[check against delivery]


Ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon!

Today we're marking the closing of Clean Sky 1. And if you leave here today with only idea in your head, let it be this: - Clean Sky is a pioneer of PPPs. In fact, it's the last 'P'. The P for partnerships that we should celebrate today. Clean Sky is a great example.

Partnership was always the foundation stone of aviation. Bill Gates once said that:

The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.

Aviation is one of the most significant innovations the world has ever seen. 

Originally, with the Wright Brothers, it was borne from a partnership of two brothers. And today, over a century later, it is through a partnership of many stakeholders. And Clean Sky is an example of this partnership.    

I want to congratulate the first Clean Sky programme on its successful completion. The programme began with €600 million from EU citizens. This leverage was able to double when matched by private investment. And from this, in nine years the programme has developed impressive technologies. The most striking example is the Contra-Rotating Open Rotor. This new type of engine would burn 30% less fuel when flying. And this is just a single example. If all of the technologies developed by Clean Sky 1 were implemented we would reach all of our targets. They are:

  • A 50% reduction of CO2 emissions through reduction of fuel consumption;
  • An 80% reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions;
  • A 50% reduction of external noise;
  • And a green product life cycle including everything from design, to manufacturing and recycling.

Reaching these targets is only possible through Clean Sky's achievements in collaboration and size:

  • Over 600 public and private sector partners are working together, opening up new cooperation possibilities, ones that had never existed before.
  • Industry players, universities, research institutes and other partners have all come together.
  • And competitors are collaborating in ways they have never before.

Since I took up my position in 2014, I have been expounding this idea of the three O's: Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the world. And Clean Sky 1 is a striking example of this in action.

Open Innovation: Clean Sky has opened up the aviation and aeronautics sector. Now we're seeing new players, those who previously had no links to these sectors, join forces with the traditional voices.

This multidisciplinary approach brings together individuals and organisations from various disciplines, from transport, to energy, and engineering etc.

And all of these partners bring their own specific set of skills to the table. This intersection of disciplines is what makes Clean Sky so successful. 

Last year I met Bertrand Piccard. Some of you may know him as the creator of the fuel-free solar impulse plane. He told me that when he wanted to create it he went to every airplane manufacturer and they all told him that building a plane like that was impossible. Finally he ended up going to a company that designed boats. And they made it.

What is the takeaway here? Sometimes partnerships, coming from unexpected places, can come up with the most successful results.

That's the type of innovation that we trying to grasp with Clean Sky.

Open Science: Clean Sky is a telling example of the power of this second 'O'.

The programme is a great example of how data is shared. Clean Sky sees competitors sharing their results with one another. Industrial competitiveness has been set aside. The pursuit of excellence-based and collaborative science is what remains. 

And lastly, Open to the World. It goes without saying that aviation as an industry opens us up to the world.

It used to be the case that a country's fate was bound to its geographical location. But aviation connects Europe and its businesses with the global community.

And Clean Sky also fulfils this role.

This programme allows actors, not just those within the EU, to come together. This global collaboration pushes innovation beyond the EU level to countries such as Canada, Israel and Switzerland. This makes Clean Sky truly Open to the World.

For the last few minutes I've spoken about the successes of Clean Sky, of which there are many. But life as we know it is never that simple. And with these successes come challenges for the future.

The question that has been asked of us today is this: will the European aviation industry be able to sustain its competitive advantage?

The industry is facing three major sources of threat.

The first one relates to global competition. Aviation is currently facing enormous opportunities globally. Annual global growth is predicted at 4%. The order books are full for aeroplane manufacturers for the next decade!

But much of this growth is not predicted for Europe. We must do all we can to ensure that Europe and its aviation industry benefit from it. Traditional European leaders, like Airbus and Saab are facing increased competition from places such as Embraer in Brazil, Bombardier in Canada, and increasingly from China.

In second place, traditional aviation manufacturers are seeing their position threatened by newcomers. Drones and flying cars could add a new market segment and attract new market entrants to the industry. In fact, quite recently I heard the flying car is close to being invented. One of the most hopeful contenders is Aeromobil. And it's based somewhere where you would perhaps not expect it, far from Silicon Valley – in Slovakia!

These new technologies in the longer term could challenge traditional jets. But fighting against these new innovations will be as effective as pushing back the ocean tide.

Finally, the third challenge to the aviation industry comes from the need to meet the environmental targets to which all of us agreed. And despite the discussion no longer being if we should achieve the targets or not, but rather how we will achieve them, we have to be fair: achieving those targets requires great effort from all stakeholders involved, notably from industry players. More efficient engines using alternative fuels or new technologies that reduce noise in a significant manner are not there yet. And to get there we will need to invest more money and resources which impacts on the overall industry margin.

These are some of the challenges that we need to face in the future.

To these three sources of external pressure there are also three answers: innovation, innovation and innovation.

We need to maintain our competitive advantage by pushing to innovate in the aviation sector as much as we can.

Traditional products and business models will not allow us to compete with players coming from other regions of the world. Likewise, they won't allow us to explore all the benefits of new inventions and markets. And, definitely, they won't lead us to meeting the environmental targets we all desire. 

So we need to find a way to work with these newly emerging players, markets and technologies to reach our common goal of defeating our societal challenges. In some cases we have already hinted how to do it.

As I have already said, if the technologies developed by Clean Sky 1 were entered into service the environmental targets would be met. But these technologies remain at the research stage. And research is not enough.

I've heard over and over again how Europe is a locus for excellent science. But we have a bad track record for market-creating innovation. Just this month President Juncker released the White Paper on the future of Europe. He said it in no uncertain terms; "one of our major challenges will be to bring innovative solutions to market, at home and abroad". And what do you think he was referring to when he said this? Cutting harmful emissions and developing renewable energy sources. So our challenge to move from idea to implementation is clear to many.

This is why I see the European Innovation Council complementing the great research that is being produced in Horizon 2020, including under Clean Sky. 

The EIC will be one tool to help us push beyond ideas into implementation. With this we will aim to fully achieve our goal of combatting those societal challenges caused by the aviation industry. This will be another instance in which collaboration will move us from ideas to tangible results.

Results that can firmly solve these challenges like noise and air pollution.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Aviation has become one of the leading high-tech sectors in Europe. It's estimated to support 8.7 million jobs at this moment. But we know that we cannot ignore the environmental impacts that come with it.

The Clean Sky Joint Undertaking has been one of the pioneers in public-private partnerships in the framework programme that have addressed these challenges.

It is without a doubt a success story.

In answer to the original question, yes, we are 'keeping up'.

But let me conclude by saying this: We cannot rest on our laurels.

We must celebrate the successful conclusion of Clean Sky 1. And with that, the reaching of targets that were set out for the programme 9 years ago.

We must also look to the challenges posed to the aviation sector for the future. We must turn our ideas into implemented solutions.

And finally, we must maintain this successful tradition of partnership, collaboration and unity if we are to overcome the challenges facing the future of aviation.

Thank you. 


Brussels, 21 March 2017