ADS man Southwell criticises Govt for failure to commit presence at Farnborough

Posted on 8 Feb 2012 by The Manufacturer

Robin Southwell, CEO of EADS UK and president of trade body ADS, and attacked the Government for failing to commit senior figures to attend the 2012 Farnborough International Air Show at the ADS annual dinner last night.

Mr Southwell made his criticism during his keynote address to ADS members and guests at the event in central London.

Farnborough Air Show is largest global exhibition for civil and defence aerospace companies with around 1,400 stands booked already for 2012.  The biennial show is administered by Farnborough International, a subsidiary company within ADS.

Robin Southwell, President of ADS

Mr Southwell expressed his disappointment last night that this international event which has a track record of spurring deals and raising the profile of the quality and technology inherent in the UK aerospace industry is yet to receive confirmation from government officials that a senior member of Cabinet will attend.

He compared this to the level of commitment shown by the French government at Farnborough’s sister event, the Paris Air Show. This event is regularly opened by the French President.

Minister for Science and Universities, David Willets, who spoke after Mr Southwell last night, swiftly assured those assembled that government would remedy this situation and assured attendees that government recognised the criticality of the ADS sectors to the UK economy and the UK security.

There were 811 attendees at the second annual ADS dinner, a strong turnout for the young organisation which was formed from a merger of trade organisations in late 2009.

Apart from Mr Southwell and Mr Willets, speakers at the dinner, which celebrated the achievements of all the ADS sectors and raised the challenges to be met in the future, included the recently appointed ADS chief executive Rees Ward, Olly Benzecry, MD of event sponsors Accenture, Graham Chisnall, deputy CEO of ADS and former Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo.

Common themes across all addresses from these speakers were the importance R&D and sound education to the future of the sector. Mr Southwell warned those assembled that while 2011 had been a strong year for civil aerospace and the space industry (which is currently growing at 10% year on year) and a promising defence White Paper earlier this week, “the future is far from certain.”

Mr Southwell went on to highlight the difficult competitive environment for British aerospace when “for every one pound spent on R&D here, ten euros is spent in France and fifteen in Germany.”

Urging companies to seize the thorn with investment initiatives and government to continue supporting initiative to facilitate this, Mr Southwell closed by quoting Charles Dickens, the 200th anniversary of whose birth coincided with the dinner. “My advice is never to do tomorrow what I might do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”