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Civil Aerospace Industry

Aeronautics Competitiveness

About aeronautics competitiveness

Unmanned aircraft

About unmanned aircrafts

The European aeronautics industry develops and manufactures civil and military aircrafts, helicopters, drones, aero-engines and other systems and equipment. The industry includes companies that provide support services, such as maintenance and training.

Industry profile

Aeronautics is one of the EU’s key high-tech sectors on the global market

  • it provides more than 500,000 jobs and generated a turnover of close to €140 billion (in 2013)
  • the EU is a world leader in the production of civil aircraft, including helicopters, aircraft engines, parts and components
  • the EU has a trade surplus for aerospace products, which are exported all over the world

The industry is highly concentrated, both geographically (in particular EU countries) and in terms of the few large enterprises involved. Employment in the aerospace sector is particularly significant in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden.

Productivity is considerable and despite high employment costs, the sector is quite profitable. A sizeable share of value added is spent on research and development (R&D), which is reflected in an increasing number of patent applications.

What the Commission is doing

The European Commission implements a number of policy actions, to address key issues that impact the aeronautics industry, including those listed below.

  • Competitiveness

    The Commission promotes the sustainable competitiveness of European aeronautics industries, focusing in particular on emerging sectors such as unmanned aircrafts (also known as drones).

  • Trade

    Accessing markets outside the EU is crucial for jobs and growth within the EU. The Commission works to keep markets and trade open by providing information on EU civil aviation exports. The most important barriers faced by EU producers of civil aircraft are the substantial subsidies paid by the US Government to their main competitor – Boeing - in the United States. The Commission represents and defends the EU aeronautics industry in dispute settlements at the World Trade Organisation.

  • Research

    Investment in research, development and innovation (RDI) is vital for the competitiveness of the EU aeronautics industry. RDI expenditures represent 10% of industry turnover, one third of which being financed by the public sector. The Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) is the roadmap developed by the European industry through the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) providing a guide to future public and private RDI programmes. The Commission also supports the European RDI effort in aeronautics through Horizon 2020 under the Smart, Green and Integrated Transport challenge and 2 joint technology initiatives, Clean Sky and the SESAR Join Undertaking.

  • Environmental action

    The Commission has taken several measures to mitigate the growing impact of aviation on the environment. Aircraft emissions contribute to global climate change and impact on local noise and air quality. Read more

  • Air transport

    The common EU aviation policy aims to make Europe the safest air space in the world. In order to fully exploit the economic potential of the sector, the European Commission develops policy initiatives on several key issues: safety, single market, Single European Sky, External Aviation policy, etc. Read more