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Research Commissioner addresses aerospace leaders in Toulouse

On 23 June 2005, EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik met aerospace heavy hitters at the Thales Group to exchange views on research and development, in particular on the new FP7 perspectives.

EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik
Janez Potočnik

Thales is a major player in the civil and defence sectors. Its dedication and financial commitment to the development of integrated modular electronics (IME) in EU-supported projects such as PAMELA and NEVADA and, more importantly, in the Technology Platform VICTORIA have been instrumental in moving the European aerospace sector into the 21 st century.

“Thales support has been most helpful in shaping and designing the successive Framework programmes as well as the ACARE strategic agendas,” said Potočnik. “The results of VICTORIA have been very interesting indeed and have led to a system architecture encompassing all functions in medium to large size aircraft.”

Thales is also pursuing research work on avionics development under the FP6 integrated project FLYSAFE, in co-operation with other European stakeholders.

“I can assure you that the development of more powerful aircraft navigation systems tackling safety and air transport capacity remains a very important topic for future research activities in FP7,” said Potočnik, “particularly in the expectation of a doubling or tripling of air traffic in the next 20 years.”

Aeronautics under successive EU Framework Programmes

The budget for aeronautics research has increased from €35 million in FP2 to over €840 million in FP6. Over the last 15 years, the EU has funded some 350 projects, representing a total research cost of over €4 billion.

“FP7 will not just be another Framework Programme,” said Potočnik, “but I want it to be a tool to help realise our Lisbon objectives linked to knowledge for growth and jobs while diminishing the environmental impact of air traffic. I intend that FP7 add the strong dimension of knowledge for growth. We will do this in a number of ways, notably by simplifying procedures and rationalising the funding instruments, by putting a premium on excellence through competition, and by making the programme more relevant for industry.”

FP7 revolution

“The duration of the Programme will be seven years,” explained Potočnik, “as is the case for the next Financial Perspectives. The Commission has asked for the budget to be doubled from €5 billion per year today to €10 billion under FP7. Altogether, a budget of €5.9 billion has been requested for transport research, including aeronautics.

“I am fully aware of the challenge of managing such level of funds, but with simplification and rationalisation on the one hand and modernised management as well as externalisation of some of the activities on the other, we are prepared to rise to this challenge.”

Promoting joint technology initiatives

Thales exhibit at the Paris Air Show
Thales was a major draw at this year’s Paris Air Show
© Thales

“One of Europe’s weaknesses is that there are very few cases of public/private partnerships established for research and innovation and this needs to be addressed,” said the Commissioner. “The Framework Programme will support the implementation of Strategic Research Agendas in all domains. Under FP7, the thematic priorities will have a much greater degree of flexibility to use a simpler set of instruments based on specific needs.

“In some areas, and we believe this is the case for Aeronautics, we need to work towards establishing long term public/private partnerships of a scale and scope that cannot be supported through normal FP7 procedures and instruments.”

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