No slowing down for EU-Russia co-operation in aeronautics research
Europe's ties with Russian aeronautics institutions have grown stronger over successive EU research funding programmes. A recent co-operation workshop in Moscow showed that trend continuing, with both sides redoubling their efforts to forge co-operative links.
Speaking at the recent 'Fourth Workshop on EU-Russia Co-operation in Aeronautics Research', Director of transport at the European Commission’s DG Research András Siegler explained, "The EC has set up a framework to support co-operation between EU and Russian stakeholders in Aeronautics research. Nobody is forced to co-operate, we simply act as facilitator."
So far, that facilitating role has been highly effective. Siegler outlined some highlights of EU-Russia industrial collaboration in the field of aeronautics, including the new Sukhoi Superjet 100, which brought Europe's Alenia Aeronautica, Snecma and Thales together with Russian partner companies in an intensive industrial collaboration.
"We have seen Russian participation in EU Research Framework Programmes [FPs] increase steadily," said Siegler. "Under FP6 we saw 32 Russian participants in 21 EU-funded projects. Under FP7, we have seen continuing participation by Russian partners, and we are now launching a new initiative to support EU and Russian co-operation whereby all partners will collaborate for the first time on a strictly equal footing."
Equal commitment, equal contribution
Russia's impressive tradition in the aerospace sector now spans nearly a century. The country retains a wealth of experience and expertise that is truly invaluable to its international partners. The EU’s Framework Programmes have allowed Russian and European researchers to forge vital ties and to increase their collaborative efforts, moving forward on significant aeronautics research initiatives.
The workshop, hosted in Moscow by the Russian Aeronautics research centre, TsAGI, was the latest in a series of such events since 2003 that have made Russia the EU's most important international partner. CEOs from the Russian and European aviation industries, high-level Union officials, and other representatives of the major research centres and aerospace firms of both Russia and the EU, were all in attendance. The principle aim was to help researchers on both sides to prepare for the upcoming 2010 co-ordinated call for research proposals that will make available €4 million in EU funding for European partners. That amount will be matched by Russian government funding for Russian research partners.
TsAGI Executive Director Sergey Chernyshev delivered a keynote presentation on the Russian aeronautics industry and its preparations for meeting the demands of the global market of the 21 st Century. EU speakers outlined details of research topics up for new funding and explained how the scheme works and how to apply.
"One of the really important results of these periodic meetings is that they allow us to get together and meet with our Russian counterparts," says European Commission Deputy Head of the Aeronautics Unit Daniel Chiron. "We have seen a real change in the way we perceive each other over time. At our first meetings, people were a bit closed, a bit distant. We didn't know one another. Now, in 2009, we meet as proper colleagues and operate in a trusting collaboration."
'Who’s who' in Russian aeronautics research
The Central Institute of Aviation Motors is the Russian research establishment engaged in the comprehensive study and development of aero-engines. Activities range from investigation of basic physical processes to participation with industrial organisations in the manufacture, upgrading and certification of new engines.
The State Aviation Systems Research Institute develops integrated avionics and flight and navigation systems for military and commercial aircraft, including helicopters.
The Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute was founded in 1918 under the initiative and leadership of N. E. Zhukovsky, the father of Russian Aviation. Today’s TsAGI is one of the largest scientific research centres in the world, combining basic studies, applied research, structural design, pilot production and testing.
The Institute of Aviation Materials, founded in 1932, carries out fundamental and applied research in a variety of materials-related areas. VIAM has negotiated dozens of contracts with leading non-Russian companies.
The new EU-Russian working relationships are bearing fruit. Among the major success stories has been the VITAL project, developing new aircraft engine technologies that reduce noise, weight, fuel consumption and CO 2 emissions. Non-EU participants in the VITAL project include Russian and South African partners. Speaking at a VITAL project event in Budapest in 2009, Celine Lebas of Belgium’s Techspace Aero said, “Some doubted our ability to work together with the Russians. They said language would be an obstacle and that our cultures were too different, but the reality is that our teams worked hand-in-hand and we delivered the results of our part of the project successfully and on time.”
Under the VITAL project, Techspace Aero developed a new booster featuring innovative, aerodynamically superior, low-pressure compressors that are lighter and more compact. The module was tested by Russia's CIAM (Central Institute of Aviation Motors) in Moscow. CIAM’s Fagim Gelmedov congratulated those who had worked on the booster, and said his group was very happy to be involved in the project. CIAM General Director Vladimir A. Skibbin has consistently reaffirmed the institute's readiness to work with other European aeronautics research projects.
Chiron says VITAL is just one of a number of projects featuring high-level co-operation with Russian partners. "And we are expecting more of the same," he says. One new project to watch is called DREAM, 'valiDation of Radical Engine Architecture systems', in which Russian project partners will be making important contributions."
The bigger picture
get to work
For Arnoldas Milukas, Head of Unit at the European Commission's Transport Research Directorate, promoting co-operation with Russia is part of a larger strategic programme that will bring Europe and Russia as well as other international partners closer together.
"The difficult transition from the Soviet system looks largely complete, but we still have outstanding policy issues with Russia," he says, "including overflight charges for European airlines using Siberian airspace. By working together with Russian partners, we are certainly making progress towards real and concrete research targets, but just as importantly, we are learning to work together and trust each other, building confidence that will ultimately contribute to a wider and more positive working relationship between the European Union and the Russian Federation, and this will benefit all of our citizens."