To make small and medium-sized European companies more competitive in the aerospace industry and to foster transnational cooperation in the field – these were two goals laid down at the end of 2012 by the TransNetAero INTERREG initiative, which was initiated by the German Aerospace Academy (ASA), a Steinbeis Innovation Center. In cooperation with five other aerospace regions in northwestern Europe, partner countries will organize various events related to the project between 2013 and 2015. These events will allow European suppliers to familiarize themselves with new technologies presented by systems suppliers and to network and establish contact with global industry players. The second main aim of the project is to develop an excellent education and training program. Certification courses and a EU Aerospace Master Program will not only secure a supply of specialists for the aerospace industry but also increase innovation in the supplier industry.
Nearly a year has passed since the ASA and the five partner regions – the Midlands (UK), Wallonia (BE), Normandy and Pays de la Loire (FR), the Netherlands and Switzerland – were given the go-ahead for the project. A lot has happened since then. Project strategies and targets were first presented in Germany at the annual Steinbeis Day in 2013, where they were warmly received by the audience.
As part of the project, under the leadership of the Midlands Aerospace Alliance (UK) R&D institutions and companies with specialized development and research know-how have been identified in the respective partner regions. An education task force was then subsequently formed out of these centers of excellence, which consults the TransNetAero partners on the development of education and training programs. A survey was conducted in all partner regions, focusing on education and training needs in the industry. A broad range of topics provides a basis for appropriate, practice based certification courses which will later be modules for the EU Aerospace Master Program. Both the certification courses and the Master Program are based on the Project Competence Concept of the Steinbeis University Berlin. Their focus is on knowledge transfer combined with practical application and business relevance. Other aspects of the project include developing individual businessplans and technology roadmaps, and these are to be customized to match the needs and opportunities for the small and medium-sized companies. Events to be held in the individual partner regions are intended to make the local skills base more evident and to improve the attractiveness of the region. With an emphasis on OEM requirements, SMEs should have easier access to supply chains. The aim is to connect the companies involved to form a transnational aerospace network.
The Midlands kicked off the series of events in November 2013 with the first workshop in the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry. This two-day event offered suppliers from all across Europe the chance to get to know leading global systems providers. It also introduced two aerospace development centers: The Manufacturing Centre and the Institute for Aerospace Technology (University of Nottingham). Suppliers were able to forge contacts to global industry players. In the same month, the second event was held in Rouen, France. At this event, systems providers showcased their new technologies and presented the requirements that suppliers to the aerospace industry can expect to face in the future. At the end of March, the annual Lake Constance Aerospace Forum offered a further networking opportunity. The next event is scheduled to take place in May in Wallonia, Belgium. The first TransNetAero certification courses will be offered at the centers of excellence in the second half of the year. These will focus on technology and management, including hot topics such as aerospace and risk management, innovation management, composite materials, and product design.