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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
A talking point
A talking point
Keywords: Aerospace industry, UK
The future of the UK Aerospace Industry was the focus of a discussion forum between a group of influential figures operating within the aerospace and defence arena at this year's Farnborough International. The event was organised by the Farnborough Aerospace Consortium (FAC) in conjunction with the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), as part of a week of intense activity centred on the joint FAC/ SEEDA stand, highlighting the immense capabilities of the region's small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Chairing the lively and insightful debate was FAC Executive Director Ross Bradley, with other participants including Will Scott, CEO, Waer Systems; Hilde Bartlett, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Group Plc; Mark Crompton, Managing Director, Hamble Structures, and Brian Little, Executive Vice-President, European Operations, Magellan Aerospace.
The crucial issue raised was the impact of globalisation on the industry, with participants expressing their views and concerns. Attendees were in agreement that better collaborative working offered the strongest solution for a way forward.
Will Scott of Waer Systems offered an international perspective by highlighting the difference between the size of the market in the United States and that in the UK. “Being so vast, the US market has a wealth of opportunities for both large and small players in which to participate, in direct contrast to the UK market”, he stated.
Brian Little of Magellan Aerospace reinforced this view by commenting that “The UK only has a small number of large players which are often difficult to gain access to, and their slow decision making processes could be a source of frustration for many small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs)”.
There was also agreement that traditional low- tech manufacturing in the UK is the area most under threat from emerging low cost economies, necessitating the need for a greater focus on and investment in high-tech added value product. Highlighting the UK's expertise in this area, Will Scott emphasised the high regard in which Britain is held by its peers in the US.
The Forum debated how the UK's expertise could be strengthened to ensure that it retains its standing in the international marketplace in the future. Hilde Bartlett from Silicon Valley Group expressed her opinion that a huge opportunity had been lost with the discontinuation of the apprenticeship scheme in the UK, and she also emphasised the role that industry associations such as FAC and regional development agencies were currently playing.
One such initiative in the South East was the recent launch of SEEDA's Farnborough Enterprise Hub – the first in the UK to focus solely on the Aerospace and Defence Industry.
As the discussion drew to a close, the participants expressed the view that the Forum had been a worthwhile exercise and that they would have welcomed more time to discuss key topics in greater detail.
Biographies for participants are attached, and they can be contacted for individual comment or to elaborate further on their views and their own unique perspective of the industry.
SEEDA is a UK Government funded agency responsible for the economic and social development of the South East of England – the driving force of the UK's economy. Its aim is to create a prosperous, dynamic and inspirational region by helping businesses compete more effectively, training a highly skilled workforce.
FAC – representing aerospace and defence in the South East. FAC provides a focus for over 700 aerospace related companies located in southern England. The Consortium enables its members to become more competitive through improved marketing, sharing of best practice, access to current research and collective action.