2012 in review: pitiful UK R&D spend, £28m into the National Composites Centre, David Cameron’s howler

Posted on 21 Dec 2012

Ian Risk, Head of EADS Innovation Works UK, the aerospace group’s research and technology arm, provides a yearly review straight from the heart of industry.

TM: Highlight of the year?

Ian Risk: On the 5th December Chancellor George Osborne announced an investment of £28m to enhance the capabilities and capacity of the National Composites Centre. This will fund the building of new facilities and set up a world-class training facility.

TM: Lowlight of the year?

IR: That Eurofighter did not win the deal to sell 126 fighter jets to the Indian Air Force [losing out to Rafale, built by French aerospace group Dassault].

TM: Biggest story of the year?

IR: Failed merger of EADS and BAE Systems that would have created largest Aerospace and Defence company in the world. The new company would have been a global titan, strengthened to face competition on the global market. It would have balanced our portfolio in the aerospace and defence markets.

TM: Hero of the year?

IR: Sir John Armitt [Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority] – and the whole Olympic delivery team… how could it be anyone else?

TM: Villain of the year? 

IR: Aleksander: nothing is ever ‘simples’

TM: Your biggest deal of the year?

IR: Air Asia just confirmed an order for a further 100 Airbus’s. A fantastic endorsement of our products.

TM: Technological breakthrough of the year?

IR: Start of A350 final assembly of 1st test aircraft.

TM: Political howler of the year?

IR: When the Prime Minister was forced to travel in a Boeing aircraft on a trade mission to Asia where he supported the sale of Airbus A330 aircraft (with British built wings) to Indonesia’s national airline Garuda. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot.

TM: Politician of the year?

IR: David Willetts for committing an extra 25% to the UK’s space budget.

TM: Best political move for business?

IR: The raise in the UK’s contribution to the European Space Agency.  Space as a sector is worth £9 billion to the UK economy and is four times as productive as the manufacturing average.  This positions the UK to benefit from Europe’s continued investment in this growth and high tech sector.

TM: Where is the UK still behind other nations?

IR: Skills and gender diversity. For a 1 million strong aerospace and defence industry there are only 1,250 full time aerospace engineering university degree places for UK students offered this year.

Without more skilled applicants, it will be extremely hard to sustain this industry.

With more women than men graduating from college, but fewer women in senior management positions, the UK and businesses in general are in danger of not using this important resource.

I have to mention R&D, because for every £1 we spend on R&D France spends €10 and Germany €15 when it is the lifeblood of the future!

TM: How will manufacturing fare in 2013?

IR: Automotive and aerospace are already success stories, but we want to replicate this with the launch of the Defence Growth Partnership.  The energy and pharmaceuticals sector will continue to play big roles.

TM: Most promising marketplace for 2013 and why?

IR: It’s volatile wherever you look, but the BRICS still show promise.