By Helen Massy-Beresford ar Farnborough

SMEs are starting to see the benefit of going global

The increasing trend towards globalisation of the industry was reflected this year in the increased interest in forming international partnerships between regional small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) associations. Most exhibitors at Farnborough are SMEs: they may not make high profile announcements, but the show gives them the chance to sign deals, make contacts or win orders on the spot.

Farnborough Aerospace Consortium (FAC) executive director Ross Bradley says the FAC experienced interest from comparable organisations in France, Germany, India and Australia. "These are organisations that recognise the significance of globalisation and want to form partnerships."

His counterpart at the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA), Martin Wright, says England's north-west region as a whole saw interest from overseas counterparts. The NWAA stand gave other regions the chance to come and meet 47 companies - "there is always a plethora of regions and now they want to do business with other regions". Bradley adds: "The industry is no longer European, it's global - organisations like ours are are the vehicles for forming global supply chains."

For SMEs, with tighter profit margins than their larger, higher-profile customers, getting concrete results in return for the investment they make in attending is not optional. A company participating in the NWAA stand, for example, will typically pay under £3,000 ($5,500), significantly less than for an individual stand, but a sizeable investment for a small business.

In return for this, the 47 companies that took part in the NWAA stand at this year's Farnborough have had plenty of successes.

Unmanned vehicle specialist AVi reported high levels of interest in its new Seeker miniature UAV. Chief executive Craig Shaw says the company received 120 enquiries from customers including foreign governments, one of which was the USA, and could have sold 300 of the UAVs if it had been in the production phase and ready for sale. The UAV is expected to be available next year. Weston EU of Lancashire tied up a five-year deal to supply engine airfoils to Rolls-Royce and announced investment in a new overseas facility in Thailand.

Stephen Clarke, managing director of Hurst Green Plastics says: "We were inundated with enquiries for our new RFID [radio frequency identification] based system, TagBin." He adds: "By my estimation, we took at least three times as many quality enquiries than at Farnborough 2004…I am sure we will be looking at a significant amount of new business generated via the show over the coming months."

Wright says the overall feedback from this year's event has been positive: "People are busy and looking for manufacturing capacity. At a time like this Farnborough takes on even more importance."

Bradley reports that two of the 60 FAC members attending the show signed concrete deals, but perhaps more importantly "almost all reported positive leads". ■

Source: Airline Business