The Gulf's only manufacturer of aircraft parts is no longer a novelty. Set up three years ago on a 22,600m2 (243,000ft2) patch of desert next to the remote Al Ain airport - as part of Abu Dhabi's strategy to create a home-grown aerospace sector - Mubadala-owned Strata has become as an aerostructures specialist to be reckoned with.

Thanks to contracts with Airbus and Alenia, and a soon-to-be-­concluded deal with Boeing, Strata has built an orderbook worth $3 billion, and will employ 700 people by the end of the year, rising to 1,000 by 2013.

"It's a rapidly growing business," says chief executive Ross Bradley, a Briton who has been with Strata since 2008. "Our strategy is to ­become a market leader in the moving parts of wings, as well as empennages."

Ross Bradley CEO Strata,

 © Mubadala

Chief executive Ross Bradley wants to establish a market leader

The company manufactures only composite structures, including wing components for the Airbus A330, A340 and A380. and is ­taking over responsibility from Alenia for the empennage on ATR turboprops. At the moment, all its production is built-to-print, but the company is investing in an ­engineering and design capability, and Bradley says the long-term ­objective is to become "a risk-sharing partner with Airbus and Boeing within a decade". While he ­describes the current factory as "typical of the sort of plant you'd find in Europe or the [USA]", the intention is not simply to be a facility for lower-cost outsourcing. Bradley says a second development, due to come on stream in three years, will considerably increase levels of automation with "lean and highly agile" processes.

A few years ago, Al Ain was a rather sleepy oasis settlement with an airport used mostly by the ­military and a training school. But as part of the Abu Dhabi's grand vision for a diversified ­economy, it has rapidly becoming an aerospace hub, with plans for maintenance shops, a cargo centre and a park housing technology firms. The ­eventual aim is to create a mini cluster of small suppliers ­feeding Strata.

Like all state-supported ventures in the UAE, creating high-value careers for the nation's young people outside the dominant energy sector is key. There are more than 100 male and female Emiratis working at Strata, and Bradley's target is to increase the proportion of local ­employees to half by 2014.

However, Bradley insists that positive discrimination does not take precedence over competence - training and mentoring is vital. "This is not to be confused with, say, South Africa. Either they are up to the job or not. We don't ­force-fit people into jobs they are not able to do."

Source: Flight International