The UK is one of the world’s largest manufacturers, generating 11.1 per cent of GDP worth about £140 billion.
Take the UK’s aerospace sector. Our cutting-edge expertise in aerospace is a British manufacturing success story. It has a highly skilled workforce and a record of investment in research, development and technology.
Moreover, the industry thrives in a highly competitive global market and contributes significantly to the UK economy.
It often comes as a surprise to learn that the UK has the second largest aerospace sector in the world – behind the US. Around 223,000 people are employed directly and indirectly across some 3,000 companies – the largest in Europe.
Farnborough International Air Show
If there is one event that brilliantly showcases to the world our wealth of skills across the UKs manufacturing base, then the Farnborough International Air Show provides the perfect platform.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) – the government department that supports UK companies to do business internationally – has a major presence at Farnborough – facilitating networking opportunities for British firms to meet their global counterparts.
These British firms – small and medium sized enterprises – are at the heart of the UK’s manufacturing and service industries and their combined expertise – from start ups to multi-nationals help to maintain Britain’s global competitive edge.
Among them is family owned Ford Aerospace Ltd and Ford Component Manufacturing Ltd - makers of precision engineered products for the aerospace, automotive, power generation, construction equipment and defence markets.
Ford’s customers include BAE SYSTEMS, Siemens and JCB and China has now been added to their European and US portfolio. Whilst Ford Aerospace’s story is not unique, it does highlight the global demand for British aerospace capability and know-how.
Opportunities for UK aerospace companies
China is forecast to be a market of significant opportunity for UK aerospace companies. It is already the fastest growing market for UK exports and it’s estimated they will increase their commercial aircraft fleet size to 4,233 by the end of 2028. This equates to demand for 3,796 aircraft, illustrating the future – and unlocked – potential for aerospace manufacturers.
Over 60 per cent of the UK’s new aerospace order is made up of exports – from the largest, complete new-generation engines to the smallest precision components. In fact, the UK is home to some of the world’s most technologically sophisticated composite manufactures.
UK excellence in wing production
But it’s in wing production that Britain really excels. We are one of the few countries with the skills to design, test, integrate and manufacture complex aircraft wings – which we do for 50 per cent of all large aircraft. The A350 composite wing for example, will be made in the UK and will be the largest composite wing anywhere in the world.
Our capabilities in this field are not new. The UK has made wings for the Airbus consortium since the 1970’s. Forty years on, we are still considered the centre of excellence for wing production. For example, the Bombardier CSeries of commercial aircraft recently outsourced the job to GKN in Belfast – creating 300 jobs in the process.
And it doesn’t stop there. Britain is a world leader in aero engines – designing, developing and manufacturing 25 per cent of all aircraft engines sold around the world.
We also boast the world’s number two engine maker overall – Rolls-Royce. Six hundred airlines and 4,000 corporate and utility operators rely on Rolls-Royce power including the Dreamliner Boeing, which made its debut at Farnborough this year. A quarter of the Dreamliner is British made. UK manufacturing expertise also accounts for half of the Airbus A380, which boasts innovatively designed British tail and wings. The aircraft is more fuel efficient than a hybrid car, burning an impressive 17 per cent less fuel per seat than the largest aircraft currently on the market.
Climate change in the aerospace industry
The aerospace industry is also seriously addressing the issue of climate change. Aircraft operations are 20 per cent more efficient than 10 years ago. And a further 25 per cent increase in efficiency will be achieved through new technologies by 2020.
To achieve these targets, the sector has committed more than 130 million to research and technology in the UK over the past year. This includes a £95 million research project into more environmentally friendly aero engines and a £100 million research programme on Next Generation Composite Wings.
Indeed, the key to sustaining future growth across the sector is collaborative working. Boeing’s partnership with Cranfield University for example has resulted in an Integrated Vehicle Health Management Centre of Excellence, to develop ways to improve maintenance and extend the life of aircraft.
Defence and security exports
And it’s not only in aerospace where Britain has a sizeable share of the global market. Over the period 2005-2009, the UK’s average share of international defence exports was 21 per cent, equivalent to £6 billion of new business a year.
The demand from overseas for British made equipment – from fast jets to helicopters and electronic systems to personal kit for individual troops – is high because of its quality and provenance.
Similarly, our expertise in airport construction and operation is being exported to countries like the US who use over 60 per cent of the UK’s airport security systems for their Government’s Transport Security Administration.
And it’s not only overseas who benefit from our security skills. The industry is delivering many operational security elements for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics Games – from security guarding, screening and perimeter intrusion systems.
Clearly the international and domestic contribution that these industries bring to the UK is considerable – from jobs, GDP impact and export potential.
That’s why the UK Government continues to invest in long-term support for R&D and technology. And helps foster the cycle of inventing, patenting, and creating British greatness for the future.