There is more optimism about the long-term future of the UK’s aerospace and defence industries than some recent headlines might suggest. Rightly so, as the UK is one of the best places in the world to do business in these sectors.
The UK has the skills, capability and ingenuity to make sure we continue to build on our past and present successes and continue to be global leaders in aerospace and defence in the years ahead.
Like any industry, UK have long-term challenges to address, and we cannot deny there are concerns about the potential implications of Brexit.
Of course, Brexit has created uncertainty for industry. The complexity and scale of the issues to be negotiated and the limited time available makes it a high-risk process for the UK and our EU partners. The announcement in March that a transition agreement had been reached, ensuring time for all businesses to adapt to the new relationship between the UK and EU, was an extremely important step forward.
It is easy, for example, amid the busy news cycles to overlook the steady progress of the UK’s ground-breaking Aerospace Industrial Strategy, which is supporting the development of new technologies and helping suppliers maximize their productivity to meet the ever-growing requirements of the major manufacturers.
Nearly five years from its launch in 2013, the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) is delivering an independent research program backed by $5.6 billion of joint industry and UK government funding.
Airbus has a continuing long-term commitment to the UK, and Boeing is engaging more than ever with UK suppliers. In Belfast, Bombardier manufactures its innovative composite wings for the C Series, an aircraft program that can look forward to healthy prospects and future growth.
In defence aerospace, the recent success for Typhoon in Qatar and the welcome progress in securing the next tranche of aircraft for Saudi Arabia suggests the sustained efforts of Team UK are delivering results. All eyes are now on Belgium, where the UK, alongside Germany, Italy and Spain, is supporting a bid for 34 new aircraft.
The good news from on-going negotiations is that industry priorities concerning continued UK participation in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the early achievement of key air transport service agreements are high on the lists of both negotiating teams.
There is a chance to build momentum by investing in the engineering tools and techniques to radically reduce the time and cost associated with designing, developing and certifying major new aircraft designs. Industrial strategy also can assist UK suppliers to make a step-change in productivity, embracing the digital revolution and setting the pace in the greater electrification of flight.
Writer Paul Everitt is chief executive of ADS, the UK trade association for the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors.