The European Commission (EC) has cited "fragmented and uncoordinated" research and development efforts as a major obstacle to the competitiveness of the European aerospace industry.

The EC is to present its proposals for industrial policy in an enlarged Europe to ministers in March and published its initial thoughts last week.

EC president Romano Prodi says reduced R&D spending in many countries is now a serious problem, and one that is worst in the defence industry. "The defence industry is still very fragmented and there are still lots of economies of scale that are exploited in research in the USA which are not yet being exploited in Europe," he says. "If we are not careful, then the defence industry could slip through our hands," he says.

The document issued by the EC, which is likely to be mirrored in the official proposal, describes the EU defence market as an "incomplete internal market" where "fragmentation remains the rule as a result of incompatible national requirements".

The EC says that a 1997 action plan on implementing a European strategy on defence-related industries has not seen any concrete follow-up, primarily as a result of a "lack of commitment by member states".

The Commission is likely to recommend the creation of a defence-related advisory group, similar to an aerospace working group that led to the formation of the European Aviation Safety Agency, due to become operational in October.

The EC admits that any increase in research funding depends largely on further military integration, but points to aspects such as engineer mobility and technology transfer rules, which are also hindering R&D in the defence industry.

Source: Flight International