Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Northern Ireland's aviation sector ready to take off

A £2bn government funding scheme for the region's aerospace industry is set to propel it to new heights and help secure 115,000 extra jobs Our aviation sector is ready for take-off

Northern Ireland's contribution to the global aerospace industry has been recognised in a new report and industry insiders say that there is still huge potential for expansion as the UK drives forward its aviation strategy.

Lifting Off: Implementing the Strategic Vision for UK Aerospace illustrates how the sector will continue to grow in the face of increasing global competition and to exploit rapid changes in technology.

A £2bn funding announced in March will be provided by the Government and the aerospace industry over a seven-year period and help secure around 115,000 jobs.

"The global aerospace industry is one that is continuing to grow at a significant rate and is forecasted to continue to do so for the next 20 years and beyond," said David Raymond, deputy chairman of the council of the ADS group, who has worked for a number of firms in the sector and is chairman at BASE Aerospace.

"This is being driven by increased worldwide demand for travel, need for a new generation of more efficient aircraft and the replacement of aging fleets. Northern Ireland has an opportunity to position itself to benefit enormously from this surging market."

As part of the industrial strategy, the Government will also put £500m towards other sectors such as the automobile industry and agriculture technology.

This aerospace strategy – part of the wider industrial strategy – was developed jointly with business through the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which was established in 2010, building on the Strategic Vision for UK Aerospace published at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2012.

The strategy sets out an ambitious programme to secure the future of the UK's aerospace industry over the next decade and beyond, and to capture the huge market opportunities from global growth in air travel.

It seeks to ensure the UK has the capabilities to be at the leading edge of the design, development and production of wings, engines, aerostructures and advanced systems.

"The AGP strategy document seeks to galvanise industry and government to keep the UK at the forefront of the world aerospace market in terms of both research and development and also manufacturing," Mr Raymond said. "Northern Ireland benefits from having a range a strong companies, already supplying some of the major names in aerospace.

"The challenge and direction for the future must focus on being able to combine efforts to develop existing capacity but also to build new capacity. Aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus are under pressure to meet future demand on time. This is an unprecedented opportunity for Northern Ireland industry to step up to the challenge and deliver a wide range of long- term economic benefits for this region."

Mr Raymond said private sector and Government can work together strategically and deliver on this opportunity for Northern Ireland in a period when we are looking for new ways to grow the local economy.

"Our companies here are recognised as being world class, we need to build on this capacity urgently. Universities, colleges and schools in Northern Ireland can deliver the level and quality of education required to fuel such opportunity given the resources within the context of a new strategy.

"We are engaging with some of the biggest manufacturers in the world, such as Spirit Aerosystems and GKN, who like the potential of what we have to offer in Northern Ireland. They are keen to work with us and, guided by their needs, to form long-term business partnerships with us as a region.

"This industry is moving so quickly that urgency must be at the forefront of our thinking."

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