Vicente Gómez Molinero, General Secretary, Spanish Aerospace Technology Platform (Plataforma Tecnológica Aeroespacial Española, PAE)
“All that remains now is for the decision to be taken to implement this Plan as quickly as possible, so that Spain has a publicly supported plan for aeronautical research and innovation that is on the same level as our neighbouring countries”.
Why did an entity like the PAE emerge in 2006?
Technology platforms were proposed by the European Commission in 2015 as exchange forums that, under industrial leadership, would bring together industries (large, medium and small), universities and technology centres to achieve the following: define and agree on a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA); carry out technology foresight and technology watch studies; and be an advisory body and a presence in national and international R&D&I forums. With these ideas in mind, the PAE was created in 2006 and, during its first period of operation, it presented the Spanish Aerospace Strategic Research Agenda 2008-2020, among many other documents.
Ten years later, the PAE is entering a new phase, and from then until now it has managed to integrate more than 90 representatives of the industry, including companies, universities, R&D centres and other entities. What new objectives have been set in the short and medium term?
The objectives of this new phase of the PAE, now defined as the Spanish Aerospace Technology Platform, remain the same: basically, to be Spain’s aerospace R&D&I forum. In the first two years of operation we have defined some categories (aeronautics and space) in order to classify our industry and any kind of information about it. All the entities of the PAE have classified themselves into these categories, and now we have a detailed vision of what our industry is like from the point of view of R&D&I. We are also developing an Aerospace R&D&I Strategic Agenda that defines, both in its aeronautical and spatial aspects, the roadmap that should be followed in order to strengthen the industry in Spain in terms of R&D&I.
We have carried out technological watch studies on aerospace materials and additive manufacturing, which have resulted in documents with specific industry recommendations and led to responses from universities and technology centres. Lastly, we are working on a study to determine what the model of collaborative interdisciplinary engineering competencies should look like, which is something our companies are going to need in the immediate future for the implementation of industry 4.0.
Historically there has been a demand by the industry to have a strategic aeronautical and aerospace plan at a national level. Do you think the necessary steps are being taken to make this a reality in the medium term?
Yes. These steps are being taken by both the TEDAE, which is promoting the creation of an Aeronautics Industry Guide – which was already presented in 2015 but which has been recently updated – and the PAE. We have already published an executive summary of our Strategic Agenda for R&D&I in Aeronautics, and soon we will publish a detailed roadmap with more than 100 activities proposed and classified to respond to the five major socio-economic challenges defined by the European aviation platform ACARE, based on the reality of the industry in Spain. We are working towards turning the contents of this Aeronautics Industry Strategic Plan into a reality. All that remains now is for the decision to be taken to implement this Plan as quickly as possible, so that Spain has a publicly supported plan for aeronautical research and innovation that is on the same level as our neighbouring countries, such as France (CORAC), Germany (LUFO) and the United Kingdom (ATI).
This year a review of the Strategic Agenda for R&D&I in Aeronautics has been published. What technological path has been defined for the industry in the coming years?
The detailed technological path will be published in the coming months, but the executive summary already defines the ten main lines that our industry must work along in the coming years, which are:
- A more electric aircraft (including hybrid and electric propulsion).
- Advanced manufacturing and design.
- Advanced materials (composites and metals).
- Multifunctional structures.
- Aerodynamic optimisation and disruptive and efficient aircraft and propulsion plant configurations.
- Connected, smart, unmanned, autonomous vehicles.
- More efficient, silent and sustainable engines.
- New forms of in-service support.
- Air traffic control (both ATM and UTM).
- Environmental management of aircraft.
What role does Spanish aerospace R&D&I play in such a globalised and highly competitive industry?
The level of Spanish R&D&I in both aeronautics and space is very high, as demonstrated by its participation in international programmes (Clean Sky and SESAR in aviation, and the ESA and European Union programmes in space). Thanks to previous national strategic plans in aeronautics, our industry was able to position itself very significantly in, for example, the successive Airbus aircraft models. If this effort to invest in future technologies is not maintained, our industry’s international position will be weakened. However, if the Industry Strategic Plan we are pursuing is launched, this position will be strengthened in the future, and major leading companies will increase their investment in R&D in our country and contribute to the reinforcement of the entire innovative ecosystem in Spain.
Do you think sufficient resources are invested in aerospace research? What measures have been proposed by the PAE to improve this aspect?
The strategic agendas for R&D&I, both in aeronautics and space, that the PAE is defining propose the specific measures that must be taken so that investment in R&D&I in our industry, which is currently mostly focused on international cooperation programmes, is complemented by National Programmes that prepare our industry to become increasingly competitive, and at the same time consolidate our universities and technology centres as international benchmarks in aerospace research. These National Programmes are an element that we must necessarily develop and, as detailed in our Strategic Agendas, the PAE will continue to approach all R&D&I funding bodies in order to convey the opinions of our entire innovation ecosystem: from the industries that set priorities, to the universities and technology centres that feed them, through their research aligned with industry demands and through their training of future technicians and engineers. The collaboration between all players in this innovative ecosystem is one of the values that the PAE can offer.