Small Northern Ireland businesses who supply major aerospace players like Bombardier, Thales, Boeing and Airbus are to benefit from a new partnership which could help boost the economy by hundreds of millions of pounds each year.
ADS, the trade organisation for companies operating in the UK's aerospace, defence, and security industries, has linked up with Northern Ireland's Centre for Competitiveness (CforC) to deliver a new strategy to enhance the local supply chain.
The news comes as two Northern Ireland companies celebrate contracts with global aerospace giants.
Bangor firm Denroy announced it had signed a £1m contract to supply parts for the Typhoon Eurofighter jet and Belfast company Marlborough Engineering has just completed a six-month project building test parts for a new military aircraft from Brazilian firm Embraer.
CforC has been approved as ADS's strategic partner for the implementation and certification of the highly-regarded SC21 (21st Century Supply Chains) programme.
By working with dozens of Northern Ireland businesses who supply goods and services to the major aviation companies, the CforC will help raise standards, reduce overheads, enhance skills, and increase competitiveness.
The aerospace, defence, security and space industries in Northern Ireland currently contribute over £1bn per year to the Northern Ireland economy, providing more than 8,000 direct jobs and an estimated 9,600 indirect jobs.
The Northern Ireland Executive's target is to more than double revenues from the sector to over £2bn within 10 years and to increase direct employment from 8,000 to 12,000.
Chief executive of CforC Bob Barbour said that the sector is vital to Northern Ireland.
"The industry operates in an extremely competitive global marketplace and a rapidly changing environment, so continuous improvement is essential to continue to grow," he said.
"Achieving improvements in supply chains is absolutely critical to this, so this programme with ADS is of huge strategic importance.
"This involves a comprehensive diagnostic and certification process with the aim of raising standards of supplier cost and delivery to international best practice."
ADS is the premier trade organisation advancing the UK aerospace, defence, security and space industries and owns the company which runs the major trade showcase, the Farnborough International Airshow.
ADS has offices in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France and India and represents over 2,600 companies.
The Centre for Competitiveness is a private sector organisation, which is an active member of the 30-nation Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils headquartered in Washington DC.
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, welcomed news of the partnership between ADS and the CforC.
Four of the top 100 aerospace and defence suppliers in the world are based in Northern Ireland, according to the last Top 100 Aerospace Companies poll from business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Measured by annual sales, Bombardier ranks 16th, followed by Thales at number 18, with B/E Aerospace and Magellan Aerospace ranked 44th and 80th, respectively.
The list was published in 2013.