Cobham chairman calls for increased effort from aerospace sector if it is to remain strong

The UK must "raise its game" in aerospace and defence research and development if it is to survive and build a sustainable future, says Gordon Page, chairman of technology company Cobham.

Page, commenting on the latest government figures for UK R&D spending, says UK industry faces "relentless pressure from countries which are aggressively promoting their own aerospace industries". He adds, however, that aerospace is one of only two UK industries "that maintain globally competitive levels of expenditure on product development and research and technology".

Aerospace and defence is the second-largest R&D sector in the UK (behind pharmaceuticals), accounting for 11.9% of the total R&D spending by the UK's top 700 companies. According to the UK Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), R&D expenditure in 2004 was 18% up on 2003.

Page applauds the £30 million ($54 million) DTI investment in advanced composites research as "a good start", but says "we must do more" if the UK is to retain its strength in key technology areas. He also wants to see more effort on winning European research funding. "We should access Europe better than we do. We've realised we haven't put enough reserves into getting the benefits."

According to the DTI, the UK aerospace industry comprises more than 3,000 companies and employs almost 120,000 people directly, 300,000 indirectly and 40,000 abroad. Since 1995, the UK's share of the £200 billion-a-year global aerospace market has risen from 9% to 13%, while profitability has improved by 140% and value added per employee by 200%. Page says, however, that given the increasing abilities of developing countries, there is a need for "another round of hard thinking on what is outsourced from the UK".



Source: Flight International