Commissioner Janez Potocnik: Future research priorities for aeronautics and air transport, Aeronautics Days 2006 (5th Edition)

June 20, 2006

Vienna, 19 June 2006

Aeronautics Days 2006 (5th Edition)
Vienna, 19 June 2006

Mr. Vice-Chancellor,

Members of Parliament,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to participate in the opening of the ‘Aeronautics Days 2006’ Conference. The Commission is honoured to organise this event in Vienna, together with the Austrian Ministry of Transport and related Agencies and the Council of European Aerospace Societies.

I want to pay tribute to the considerable drive and dynamism achieved by the Austrian Presidency across a whole range of European issues, not least in its successful handling of the first stage of negotiations for the 7th Research Framework Programme.

Austria is recognised as well for its clear commitment to European aeronautics and for being an active link between new entrants to the European Union and the established Member States, helping to bring their aeronautics capabilities into the mainstream. The organisation of this event is a clear demonstration of this particular role.

In what follows I will give you an overview of forthcoming European research initiatives in aeronautics and air transport and of the challenges ahead in research in this field.

"Aeronautics Days 2006"; the fifth edition

The European Union started to support research in this sector back in 1988 as part of the 2nd Research Framework Programme, and this is now the fifth edition for the Community Aeronautics Days.

These events have provided an opportunity to the aeronautics community to review achievements, to measure progress, as well as to discuss the evolution of the challenges facing research and technological development, which are a key to the development of this sector in Europe.

By all means, Aviation is a very dynamic sector which has shown a great creativity during its 100 year history. It must retain this dynamism for the future.

As for any other transport activity, sustainability is essential to its future. This is the reason for the leitmotiv for this Conference “Sustainable Solutions for New Horizons”.

The Political Context for Research

The aeronautics industry is one of the most technology-intensive sectors. It bases its competitiveness on strong R&D investments, which represent more than 14% of its turnover. It is, therefore, of strategic importance to Europe.

The political support for European R&D reached new heights when the Heads of State and Government endorsed the revised Lisbon strategy, putting knowledge and innovation for growth as the first priority for the EU. There is now a commitment to invest more heavily in this area.

Member States have produced their National Reform plans, which all reflect a significant effort in research investment. If all commitments are respected, by 2010 the EU will have reached a level of 2.6% of its GNP dedicated to R&D.

One must realize the structural change this will represent for Europe at large; the clear signal that the Continent has woken up.

Yes, this would fall short of the 3% target which has been set. Yes, one needs to continue to work hard to reach that goal. But even more so, what we need are rapid and concrete actions and effective implementation. My role, as Research Commissioner, is to ensure the best conditions for this to happen.

And we need to speed up: emerging economies, such as China and India, are committed to rapidly increasing their research investment, we all know that.

Accordingly, the high level of investment in R&D achieved in the Aeronautics sector has to be maintained – if not increased – in order to consolidate the industry’s leading advantage.

In fact, we need to create an environment which is more conducive to innovation, risk-taking and entrepreneurship; we need to make Europe more attractive for research investment.

Last October, my colleague Günter VERHEUGEN and I presented a joint Action Plan on Research and Innovation.

The measures we proposed at that time will now take form in a series of policy documents for the second half of this year. They address more specifically an innovation-friendly alignment of the EU State aid regime for research and innovation within a new framework, better use of public procurement, European guidelines on the use of fiscal incentives, guidelines on cooperation and technology transfer between public research and industry, better use of intellectual property rights.

Finally, they include a better dialogue with stakeholders, private and public, in key strategic areas, to assess where there is a need to complement support to research and other side measures with demand side measures to foster the market take up of new technologies.

ACARE, the pioneering Technology Platform

Launched under FP6 as a clear motor for growth and innovation, over the last five years European Technology Platforms have become a powerful tool for supporting Europe’s goal of becoming a dynamic knowledge-based economy.

Technology Platforms are now recognized at the highest political level as a key component of the renewed Lisbon strategy for transforming knowledge into growth.

In this context, the recent Report prepared by Mr. AHO, former Prime Minister of Finland, and a group of personalities entitled “Creating an Innovative Europe” based on a mandate from the European Council, stresses the key role played by Technology Platforms for the creation and exploitation of innovation-friendly markets through the setting of research strategies at European level.

I expect that the contents of the AHO report, together with the Commission’s initiatives for enhanced research and innovation, will be further discussed during the upcoming Finnish Presidency, which will dedicate an informal Council to reforms for innovation already next month.

In the sector aeronautics research, ACARE (Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe), has played a pioneering role, since its launch in 2001. Its Strategic Research Agenda and its vision and recommendations, agreed by all stakeholders, constitute a landmark in European aeronautics research.

I encourage ACARE to continue playing this strategic planning role and providing objective recommendations to the stakeholders, including national public authorities and the Commission.

The 7th Framework Programme for R&D, including Aeronautics and Air Transport

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the last 15 years we have funded some 400 European projects in aeronautics research. They have significantly contributed to advances on all technological fronts of aviation. The results have enabled many of the aircraft, engines, equipment and services available today.

But what about the future?

I welcome the fact that the Austrian Presidency has brokered a final Inter-Institutional agreement on the Financial Perspectives for the period 2007 to 2013.

The Seventh Framework Programme will have a total budget of 54.6 billion euros over 7 years, which includes the top-up of an extra 300 million euro for research negotiated by the European Parliament.

Whilst this is not as high as we would have hoped and wished for when the Commission adopted its original proposal for the Framework Programme last year, it does represent an annual average increase of approximately 60% in current prices in comparison to FP6.

The Transport theme will be the third thematic priority with a budget of approx. 4.2 billion euros over 7 years. Aeronautics and Air Transport will be the most important of the 3 items comprising this theme. The other 2 will be Surface Transport and support to future applications of Galileo.

In this Framework Programme, research in aeronautics takes a new assertive step in broadening its scope and adopting a full air transport system perspective.

This is to better serve the double aim of securing and further developing the leading role of the European aeronautical industry and, at the same time, developing the greener, safer, more secure and efficient air transport system for the benefit of the citizens and society at large. In this respect, it is worth mentioning that the Strategic Research Agenda of ACARE has been fundamental in designing the Programme.

The Aeronautics and Air Transport programme will work on 6 priorities:

  • The greening of air transport;
  • Increasing time efficiency;
  • Ensuring customer satisfaction and safety;
  • Improving cost efficiency;
  • Protection of aircraft and passengers; and
  • Pioneering the air transport of the future.
We have a clear opportunity under FP7 for strengthening the implementation of the research programme through a greater involvement of the New Member States. Their capabilities in this sector represent an asset for the benefit of Europe.

Furthermore, I welcome the initiatives taken recently by some of these countries to use the Structural Funds for reinforcing their research capabilities so that their participation in the European projects can be further improved.

I can imagine that one question now in your minds is: when are we going to start FP7?

Let me assure you that all Institutions involved – Council, Parliament and Commission, are committed to adopt the Framework Programme legislative package as soon as possible. Following a Second Reading in the European Parliament in the autumn and final adoption by the college, FP7 should be ready for activities to start up at the very beginning of 2007.

The ‘Clean Sky’ Joint Technology Initiative

In the 7th Framework Programme, themes will have a much greater degree of flexibility to use a simpler set of funding instruments.

A true novelty of FP7 will be the launching of Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs). Such initiatives will be undertaken in a very limited number of cases, where the scale and scope of the research and technology development available justifies the setting of a public-private partnership at European level, which is driven by industry.

The Commission has identified 6 possible areas where such undertakings are envisaged. Each initiative will have to be individually justified. The Council will decide on each of them based on their merits, after obtaining the opinion of the European Parliament.

One of the 6 possible JTIs, - which is also one of the most mature ones - is dedicated to Aeronautics and Air Transport: The ‘Clean Sky’ Joint Technology Initiative.

I am grateful to the aeronautics community for their efforts in preparing ‘Clean Sky’. The fact that this JTI addresses the reduction of the environmental impact of aviation makes it a genuine subject of major common European interest.

Whilst progress has been made over recent months, we are not there yet. The Commission will be able to support a JTI only if three basic requirements are met:

  • if it has concrete objectives and deliverables,
  • if the industries involved demonstrate a long term commitment at the highest level,
  • and if it is open to incorporating all the stakeholders that are relevant to its mission, including the supply chain and in particular SMEs.
SESAR Joint Undertaking

I said before that Aeronautics and Air Transport in FP7 will adopt a full systems approach encompassing all the elements of the air transport system. For this reason part of the FP7 aeronautics package will give budgetary support to the research activities in a new initiative called SESAR.

As you know the Single European Sky legislation has been adopted in March 2004. SESAR is the industrial and technological programme aimed at modernizing the European Air Traffic Management System to complement the Single Sky initiative.

A proposal from my colleague Jacques BARROT to establish a Joint Undertaking for this purpose just reached agreement at the Council on 9th June and preparations are underway for a start in 2007.

Improved coherence across European research

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to make 2 more points; on coherence of European research efforts and on international co-operation.

Budgets are important but they are not everything in research. I believe it is now time to move on to a greater coherence of the European effort in aeronautics research.

The basic conditions to make this step change are there; especially now that the European aeronautical industry has gone through a process of substantial consolidation.

This industrial effort has, however, to be accompanied by a similar process of consolidation of research mechanisms, particularly involving closer coherence amongst the national research efforts.

The Joint Technology Initiative is only part of the process, only one tool. If we manage to succeed also in building a solid pathway towards greater coherence between non-Community research programmes and the EU Programme, the effectiveness of our efforts will be optimized.

The Commission is committed to this aim. Beside the JTI, FP7 also provides the ERA-NET instrument to enable this.

I am pleased to note that first steps have been taken in this sector, through the recent launch of the aeronautics ERA-NET called ‘Air-TN’ in FP6. I hope to see this initiative further strengthened in FP7 with even greater commitment of the involved Member States.

International co-operation

I want to complete this overview by making a point on international co-operation.

More than ever before, aviation is recognized as a global activity. It links people, civilizations and businesses in ways that no other activity does in the world. More than ever before its underpinning industry must have global aspirations if it wants to have an impact in the business.

There is no doubt that European aeronautical industries are global players. Moreover, they have a strong tradition of industrial co-operation not only within Europe but also across the world. Global activities can only be sustained through establishing partnerships.

I strongly believe that in the 21st century, it will be impossible to establish sustainable links of industrial partnership if they are not accompanied by co-operation in research and technological development.

I am committed to ensuring that FP7 supports international co-operation across all its themes. I invite your sector to use the available instruments in order to establish or strengthen co-operation with countries around the globe, when this can serve European interests.

Aviation faces universal challenges such as the environment, safety, security and air traffic management, which all need a global scale of action to be effective. Furthermore, in some cases, win-win situations of co-operation can be identified in support of industrial competitiveness. This is, of course, for Industry to determine.

I look forward to see these opportunities materialize in implementing Aeronautics and Air Transport in FP7.


The history of European aviation is marked by considerable achievements. We are entering now into a new age of aviation, that of sustainable growth.

I have no doubt that European aeronautics will be able to face this challenge and will continue to play a leading role in this new era.

In this respect, my closing message is the following: to meet this challenge Europe's only option is to continue working towards a more cohesive approach to research and technology development, entailing the investment of all stakeholders, both public and private.

We have been rather successful in this endeavor up to now. There is no future without research and innovation, there is no success without partnership. Together we are stronger, together we can fly higher.

Thank you for your attention.

Item source: SPEECH/06/383 Date: 19/06/2006

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