THE UK AEROSPACE community's pleas for more Government support are backed by some alarming statistics on the industry's relative decline - and a pledge to rebuild.

Since 1980, the UK share of world civil and military markets has slipped from 13% to just 9%. "We are absolutely determined that will not continue," says Norman Barber, chairman of Smiths Industries Aerospace and president of the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC). He adds that the decline is directly linked with lack of research-and-development funding, warning that the UK is progressively exhausting its "technological heritage". Rival European industries have received funding at four times the rate of that in the UK, while investment in the USA has been 16 times higher, he says.

The UK has already shed around 120,000 aerospace jobs over the past 15 years, bringing the workforce down to its present 130,000. This could fall to 60,000 over the next decade if nothing is done to improve the technology base, claims Mike Turner, chairman of British Aerospace's commercial operations.

The industry's goal is to rebuild the UK's share of world markets to 10-15% and to hold employment at above 100,000, he says, arguing that a partnership with Government is essential if the target is to be reached.

Source: Flight International