Ian Godden, chairman of UK trade organisation ADS, has a strong message for the country's new coalition government: increase technology spend for the aerospace and defence sectors and don't let the UK's position on the world stage in these fields slip.
Godden will be seeking to reinforce this mantra as UK government ministers share the stage with industry leaders during a series of mini-conferences scheduled to be held throughout the show. Those ministers include secretary of state for business and innovation Vince Cable, who will open the aerospace portion of the conference programme on the first day, and secretary of state for defence Liam Fox, who will head defence proceedings on day two.
"Aerospace, defence, security and space represent 20% of the UK's manufacturing industry, and if the government is serious about rebalancing the economy then it's got to look hard and fast at this sector and get off some of its hobby horses and help us to succeed in world terms," says Godden, who believes that the UK is "fighting a battle to convince the rest of the world that we have a vision and a place and a role in the world in aerospace".
In addition to strengthening its role in the global aerospace industry, the UK must decide how to respond to other nations that are emerging as significant players in this field. "How do we play as a nation with the emerging and substantial investments in China, India, Brazil and Russia, what is our role there and how do we increase our trading connections and power with those countries?" asks Godden. These are all questions that ADS will be putting to the new government.
Key to maintaining its position on the world stage, particularly when it comes to defence, is to increase spending on research, development and technology, says Godden: "It's very counter-cultural to say but technology spend needs to increase - we're talking here about hundreds of millions of pounds, not billions of pounds. In a total government expenditure of £750 billion [$1.13 billion], we're talking about research and technology spending of £400 million a year."
Godden adds: "We believe this needs to be increased and that we're already at low, risky levels. This is an area we believe should be ring-fenced within the budget."
However, he is aware that this will be a tall order in a time of massive government cutbacks across all sectors.