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Interview with regards to Joint Paper on Aeronautics Research and Innovation in Horizon Europe

The EASN Association, the Association of European Research Establishments in Aeronautics (EREA) and the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), signed recently the Joint Paper on Aeronautics Research and Innovation in Horizon Europe. Dr. Jan Pie, Secretary General of ASD, Dr. Catalin Nae, EREA Chairman and Prof. Spiros Pantelakis, EASN Chairman share their thoughts on the importance of this joint approach.

Q1: EASN (European Aeronautics Science Network), EREA (Association of European Research Establishments in Aeronautics) and ASD (AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe) have proposed a joint approach in order to foster coherence and coordination of Research and Innovation actions across the aeronautics sector, through a Joint Position Paper which can be found in the present newsletter. In your aspect, which is the significance of this Joint Paper and what messages can be extracted from this mutual approach.

Jan Pie (JP): In the context of the preparation of the next Framework Programme "Horizon Europe", EASN, EREA and ASD are proposing a joint approach to foster coherence and coordination of Research and Innovation actions across the aeronautics sector. We believe that common contribution and increased cooperation will reinforce European Research, Technology and Innovation capability. The three Associations suggest addressing the entire R&I scope (all Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs)) in a coordinated manner and recommend enlarging the scope of activity of the future Aeronautics Research Partnership/Initiative which would encompass:

  • Bottom-up research (basic and applied), done in collaboration with all stakeholders
  • Top-down high-TRL research similar to the existing JU research (Joint Undertaking based on article 187 of the TFEU), i.e. demonstration-driven and industry led.
As the success rate is higher in Partnerships (30 %) than in the FP (12-13 %), this could foster the participation of small and medium entities to the FP. Clean Sky has indeed an excellent track record in attracting newcomers to the FP . We believe that this joint declaration is a first step to a more in-depth collaboration between universities, RTOs and industries, to promote a common vision shared by all aeronautics R&I stakeholders. We will work together on the preparation and implementation of Horizon Europe and future Clean Sky programme.

Catalin Nae (CN): The joint statement shows the commitment of industry, research establishments and universities to work together in making aviation, greener, safer and more competitive. It is our strong belief that only when we join forces we are able to meet the Flightpath 2050 goals. Together, we advocate for a dedicated, well-funded research and innovation programme for aeronautics. Such programme must strike the right balance between bottom-up and top-down R&I to adequately explore, mature and demonstrate new technologies and innovations. At the same time we should also consider this Joint Position Paper as a new approach towards a robust and sustainable partnership between academia, research establishments and industry, where we anticipate future financing instruments for R&I in HEU and specific governance structures.
Spiros Pantelakis (SP): The demanding targets set by the Aeronautics sector in the context of facing the Global Warming and realizing the Digital Revolution in Europe require for an intensification of the Research activities in Europe as well as for increased synergies among the aeronautics stakeholders. The joint position paper signed by the Associations of the European aeronautics Industry, Research Establishments and Academia signalizes the high coherence of the sector, the dedication of the stakeholders for synergies as well as their harmonized views with regard to the approach that needs to be implemented for achieving the challenging targets set by the sector.

Q2: The successor of H2020, namely Horizon Europe, is currently under discussion. Could you please share with us your expectations regarding the upcoming programme?

JP: Over the past 40 years, Europe has progressively become a world leader in civil aircraft manufacturing. Let's not forget that EU's main competitors are supported by substantial State-funded R&T programmes. In China, for example, the aeronautical industry is totally integrated into the State and regions system and funded accordingly, whilst in the USA both NASA and FAA have the mission to support technology innovation in the interests of national stakeholders. Moreover, our sector must tackle great challenges: an expected doubling of air traffic by 2035, digitisation, and the need to reduce our CO2 emissions, in line with targets agreed at the COP21. Despite this increasingly challenging environment, Europe must remain a centre of excellence in Aeronautics, to the benefit of citizens (creating jobs, ensuring high environment protection, and providing safe, secure and convenient mobility for all) and in the interest of Europe's strategic autonomy. So, it is essential that the next FP dedicate a specific support to Aeronautics, considering sectorial specificities and building bridges between aeronautics and other sectors to allow for transversal cross-fertilization. Both incremental and disruptive R&I must be supported at EU level. This includes augmented reality, predictive maintenance, full automation, optimizing aircraft energy, cyber resilience connectivity...To take up the challenges for the aeronautics sector and to foster its competitiveness, several criteria in Horizon Europe need to be fulfilled, i. e.:
  • Increased financial long-term commitment (compared to H2020) from both industry and governments/EU with the adequate level of budgets to achieve the required ambitious and innovative goals;
  • Effective and fair support mechanisms that are accessible to the European research network (universities, research centres, large companies and SMEs);
  • Continuation of key aeronautical sector research programs like the Clean Sky and SESAR PPPs;
  • Better interconnection with other funds such as structural funds to better disseminate research in all Europe and increase the competitiveness of companies and countries across the whole EU.
In summary, Horizon Europe should continue and strengthen the current virtuous dynamic of the last decades which made possible the good current performance of Aeronautics and maintain the public/private investment and cooperation in R&T. It will be essential to involve all R&I stakeholders in the preparation of Horizon Europe, to ensure fair and efficient modalities for all and set ambitious - yet realistic - targets.

CN: In terms of funding, EREA expects Horizon Europe to come with a dedicated and significantly increased public and private R&I budget for aeronautics, which is crucial to face the challenges lying ahead and to foster competitiveness of the sector at the European and international level. Public funding should be delivered through grants to cope with the long terms cycles and the huge investments needed in the sector. In terms of research, EREA expects Horizon Europe to address the entire R&I scope (all Technology Readiness levels (TRLs)) in a strong and coordinated manner, fostering collaborative research among the whole EU community, with an adequate balance between top-down and bottom-up research.
A special topic for EREA is related to research infrastructures in future HEU and a new approach in this domain. We believe research infrastructures are critical for future development in aviation and a strategic EU competitively asset, where we would like to provide our expertise and share capabilities with academia and industry, upgrade existing and introduce new ones, also reconsidering the business models behind.

SP: As mentioned above the goals set by the European aeronautical community are ambitious and very demanding. Therefore the classical evolutionary progress that characterizes the sector is not sufficient any more. On the other side, a failure on meeting these goals over time should not be an option. In this context, Horizon Europe should offer a friendly environment for fostering the exploration of innovative and disruptive technologies that will allow for the required radical step changes in designing, manufacturing, powering, operating, maintaining and managing the traffic of aircrafts. Therefore, Horizon Europe should assign to Aeronautics a dedicated budget that needs to be appreciably increased as compared to Horizon 2020. The urgent need to foster innovation has to be reflected in Horizon Europe into an adequate balance between technology exploration, maturation and demonstration activities. The elaboration of a strong bottom-up collaborative research stream boosting the development of breakthrough technologies and disruptive innovation under a common organizational umbrella that would integrate bottom-up low TRL and top down high TRL should be a main feature of Horizon Europe.

Date posted: January 18, 2019, 9:33 am

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