Brussels, 08 Sep 2003
'The R&D investment which we make today is the foundation of our industry in 15 and 20 years time,' said President of the European association of aerospace industries (AECMA), Bengt Halse, on 4 September, in a plea to Europe's public sector to match spending by the US government.
Reviewing the performance of Europe's aerospace industry over the past year, Dr Halse had both good and bad news for the sector. Financial data show that the industry is still recovering from the events of 11 September 2001, but also indicate that 2002 was the second best year ever for the European aerospace industry.
Research and development (R&D) investment remained high in 2002 at 13.9 per cent of turnover, but Dr Halse deplored the fact that while industry has recognised the importance of R&D and increased expenditure accordingly, the public sector continues to decrease its contribution.
'This is of great concern for us,' said Dr Halse. 'It's no secret that the US government invests almost three times the European institutions' contribution to aerospace R&D. If we want to compete with them on a level playing field, equivalent institutional investment must be available in Europe on similar terms.'
Dr Halse did, however, welcome two new security and defence initiatives, both of which will see a strong role for research. The first is the proposal for a European armaments, research and defence agency, which emerged during the work of the European Convention on an EU constitution. The second is an initiative by the European Commission to launch a security research programme. Pilot projects are planned to begin in 2004.
Low public spending is also characteristic of Europe's space industry, said Dr Halse. This is combined with vulnerability due to the slump in the telecommunications market, which has not been felt so strongly in the US. 'Our industry is highly exposed to the cyclical commercial orders. Europe is lacking an institutional market. In the US the government market for space business is six times that of Europe. Therefore, a real, unified space policy is urgently needed in Europe.'