Ian Sheppard/LONDON

The aerospace industry has been granted "key action" status as part of the European Commission's (EC) ratification of the structure of its proposed Fifth Framework programme for research and technology development. The move will focus research spending on key development programmes such as the Airbus Industrie A3XX.

The EC says that it has "earmarked" ECU16.3 billion ($18.9 billion) overall for the Fifth Framework, although it is urging member countries to increase spending dramatically from an average of 1.9% to 2.5% of gross domestic product, quoting evidence that "...each ECU invested in pre-competitive research has generated an average return of ECU4".

Leading aerospace industry figures have pointed out that the USA outspends Europe in aerospace research and technology development by a factor of four.

It is unclear how large a slice of the EC fund aerospace will attract. In the Fourth Framework, which runs to the end of 1998, aerospace projects attracted more than ECU400 million out of a ECU13.2 billion total.

EC sources say that the picture will be clear by mid-1998, allowing it to call for specific proposals at the end of 1998 and release funds in 1999. Funding for research and technology development will fall into three categories, says the EC: near-term applications, such as the A3XX; emerging technologies; and aviation infrastructure.

The decision is a significant success for the Association of European Aerospace Companies, which is working closely with AEREA, a grouping of Europe's seven main research establishments, to develop its Long Term Technology Plan and define the direction of R&D.

AEREA says that a confidential "working document" has been produced recommending restructuring of European research activities to minimise duplication under the Fifth Framework.

Source: Flight International