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Guest column by Hamburg Aviation

Picture of Franz Josef Kirschfink

Franz Josef Kirschfink

Hamburg Aviation, Coordinating Office of the European Aerospace Cluster Partnership / Managing Director


The main forecast for the aerospace business is that worldwide demand regarding new aircrafts is rising by 4-5% every year. The challenges and trends that are going to mark our future will determine a big change in our industry. Huge companies like Airbus and Boeing do not have investment in completely new aircraft platforms in mind for the coming years. This is a totally new situation we have never faced in history.

In the near future the real challenge will not only be to become more international, but also to go cross sectorial.

Europe is one of the two most important worldwide aerospace hubs, with Toulouse and Hamburg being the main regions. As Europeans, our most important strength is that we cover the whole lifecycle of an airplaneand havecompetences and know how in many areas of aircraft manufacturing. On the other hand, one of the biggest weaknesses is that during the last decade Europe has concentrated mainly on providing products and services to its own big aircraft OEM, without being able to go any further afield than that. In fact, the problem of internationalization is the biggest challenge we are facing in the European Aerospace industry, as we have not done enough. Right now, we have to work on this process in a more specific way. There is a chance to become more international if we all work hard together. But there are also companies that are already more open and more international and which have found their market niche not only in aircraft manufacturing but also in airlines. SMEs need to change their supply chain in order to find a gap in the market. They must reorganise themselves in a different way, and new cooperation and agreements have to be signed. What is very interesting, from my experienced point of view, is that in general innovation is more present in small companies than in bigger ones.

Regarding European aerospace engineering, the number of firms required for developing aircraftwill diminish. On the other hand, huge companies like Airbus and Boeing will need to produce more efficiently than they do currently in order to face new competitors coming from the Asian side, which is increasingly growing. And to be more efficient means to have the capabilities to automate and improve production. Here we face another challenge.

The role of European clusters will be more important than in the last few years. For two reasons: first, they can play a key part in the process of internationalization by bringing together different companies from different countries; second, it is much easier to collaborate if we can organise ourselves in clusters. Even the European Aerospace Cluster Partnership (EACP), along with other European clusters, may have a major role in enabling companies to become more international and to create a network between aerospace clusters and clusters of other technologies. I would say that in Europe our cluster approach is more advanced than in America. This cluster culture started several years ago and it has been built on a regional basis. Now this culture is becoming more “European” and more international. In the near future the real challenge will not only be to become more international, but also to go cross sectorial.

The European aerospaceindustry has to be more competitive. This can be achieved by providing European programmes and services to the other aircraft OEMs located in Canada or Brazil, and in emerging markets as China and Japan. Our industry has the knowledge to cover all elements of an aircraft: structures, aerodynamics, systems, interior and engines. We are one of the worldwide leaders in these fields.


Franz Josef Kirschfink
Managing Director of Hamburg Aviation
Coordinating Office of the European Aerospace Cluster Partnership



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