Posted on Wednesday 5 June 2013 by Ulster Business
By Gavin Campbell, Director of Engineering at Bombardier Aerospace and MATRIX Panel member
Our success and our future prospects are based on developing innovative engineering solutions that provide attractive products and services for our customers.
As we all know, however, a company coming up with innovative new technologies and products isn't enough on its own. The key to success is collaboration and long-term commitment. That's why I believe the launch in March this year of the UK Aerospace Industrial Strategy is a major step forward in securing the future of our industry, and provides an opportunity for local aerospace SMEs to get on board and play an active part in growing this hugely important sector. The industry employs some 8,000 people here and generates over £900m per year for the local economy.
The strategy is the outcome of almost two years' work by the Aerospace Growth Partnership – a unique collaboration between government and industry aimed at promoting long-term growth and boosting the number of high-value jobs in aerospace. This partnership, in which Bombardier is involved, has recognised the need to pick up the pace to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of world aerospace manufacturing and addresses the challenges of increasing global competition and changes in technology.
'Lifting Off: Implementing the Strategic Vision for UK Aerospace' seeks to ensure the UK is positioned at the leading edge of key technology areas – wings, engines, aerostructures and advanced systems. More importantly, it will ensure the UK supply chain wins the lion's share of new aircraft work packages that will be up for grabs. For example, between now and 2031, there is a global requirement for over 27,000 new passenger aircraft worth approximately $3.7 trillion and an expected demand for in excess of 40,000 commercial helicopters worth approximately $165bn.
Industry and Government have agreed commitments to enable the industry to foster innovative technologies through, for example, a new £2bn joint industry and Government Aerospace Technology Institute; develop new manufacturing processes and a robust supply chain; and ensure all companies have the right training and skills in place. The latter includes joint support for a new bursary scheme to fund a number of university Aerospace MSc places, aimed at generating high-level skills and expertise. Accredited courses within the scheme are available at our two local universities and I would encourage people to take up this opportunity.
This spirit of cooperation and collaboration will help our industry – and the local supply chain – meet the challenges from global competitors. It will enable us to deliver step-change technologies that are vital to developing a new range of efficient, more environmentally-responsive aircraft. And it will help ensure we have the people with the right skills and expertise to do this.
It has been said many times before that the benefits of investing in research and development, and the return on that investment, can't be underestimated.
And it should not be the sole charge of large companies. It's vital that SMEs engage in research in their own right. This is why collaborative centres like the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE) centre are so important – and not just for the aerospace industry. Its importance lies in the active promotion, encouragement and sharing of industry-led innovation across a wide range of sectors in Northern Ireland.
The backing of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Invest Northern Ireland helped bring about NIACE, coupled with the support from the local universities. This kind of collaborative support network drew on the strategy set out by MATRIX – the Northern Ireland Science-Industry panel – another three way partnership between government, academia and industry.
Bombardier is involved in NIACE and in MATRIX because we believe these approaches can help bring about a step change in the ability of Northern Ireland companies to compete on a world stage and ultimately help grow the local economy. I believe the new Aerospace Industrial Strategy is another major opportunity for local companies to step up to the mark. On June 10th, companies will hear how they can benefit from the strategy at an event being held in NIACE by the local trade organisation ADS NI.
It's crucial to the future success of the next century of aviation that companies are encouraged to extend engineering boundaries, and meet growing environmental challenges. By ensuring we take advantage of what this new aerospace strategy has to offer, I believe Northern Ireland can actively contribute to – and benefit from – a new world of aviation, in a sharing and collaborative environment.