European space industry struggling to keep up with US

Despite positive financial data for 2002, the European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA) calls for increased public funding and better cooperation between stakeholders to retain the EU’s competitive position.


While figures published by AECMA on 4 September reflect the challenges of the current economic situation, and the slump in the telecommunications market, they also show that 2002 was the second best year ever for the European aerospace industry with an operating profit of 4.6 per cent and exports of 53 per cent of turnover.

However, the balance between civil and defence sales, the two "legs" of the industry, is impaired in Europe, with about 68 per cent of business on the civil side and only 32 per cent on the defence side. This is seen to be a source of concern, as both sectors need to be successful for the industry to be competitive with the US, where the share is about 50/50.

A great concern though was the continuous decrease of public funding of R&D activities, which results in a widening gap of public US and EU investment. "It's no secret that the US government invests almost 3 times the European institutions' contribution to aerospace R&D." said Dr Bengt Halse, president of AECMA. "If we want to compete with them on a level playing field, equivalent institutional investment must be available in Europe on similar terms."

On a positive note, the industry welcomed the recent European security and defence initiatives, specifically the proposal for a European Armaments, Research and Defence Agency and the preparations for a Security Research Programme. Both initiatives would enable public money to be spent more efficiently, said AECMA. In the area of space, the industry welcomed recent successes such as

GALILEOand it supported the Green Paper on Space Policy (seeEURACTIV, 9 September 2003).



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