French prime minister Dominique de Villepin has set aside €145 million ($186 million) to boost the French aerospace sector, €80 million of which will be used to assist French aerospace subcontractors that have been affected by delays to the Airbus A380 programme.

Speaking at the fifth financing for innovation forum in Toulouse, de Villepin stressed the importance of the French aerospace sector saying: “We have taken the necessary measures to respond to the immediate difficulties.”

De Villepin emphasised his confidence in Airbus chief Louis Gallois, saying that, together with transport minister Dominique Perben, he has created working groups to come up with specific measures to assist the industry.

He says the State has set aside €145 million, of which €80 million will be channelled into repayable loans for small- to medium-sized suppliers. The money will be spilt into two, with €40 million available in 2007 and the remainder in 2008.

“Today the aeronautical sector, in which you all play a part, is going through a difficult period. Competition is intense, particularly with Boeing. But I am convinced… we can surmount these difficulties,” says de Villepin.

“The French are proud of the A380, which is one of the most beautiful programmes in the aircraft industry. It is up to us to guarantee its industrial and commercial success in the years to come.”

He urges Airbus to sign a charter of confidence with its smaller suppliers, focussing on aspects such as terms of payment. The state has also committed to assist small and medium sized companies by offering them financial, logistical and technological advice.

Research and technology are also a focus for the funding and €50 million of the total has been set aside to meet requests from technological clusters specialising in aerospace, onboard systems and composites in the next round of tenders.

A further €15 million will be channeled into the development of a new aerospace research campus at Toulouse.

De Villepin says: “Right now Toulouse is a major innovation centre for aerospace. With the creation of Aerospace Campus, we will guarantee it first place in the world."