Sir Andrew Cahn, chief executive of UK Trade & Investment, gives his views on the UK aerospace sector in the build up to the Paris Air Show 2009 at Le Bourget. He identifies Japan as an exciting trade partner for UK aerospace and points to British expertise in reducing the environmental impact of flying.
Words of caution are likely to be the first words you will have heard at the Paris Airshow this year. The past 18 months have been rocky. But despite the whispered warnings the aerospace sector can look to the future with more confidence than perhaps one would imagine.
UK aerospace, like most of our manufacturing, has felt the affect of the global economic slowdown. But even last year at Farnborough the orders continued to be placed, notably by airlines in the Middle East and Asia. They will drive future demand in the sector. Their airlines have continued to invest and place orders for aircraft. Their business plans stretch 20 years into the future. What to us seems like being caught in the economic equivalent of a perfect storm may actually be seen as a squall on the way to a bright future.
The UK, with the second largest aerospace sector in the world, is watching these developments acutely. The global composition of the sector, in which the UK has such a stake, means we have to be open to partnership, investment and trade. British firms, with their world-class research and skills, solve challenges posed by countries from all over the world.
International relations – Japan
Research by UK Trade & Investment and the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) has identified Japan as a place where British companies can prosper in the next few years. The UK’s place at the top of the global aerospace supply chain is critical to future success of our aerospace sector. With most of the supply chain for Airbus in the UK and with about half of every A380 built in the UK it is of vital importance to Britain. Britain is also heavily committed to Boeing and the firm’s investment in its Integrated Vehicle Health Management Unit at Cranfield University is proof of that. Over the next few years we want to see British firms taking their place in the supply chain for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ).
The strategic importance of the Japanese aerospace sector makes it a natural partner for Britain. Both are at the cutting-edge of technology. Why not then work more closely together? It is exactly ideas like this that I will be exploring at the Paris Show. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the SBAC have put in place a long term strategy of engagement with the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies (SJAC) to market the UK as a partner of choice, especially around exciting opportunities such as the MRJ. Lord Davies, minister for trade and investment, will discuss future cooperation with the Japanese industry when he meets SJAC at Paris.
There is more to British aerospace than being able to profit from the future. British companies are helping to shape it. Britain has cutting edge design facilities and expertise in avionics, engines and wing design that is recognised the world over. UK manufacturing represents 75 per cent of research and development spending in the UK.
UK’s input to greener skies
This unparalleled research and development base means that British engineers, scientists and the companies they work with are solving the challenges facing the industry. British companies have taken the lead in making the aerospace sector as environmentally friendly as it ever has been. The UK is running a £95m project into more environmentally friendly aero-engines as part of the National Aerospace Technology Strategy.
This year at Paris, UKTI, the Aerospace and Defence Knowledge Transfer Network and the SBAC hosted a special breakfast briefing highlighting British capabilities in the future of flight – unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Our partnership approach has been unique with major companies co-operating to create a future platform for civil UAS.