How would you evaluate Aerodays 2011, the unavoidable meeting point in terms of R&D in Europe for the aeronautical and aerospace industry, which has been held in Madrid last March? What conclusion do you come to?
Both from a national and international point of view, Aerodays 2011 has had an outstanding success. During the sixth edition of this forum -which is held every 4 or 5 yearsthe participation and the level and number of conferences have even surpassed previous editions. That is also what we assume from many congratulations expressed by attending industries, research centers and institutions, as well as by the European Commission, whose Directorate General for Research and Innovation has also participated at the jointly organization of the event.
Aerodays 2011 is not only a discussion forum to exchange ideas, but also it has been the perfect framework for the European Commission to introduce the Flightpath 2050, a strategic document for the future of aerial transportation. Through this presentation, Europe strengthens its commitment to the development of an aviation that -as well as fulfilling the citizens’ requirements and keeping the industry competitiveness is sustainable with regard to its capability of reducing the environmental impact and its dependency on petroleum thanks to the use of green energies.
Aerodays 2011 has been the perfect framework for the European Commission to introduce the Flightpath 2050, a strategic document for the future of aerial transportation
Most of the projects presented on this meeting have been developed within the VII Framework Program of the European Union. What is the assessment of Spanish technological and research centers focused on this industry?
The European Union Framework Program is a key milieu to promote collaboration in terms of R&D from a European point of view. Within the aeronautical industry, the presence of Spanish organizations –especially of research public and private organizations, as well as universitiesis essential. We must be ambitious and search for an even more consolidated presence, both as collaborators and as project leaders, as well as we must support Spanish firms and their valuable technological capability. Many of these centers and firms have had the opportunity of broadcasting their works on the VII Framework Program during the parallel sessions held in Aerodays 2011. The international cooperation is an inherent element in the aeronautical industry. Our companies and centers not only participate in international projects, but also, they interact in an international market beyond the European one. That is why the international collaboration is also critical during R&D stages.
The aeronautical industry is one of the strategic sectors for the Spanish Government, and one of the engines of its economy. Both from a national and an Andalusian point of view, which are the main initiatives that are being developed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation regarding this industry?
The national aeronautical industry can be regarded as one of the main strategic sectors for the Spanish economy, since it is an industry with an intense investment in R&D, and it is marked by the use of a highly skilled workforce too. One of the main goals of our Government is the establishment of a new productive model in the country, by means of a new framework based on innovation. Therefore, the aeronautical industry represents an outstanding example of this new model, which the public institutions want to implement. The support of financial tools encouraging the business investment in R&D projects has always been a commitment for the Government. In particular, the Secretary for Innovation has defined the action framework of the Government Innovation policy to contribute to the change of the productive model in Spain. Thus, the Spanish Innovation Strategy aims the support and the creation of structures that enable a better use of the scientific knowledge and the technological development, two aspects that would help the aerospace industry and that may be highly improved.
What do you think about the new Advanced Centre of Aerospace Technologies (CATEC) in which creation your department has also collaborated? Do you think that this type of tools is necessary to foster the technological development as a key element to improve the industry’s competitiveness? The creation of CATEC underlines the importance of research in aeronautical technology in our country. As a center of excellence, CATEC is an interface to transfer technology among the different agents of the Science, Technology and Business system, supporting the creation of knowledge, the management of copyrights resulting from R&D and the technological innovation.
You come from the private sector. Do you think that the administration must develop a wider promotion to foster investment in companies’ R&D? What type of measures are being taken to enable it in the aeronautical industry? Are businessmen aware about the necessity of implementing innovation and technological development as a fundamental part of their productive activity?
From the Government, we have always supported and encouraged companies to invest in R&D projects with a double aim: to ncrease the productivity of companies and to change the productive model in our country. Spanish businesses are conscious of the necessity of this change in the economical structure and they know that the only way to reach it is by the support of investment in R&D. We are pleased to see how the measures that we are implementing to boost such investment are beginning to bear fuit, with an increasing number of new innovative companies. Besides, the Ministry of Science and Innovation has designed a State Innovation Strategy with, among others, the following aims: to increase the private investment in R&D and to enlarge the number of innovative firms. Among the measures designed to promote innovation, we must highlight the new tools that are being implemented by CDTI, the Spanish Centre for Technological and Industrial Development, like Innodemanda, to promote public purchase; Innpronta, focused on consortium projects of research, with a wide participation of research centers; Innvierte Economía Sostenible, a venture capital tool; or Feder-Interconnecta, to support less technologically developed regions. Furthermore, the internationalization has become an essential goal in all programs’ assessment.
Your Ministry is closely linked to Industry and University. Do you miss a deeper connection between universities and companies, where technology and knowledge transfer would help to add value to the productive network? Do you think that it is essential for the aeronautical industry’s future?
Bringing universities and companies closer together is one of the most advanced aims of the business innovation policy developed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, both through the State Innovation Strategy and, additionally, of the recently approved Law of Science, Technology and Innovation. A goof proof of that is the latest call for the sub-program Inncorpora last May, which aims promoting professional technicians hiring, as well as university degrees or doctors among companies, technology centers, business associations or scientific parks to develop industrial research, technological development projects, or previous technical viability studies, as well as to foster their training in the 2012-2014 term.
The promotion of connection between industry and university -by means of the inclusion of people’s innovative talent to the market and, on its turn, having the University’s support to give an answer to its requirements applies to all the scenes of innovation, even though it is in the aeronautical sector where it acquires a critical meaning, both because of the volume of investments dedicated to R&D (€784 million in 2009) and due to its qualified employment generating capability (in 2009, the sector employed close to 36,000 people, with 16% of employees devoted to R&D activities).
Which are the main goals of the new Law of Science, Technology and Innovation and how will it affect this industry?
The new Law of Science, Technology and Innovation is motivated by the necessary change of the productive model that has been implemented in different aspects as planned in the State Innovation Strategy, and it includes novelties in the field of public and private cooperation with scientific and technological purposes, and in the mechanisms of transference of knowledge to the productive sector. Besides, it sets up the innovation policy as an unavoidable public policy to give an answer to business requirements in terms of competitiveness, at the same time that it aims obtaining more participation of private companies in research activities, more employment for young researchers and more quality in Spanish science, through a final and complete commitment on excellence research.
The promotion of connection between industry and university acquires a critical meaning in the aeronautical sector, both because of the volume of investments dedicated to R&D and due to its capability of creating qualified employment”
Andalusia is already an important international aeronautical hub thanks to its participation in programs like A350 or A400M. What is your appraisal of the evolution experienced by Andalusian companies in the last years?
It is highly positive. The commitment of the Andalusian region during the last years to support the aeronautical industry is bearing fruit. Thus, Andalusia, especially Seville, has become one of the main aeronautical hubs both from a national and European point of view. Some important landmarks, such as the establishment of the A400M FAL, the national benchmark of Alestis firm as first level supplier for Airbus, or the creation of the Advanced Centre of Aerospace Technologies (CATEC) have enable the Andalusian aeronautical industry to display its excellence all around the world, and to represent, together with Madrid, more than 80% of the industry’s national turnover. Of course, all these achievements could not have been possible without the support of the central and regional Administration, as well as of the Andalusian industrial network, to the aerospace industry, regarded as a strategic sector for the region.
What do you think about the development of UAV industry in Spain and Andalusia? Do you think that it is one of the areas with the greatest future in aerospace industry? Are we ready to compete and achieve international projects linked to this sector? Without a doubt, it is an industry with a great future in the aerospace industry, with an extraordinary market potential. Unmanned aerial vehicles and systems have become a strategic segment not only for its military use, but also, for many civil uses, such as borders’ monitoring activities, security and critical infrastructures control, just to say some examples. The interest shown by research centers and Spanish and Andalusian companies on UAS related technologies is very important. This interest has an echo on the increasing number of projects that are being developed on that subject, which allows us to have a favorable position on the market, currently dominated by products from Israel and USA. It is also crucial to have the regulations that allows their incorporation to the airspace; an important key in order to develop a competitive UAS industry.
The interest shown by Spanish and Andalusian research centers and companies on UAS, has an echo on the increasing number of projects that are being developed on that subject, which allows us to have a favorable position on the market”
This publication is an especial issue to commemorate Le Bourget, a fair that congregates important companies and public and private organizations of this industry. What are the Spanish and Andalusian potentialities that will open new future possibilities to the global market?
The Flightpath 2050 document – requested by the European Commission to an important group of professionals from the aeronautical sector and presented during Aerodays 2011is the guideline to define the strategy in terms of R&D from an European point of view in the next 40 years. There, the environmental sustainability, the security and the competitiveness are the keys to maintain the global leadership of the European aeronautical industry. Composite materials, the before mentioned UAS, the use of biofuels and a more efficient use of aerial traffic systems (ATM) are the key pieces of a new global market. From this point of view, the long term commitment of the Spanish and Andalusian aeronautical industries to these technologies have enable our industry to occupy a top position to face new challenges.