under discussion were:

  • Ongoing fieldwork with SMEs;
  • Mapping of SME competences;
  • Dialogue with local governments; and
  • Trans-regional partnerships and business opportunities.

Liam Breslin, the European Commission’s Head of Aeronautics Research said that under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP6) the Commission has committed itself to supporting not only the high-profile aerospace names but also up-and-coming players. “This commitment will only increase under the next Framework Programme,” he said.

Bourget highlights

Paris Air Show outdoor exhibit
Paris Air Show outdoor exhibit

All eyes were focused on the aeronautics industry’s twin titans at this year’s Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, Airbus and Boeing racking up orders so freely that the battle for market supremacy reached heights not seen for many years. Indeed, the whole industry appears to be on an upswing after years of post-9/11 sluggishness.

Combined orders for the week for Boeing and Airbus came to just over €34 billion, with Airbus accounting for €24.1 billion and Boeing €10.1 billion. Airbus received 258 firm orders and commitments, while Boeing recorded 106.

Aerial spectacle

No visit to the Paris Air Show would be complete without a glance at the dazzling flight displays. Among the star attractions was Airbus's massive A380, the world's first twin-deck, four-aisle airliner, reputed to be more fuel-efficient than a typical family car. Also gracing the skies were some useful Eurocopters and several spectacular fighter jets, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Sukhoi-27 and the legendary French Mirage.

Regions play crucial role

Paris Air Show indoor exhibit
Aeronautics players big and small

A major part of the ECARE conference was devoted to work being undertaken in the European regions to promote SMEs in aeronautics research, including presentations by SME clusters working in Ireland, Wales, the Basque region, Austria, Germany and the Naples region. “These regions can and are playing an important role,” says Breslin, “and, together with the work of projects like ECARE, can provide considerable help to SMEs.”

Representatives of the larger industrial players also indicated willingness to bringing more SMEs into the process, provided they have something to deliver.