60 second interview: Robin Southwell – President of ADS

Posted on 5 Feb 2013 by The Manufacturer

On February 27th the West of England Aerospace Forum holds its Annual Conference and exhibition, located in one of the UK’s most important hubs for manufacturing. Boss of EADS UK Robin Southwell will speak at the event.

Robin Southwell President, ADS
Robin Southwell President, ADS

TM: Why is this event important to ADS, the South West region and the aerospace industry?

“I was very keen to get involved. The strength of ADS is in its members and when you disaggregate that the South West is a really important segment.

The importance of this event to the region shouldn’t be underestimated. Around 60,000 employees work in aerospace companies in the region and, against the national average, these are highly paid jobs. Being such an important element of the regional and national economy, you have to pay heed to the multiplier effect that an event like this can have on supply chains and spending. Since aerospace is growing through exports, boosting confidence and encouraging intra-industry networking is a way to reduce dependence on a moribund domestic economy.”

TM: The theme for the conference is ‘Supporting You’. How will your address interpret this? “While companies can compare their power to bail out, we are all in the same boat as an industry. “We are all experiencing this challenging and turbulent economic time together and we must – together – work out how we get out of it. This means the supply chain must be properly supported. Our members have a responsibility to pay promptly and in full. Where possible we must share intellectual property for the greater good and we must look around for lessons from other successful industries, like automotive.

My address will also expand on the fairly radical and aggressive targets I laid out to ADS members at our annual dinner last month.”

TM: What has made the South West such a strong aerospace sector hub? “The sector’s presence there is driven by its history. The evolution of the aerospace industry’s infrastructure coincided with the Second World War and for understandable reasons production was moved away from the South East to the important port of Bristol.

“With this foundation, important companies like Roll-Royce, Airbus and AgustaWestland have built leading engineering and design facilities in the region and these have been supported with parallel developments in academic centres of excellence. Bristol, Bath and Exeter are leading institutions for the research and study of aerodynamics and aerospace engineering. I also include Swansea University in the region for the purposes of emphasising regional aerospace expertise. Most recently this has been strengthened by the National Composites Centre near Bristol.

“Furthermore, the South West is a cost-effective location. The population, and therefore the workforce there is stable. As a region, it delivers many things that an investor would be looking for.”

TM: What are the most exciting prospects for 2013?

“Under ADS leadership, the [aerospace] sector now has a coherent and effective partnership with the Government which is delivering. I am looking forward to building on the Aerospace Growth Partnership which became effective last year and to establishing a Defence Growth Partnership very shortly.”

TM: What concerns you most about 2013?

“The UK economy is not growing and throughout 2013 we will continue to experience economic turbulence. Banks are still not functioning as they need to. It is hard to raise debt and internationally the effects of the global credit crunch are still very much in evidence.

“To steer our way out of this environment we must make sure that we bring to conclusion the things we are now doing to improve and resolve it. ADS is very pleased with the actions being taken in the UK. As a sector we remain on a growth path with large order books at Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Bombardier and strong investment in R&D. If we remain confident, I have no doubt that we will come out of 2013 even more robust than we were going into it and that we will be ready for an upturn in 2014 and beyond.”

For more information on the WEAF Annual Conference on Feb 27 2013 go to: www.weaf.co.uk/events