Airbus calls for more aerospace spending

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The Independent Online

The top Airbus executive in Britain yesterday called for increased investment in aerospace and better co-ordination of research efforts between government departments.

The top Airbus executive in Britain yesterday called for increased investment in aerospace and better co-ordination of research efforts between government departments.

Iain Gray, the new managing director of Airbus UK, which builds the wings for all Airbus airliners, complained that the aerospace industry was not given the same recognition and importance in Britain as in other European countries.

Even though Airbus UK already generated a trade surplus of £1bn - a figure which would increase to £1.5bn when the new A380 superjumbo entered service - Mr Gray said there was a widespread perception that it was a French company.

Describing the wing technology developed at Airbus's two UK sites, Filton near Bristol and Broughton in north Wales, as one of the "jewels in the crown" of the UK aerospace industry, Mr Gray said Britain should be investing more in the technologies of the future.

"I would like to see stronger and more focused investment in aerospace in the UK. From a research and technology point of view, we need better co-ordination of how the money is spent. There is a recognition of the importance of Airbus in France but it is only recently that people here have begun to wake up to its importance."

His comments echo those of a joint industry and Whitehall working group led by the chairman of BAE Systems, Sir Dick Evans, which last year called on the Government to spend £1bn on civil aerospace research over the next 20 years. The aerospace innovation and growth team, which was set up by the Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, recommended an increase in the Government's annual R&D contribution from £20m to £50m on the basis that industry provided matching funding.

Mr Gray was speaking as the UK division prepares to deliver the first set of A380 wings to the final assembly site in France. The giant wings, each almost the length of a football pitch, will be transported from Broughton to Toulouse next month using a combination of specially-built barges, roll-on roll-off ferries and road vehicles.

Total UK investment in the A380 is £2bn, of which £530m has come from the taxpayer and the remainder from its two shareholders, BAE and EADS, and risk-sharing partners. Airbus has a direct UK workforce of 12,100 but Mr Gray said that at the peak of production of the A380 and the A400 military transport aircraft, it would provide 100,000 jobs, including those in suppliers and service companies.

Airbus, which has 129 orders for the A380, plans to build nine sets of wings this year.

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