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Foreword: SMEs have a role to play in European aeronautics

In the European aeronautics sector, big players dominate, but alongside the well-known names are thousands of smaller companies, often at the cutting edge of innovation but facing serious problems accessing and beneting from pan-European research programmes. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a central role in the European economy. They are a major source of entrepreneurial skills, innovation and employment. In the enlarged European Union of 27 countries, some 23 million SMEs provide around 75 million jobs and represent 99% of all enterprises. However, SMEs are often confronted with market imperfections. They frequently have difculties in obtaining capital or credit, particularly in the start-up phase. Their restricted resources may also reduce access to new technologies. For all of these reasons, targeted support for SMEs has become a major EU priority.

Carrying out aerospace research is widely recognised as a difcult and high-risk endeavour, even for the sectors biggest players. The task is even greater for small companies with only a fraction of the nancial resources of the big spenders. The payoff for such research often comes only after many years of effort and expenditure. Long lead times, high costs and the preference of big companies to deal with tried and tested suppliers, all tend to work against small companies and newcomers. The marked consolidation within the sector is another factor that can squeeze out small rms. Yet, in spite of all this, aeronautics SMEs are getting on with their work. This brochure presents just a few of Europes shining examples SMEs providing real contributions in the eld of aeronautics. Make no mistake as key partners in major research initiatives or as project leaders in their own rights, SMEs are helping Europe to dene its priorities and tackle its most pressing issues, leading the way to a new and better air transport future.

Janez Potonik EU Research Commissioner

SMEs on the rise

According to European Commission Vice-President Gnter Verheugen, SMEs are, ...the engine of the European economy, an essential source of jobs, create entrepreneurial spirit and innovation in the EU and thus are crucial for fostering competitiveness and employment. In the European aeronautics sector, where innovative technologies are especially important, SMEs can indeed play a central role. However, such rms have limited nancial resources, and therefore their investment choices must be carefully scrutinised and made in accordance with strict business plans.

What is an SME?
The category of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) includes companies that employ fewer than 250 persons and that have an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million euro, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million euro. ( sme_user_guide.pdf) Thanks to Commission support, there has been strong increase in SME participation in industrial research and development over successive EU Research Framework Programmes. Under the current Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), SMEs are contributing to European aeronautics R&D initiatives both as partners and as full-edged project leaders.

Keys to success
According to Kevin Corti of the European Federation of High-Tech SMEs, access to larger rms is crucial to European SME success. Its about doing business, he says, and doing business, for SMEs, means linking up and partnering with big companies. The big companies, for their part, have to resist the temptation to keep going back to the same SME partners over and over. It is certainly necessary but not necessarily easy for big European rms to nd and work with smaller partners. Doing so, he says, is the only way to ensure that our European industries remain dynamic and at
SMEs have helped develop xed trailing edge secondary structures for Airbus.

the forefront of technological innovation.

European funded

Commissioninitiatives such

Meanwhile, Axel Krein, Airbus Senior Vice-President for Strategic Developments has commented on his companys ongoing collaboration with Eastern European players, including Russia and the New Member States, saying, We now have considerable experience in partnerships with their excellent research institutes, but we can do a lot more in terms of identifying and working with their SMEs.

as AeroSME, ECARE and SCRATCH have already provided a major positive impetus, creating opportunities for SMEs and larger rms to link up and move forward with important research actions (see page 7).

Kevin Corti (left) stresses business sense for high-tech SMEs.

Enlargement a positive step

Identication of high-potential SMEs in the New European Member States is now a major priority and a major opportunity for European research. Franois Quentin of Thales has said, We are constantly looking for new ways of including more players who can contribute to increasing efciency and innovation. The SMEs just as New European Member States are very relevant in this sense, with a lot to offer and still many unidentied potential partners out there. Quentin is currently serving as Co-Chairman of ACARE, the highly inuential European Technology Platform for aeronautics research.
Technician riveting part of the pressure bulkhead of an Airbus aircraft. Photographed at Deutsche Aerospace (DASA), Bavaria, Germany.

SMEs in FP7

Some 400 SMEs are already participating in FP6 aeronautics research projects. Under the nal FP6 call for proposals, SME garnered almost 12% of EC funding. In a December 2006 decision(1), the EU Competitiveness Council urged the European Commission and Member States to ensure that small companies can benet from the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP).

The decision also called for the reintroduction of the 15% threshold for SME participation in co-operative research programmes, sending what many believe to be the right message to small rms. To stimulate SME participation, the Commission has now raised the funding rate for SMEs from 50% under FP6 to 75% under FP7. For an overview of funding opportunities available to European SMEs, consult the

The European Parliament

following internet page:

SME participation in aeronautics

(Retained proposals before negotiation)

and the Council reafrmed the importance of SMEs for Europes economy and stressed that particular attention should be paid to the adequate participation of SMEs, in particular k n o w le d g e - i n t e n s i v e SMEs in transnational cooperation.

FP7 responds in the afrmative

Liam Breslin, the European Commissions Head of Aeronautics Research, has remarked that, under the Framework Programmes, the Union has already committed itself to increase SME participation in aeronautics. The effect of this commitment, he says, is demonstrated by the steady increase in participation of SMEs since the Fifth Framework Programme; while the number of participating SMEs was 40 for the rst call of FP5, it reached 150 for the last call of FP6. Over the same period, the budget share for SMEs increased from 4.8% to 9.8%. SME participation in EU-funded research takes two forms: As key partners in major industrial research initiatives; As project leaders in their own rights.

The SMEs participation has doubled in FP6 compared to FP5 This doubling results from: the actions undertaken by the Commission to promote SMEs participation and the increasing support from the big industry players (IMG4)

Decision n 1982/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006

Critical opportunities: how FP7 can help

Under FP7 (2007-2013), says Liam Breslin, EU commitment to SMEs will only increase. The Union will continue to work towards more SME involvement in critical research initiatives, FP7 will seek to stimulate the ongoing

Level 2 projects, also open to SME participation, involve development to a higher technological readiness and with a high level of integration. Here, EC grants typically range between 8 million and 60 million. Topics will vary from one call to another. Additional opportunities should be available under the Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative (JTI), which has set aside 12% of the EC contribution for SMEs.

restructuring of the aeronautics industry, including the integration of the supply chain and, in particular, SMEs.

How to Participate
For up-to-date information on calls, participation rules, guidelines for proposals, etc. see the Cordis website:

SMEs deliver state-of-the-art CFD methods.

Call for proposals

The total EC grant available for collaborative research in aeronautics over FP7 (20072013) is on the order of 1 billion. This opens a vast number of opportunities for SMEs. The rst FP7 call for proposals was issued on 22 December 2006. Research in the eld of aeronautics is addressing greening, time efciency, customer satisfaction and safety, cost efciency, protection of aircraft and passengers, and pioneering air transport systems of the future. Topics for Level 1 projects, i.e. projects oriented towards upstre research with an EC gran wards upstream grant uction, tenance a typically below 8 million, include production, maintenance and repair, design systems and cs, aero onics. tools, systems and equipments, igh physics, ae structures, propulsion and avionics. ight Stay informed about running projects that are of interest to you: Find out if a continuation of a project is planned Explain to coordinators what you can bring to their project Be ready to act

How to get involved in Aeronautics research

SMEs Getting in the game AROSATEC improving turbine engine maintenance

The EU-funded AROSATEC project (Automated Repair and Overhaul System for Aero Turbine Engine Components), composed largely of SMEs, has developed new processes for the automated repair and overhaul of aeroengine blades, discs and blisks (bladed discs).
Today, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aero engine components involves a chain of processes, including inspection, de-coating/coating, welding, milling and polishing. Most of these processes are still carried out manually, and while the supply industry is developing improved and automated machining equipment, the individual steps remain separate and unconnected.

The second goal, he says, was to develop a new data management system which would constitute the core of a fully automated overhaul process, integrating individual steps into a comprehensive automated repair chain. To achieve its objectives, AROSATEC coordinator BCT GmbH enlisted several international SME partners, including BCT GmbH itself.

Targeting key technologies

Research on scanning technologies was one of the main focuses of the project. Reliable scanning results for engine components serve as the basis for inspection and for subsequent adaptive laser welding and milling processes. Kosche says the AROSATEC project improved optical scanning methods so that even shiny materials can now be assessed easily and automatically. The integration of systems was another important issue addressed by the project. All of the new processes are equipped with interfaces for communicating with a database, explains Kosche.

Improving and integrating

Our rst objective was to improve existing repair methods for aero-engine components, explains Thomas Kosche of BCT GmbH. This was to be achieved through adaptive machining technologies to compensate for part-to-part variation in complex turbine components.

Seven partners Coordinator: BCT GmbH ( Duration: 33 months Total Cost: 2.3 million EU funding: 1.1 million

Demonstrated success
The nal AROSATEC meeting took place in Leuven in 2006. BCT GmbH President Claus Bremer says, Our company has generated two business collaborations with two AROSATEC partners, we are now planning a new proposal for FP7 and we may join a larger project. In summary, AROSATEC is a big success for our company.

Helping SMEs participate in EU research

Participating in EU Collaborative Research Project is a challenge, says Rmy Dnos, Project Ofcer in charge of SMEs at DG RTDs Aeronautics unit. If we want to promote the participation of SMEs, we need to provide them with specic support. With this in mind, we are funding several complementary support actions to tackle different issues. Specic information for SMEs, including latest information events and workshops can be found at the AEROSME Helpdesk (

Informing SMEs about Possibilities Coordinators of small Collaborative Projects can nd SMEs here

ECARE can help SMEs to establish contacts at regional level, including liaison with nearest regional associations. Coordinators looking for qualied SMEs to participate in collaborative projects can contact AEROSME for Level 1 projects or ECARE for Level 2 projects. Clustering Aeronautics Regions Coordinators of large collaborative projects can nd SMEs here

The SCRATCH consortium is providing free support to potential participants looking to set up projects with an SME dimension under future calls for proposals. This includes developing a partnership, calculating costs and durations that an SME or SMEs can reasonably handle. Note that the AROSATEC and LIGHTNING projects described in this booklet were incubated by SCRATCH. Finally, the Don Q Air project is now providing specic support to a small group of countries where R&D investment in aeronautics is particularly low Poland, Romania and Turkey. Setting-up collaborative research projects led by SMEs

Don Q Air
Promoting SMEs from Poland, Romania and Turkey contact:

More project success Tenacious SME forges ahead

Our major difculty has been getting people to invest in our business, says Angus Flemming of the UKs Aviation Enterprises Ltd. Todays investors want a quick return, to double or triple their money in a year. Basically, theyre out of touch with reality. Aviation Enterprises is a specialist design, development and manufacturing organisation specialising in the light aviation industry and the application of lightweight and high performance composite materials. The company is now playing a critical role as coordinator of the EU-funded LIGHTNING project (Lightning protection for structures and systems on aircraft utilising lightweight composites).
Unconventional composite aircraft need special lightening protection systems.

The European Aviation Industry has been quick to use lightweight composite materials, especially carbon bre, for primary structures and ight control surfaces, explains Flemming. Composites are lightweight, stiff, and provide smooth, aerodynamically efcient surfaces. Carbon bre is particularly attractive because it has good corrosion and fatigue properties. This results in enhanced efciency and performance and a signicant weight reduction. This kind of work requires time, foresight, and a huge amount of effort and, of course, longterm funding. Although we came up with the idea for the LIGHTNING project, as a small company we could not have carried out the work on our own. We identied potential partners The LIGHTNING project is addressing the need to optimise lightning protection systems for aircraft with lightweight composite structures. It will allow manufacturers to make safe use of the performance advantage provided by such materials, says Flemming.

Developing lightning protection for small aircraft

However, lightning protection is difcult to incorporate into a composite aircraft compared to conventional aluminium ones. Composite airframes also provide less electromagnetic shielding compared to aluminium, making it more difcult to protect avionic systems. Both of these problems are exacerbated in light aircraft by their small size and low weight.

like Airbus Spain and Diamond Aircraft Industries in Austria and were able to convince them to help us, but it wasnt easy. As an SME, you need to be bold, you need to have a clear message, and, in some cases, you need luck on your side. But you can succeed. Flemming says the LIGHTNING project aims to reduce by 50% the current 1.5% to 2.5% weight penalty for adding lightning protection to an empty aircraft.

For more information:

LIGHTNING project: Aviation Enterprises:

SMEs broadening horizons





New vision
TATEM (Technologies and techniques for new maintenance concepts) is developing and validating philosophies, technologies and techniques that can turn unscheduled aircraft maintenance into scheduled maintenance, aiming to deliver a 20% reduction in airline operating costs within ten years and a 50% reduction over 20 years. The TATEM project includes quite a number of SMEs, all contributing to the project and some of which are really quite outstanding, says Worsfold. I would cite Oration
James King-Holmes / Science photo library

among the main EU instruments for co-operative industrial R&D. They are aimed at addressing major societal needs by mobilising a critical mass of research and technological development resources and competences. With clearly dened strategic research objectives they focus on obtaining specic applicable results. SMEs can play an important role in large Collaborative research Projects bringing specialised skills and knowledge, new blood and new ideas. What it really comes down to is individuals, says Martin Worsfold of Smiths Aerospace. Whether youre big or small, if your people have something to contribute, then youre worth bringing on board. Smiths Aerospace is a leading global provider of technologies and systems to builders and operators of military and civil aircraft and engines and is coordinator of the EU funded TATEM project.

S.A. as just one example. Oration is an Athens-based SME providing speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) applications that allow the automation of contact centre functions. The company offers solutions to a wide range of vertical markets, from voice banking to retail and healthcare speech applications. Although they dont have a lot of experience in the aeronautics sector per se, Oration and other small groups like it have been a valuable asset to our project, says Worsfold. In a way, our project is quite basic in nature; we are looking for new ideas and solutions and SMEs such as Oration can sometimes nd new and fresh ways to look at things. Another important aspect of this this kind of large project is the way it brings together partners from all corners of Europe. It forces us to learn and expand, both in technical terms but also in cultural terms.

SMEs bring specialised people with specialised skills.

For more information:

Smiths Aerospace: TATEM project: Oration S.A.:

How to Participate
Calls for proposals in aeronautics are published on under Find a call, FP7-AAT (AAT: Aeronautics and Air Transport)

L. Breslin R. Dnos Directorate-General for Research Directorate H:Transport Unit H3: Aeronautics 1049 Brussels Tel: +32 2 298 64 81