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Andalusia ups the technology ante with dedicated aerospace facility

Spain's Seville-centred Andalusia region has formally inaugurated a technology development centre built to service the 130 aerospace companies that have clustered in the region around Airbus Military's facilities, including its A400M airlifter assembly line.

The CATEC advanced aerospace technologies centre, featuring 3,000m2 (33,000ft2) of laboratory space and another 1,500m2 for offices, is closely allied to the University of Seville and sits within the Aeropolis aeronautics technology park.

Aeropolis provides aerospace manufacturers with purpose-built accommodation close to Seville airport and within sight of the A400M assembly facility.

In six years, Aeropolis has grown to house 47 companies, including tier 1 supplier Alestis Aerospace, and managing director Joaquin Rodriguez Grau expects to build three more units this year for new tenants.

According to scientific director Anibal Ollero, CATEC is designed to complement, not reproduce, capabilities already held by local companies. A 4t stress test capability, for example, is beyond what individual companies can do in-house but available for hire at CATEC.

Ollero, a professor at Seville university, calls CATEC a "bridge" between academic research, which is typically geared to long-term technology development, and the much more immediate needs of aerospace suppliers that are looking to prepare a product for market.

CATEC maintains a fleet of unmanned air vehicles, which can be used to validate a specific development in payload or avionics, for example. Ollero also gives as a recent example one company's work on a UAV system to monitor forest fires; CATEC's simulation capabilities and some of its 35 staff are helping the company to develop the avionics code necessary to fly such a mission commercially. Critically, he says, while CATEC charges for the use of its facilities and engineering staff, customers do not have to pay to create the capabilities of the centre.

Key CATEC capability areas are materials and processes (including rapid prototyping and non-destructive inspection), avionics and unmanned systems (including communication and security technologies), automation and robotics (for testing, manufacturing and assembly) and simulation and software (including 3D simulation and training).

Its staff of 35 includes aeronautical and industrial engineers, telecommunications and computing experts.

CATEC is managed by the Andalusian Foundation for Aerospace Development, a non-profit organisation formed in 2007. The centre's start-up budget of €21 million ($29 million) came from the Spanish and Andalusian government innovation and science ministries.

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