MASSIVE growth expected in the demand for planes from developing countries is a ‘huge opportunity’ for industry and jobs, business leaders have said.
Top Government figures met with aerospace industry bosses last week in Toulouse, home of the Airbus headquarters, signalling a new and stronger relationship they described as “game-changing” for British companies.
Together with the Broughton-based Airbus wings factory – which already employs more than 6,000 staff – smaller companies in Flintshire, Wrexham and the North West that supply the manufacturing giant are also in line to benefit from vast emerging markets.
With a rapidly expanding middle class in Asian countries, demand for air travel is set to boom, say bosses.
Managing director of Airbus UK Tom Williams said countries such as China and Indonesia had huge populations and rapidly growing middle classes who wanted to fly.
“That’s what’s driving us,” Mr Williams said. “As people get wealthier, they want to travel.”
But he said to meet the demand and deal with competition, working with Government had been key to ensuring a robust supply chain into the future – which meant fostering skills development, research and innovation.
“Our industry is very long term,” he said.
“Investment today may pay off in 10 years but more likely it will be 20 years before you see a return.”
Robin Southwell, chief executive of EADS UK, the parent body of Airbus UK, said Government and industry were working together like never before.
“This is the first time in my living memory we’re setting the agenda,” he said.
“It’s a game-changer.
“The people that really matter to the workforce achieving their ambitions and sustaining their industry are really gunning for them.
“The secretary of state for Wales, the Minister for Business, the chief of Airbus and ADS – they’re all talking exactly the same language.” Mr Southwell was speaking following Welsh Secretary David Jones MP’s announcement in France last week of the second round of a £40m investment opportunity for UK aerospace industries.
The National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP) is a scheme jointly funded by Government and industry as part of their new Aerospace Growth Partnership.
Making his announcement, Mr Jones said there was “no more important British industry than British Aerospace”.
And he said the additional funding would help grow expertise in companies across Flintshire, Wrexham and North West England that supplied Airbus, and continue to provide employment in those areas.
“It’s important we do this right,” he said.
“If we do, this is a huge opportunity for UK suppliers.”
Mr Southwell said the UK had finally “woken up to what it’s good at”.
He said: “We’re good at aerospace. We’re good at things that fly.
“Since the Second World War, this country has understood aerodynamics better than any other country on earth.
“And we’ve realised that to maintain that in the global race, we need to do business better and we need to work together.”