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Evaluating the external advisory group on aeronautics

As the first anniversary approaches of the creation of the external advisory group (EAG) devoted to the Key Action on 'New perspectives for aeronautics', members are already looking into the future discussing what direction the Sixth Framework Programme should take.

This is n...
As the first anniversary approaches of the creation of the external advisory group (EAG) devoted to the Key Action on 'New perspectives for aeronautics', members are already looking into the future discussing what direction the Sixth Framework Programme should take.

This is not strictly within their remit (which is officially limited to the Fifth Framework Programme), but the mutual satisfaction of both the Commission and group members on what has been accomplished so far has spurred them on. The aeronautics industry reaches far into the future when setting priorities and the group is eager to seize this opportunity to make European aeronautics as competitive as possible.

Set up by the European Commission to advise on the content and direction of the Fifth Framework Programme on 20 November 1998, the group members were chosen from top level professionals in the aeronautics field, mainly those with a high degree of technical expertise. They are paid only for their expenses, yet attendance is high and contributions are enthusiastic.

'We are all busy people, but we welcome the chance to give our opinion', said group member Joachim Szodruch, also Vice President of Future Projects and Technology with Daimler Chrysler Aerospace Airbus GmbH. 'The Commission, they listen. They ask the question and they listen to the response. Indirectly we take a profit.'

EAG Chairman Ulf Ollson, Vice-President of Technology with Volvo Aero Corporation added: 'We want to start dialogue between the Commission and high-level people in the industry to ensure political support for aeronautics.

'More and more we are doing business as a European industry, and this group is an ideal extension of the creation of networks in the industry. We need to if we are going to compete or collaborate with America.'

The high level of technological development required in the aerospace industry, and the strategic implications for national security means it is crucial to plan ahead. Aeronautics is an industry used to thinking 20 years ahead, and this group is in an excellent position to steer it in the right direction.

Hence the group's decision to turn their attention to the Sixth Framework Programme. 'At the moment we want to build up a vision, the details come later,' said Mr Ollson.

The group has so far met seven times and produced one report (available on the Internet). They made several recommendations, and were 'generally pleased' with their reception by the Commission.

This feeling is reciprocated by the Commission. Jack Metthey of the Research Directorate-General responsible for liasing with the group said the aeronautics EAG is among the most pro-active of the groups. 'There are many things the Commission can and does do to encourage the groups, but in the end it depends on the group composition and on the individual members themselves.

'The aeronautics group have been very active, and they are capable of taking the initiative. Of course the aeronautics industry is politically aware and forward-thinking, but this group have proved extremely well organised and structured, and we have appreciated their contributions to our problem solving.'

The group agreed that the work programmes should focus on two strands of activity: the acquisition of critical technologies, and the integration and validation of technologies on technology platforms. They should each receive equal attention over the course of the Framework Programme, however the group would like to see more budgetary emphasis on the adoption of technologies in the first year. The group recognised the priorities from industry in this year as being 'low-cost, low-weight primary structures'; 'efficient and environmentally friendly aero-engines'; 'novel rotary-wing aircraft configuration'; and 'autonomous aircraft in future air traffic management'.

Some advice was provided on the Commission's criteria for evaluation of the projects, although they have no input in the actual evaluations themselves.

For an even quicker response, the group decided to set up a strategic steering committee under the guidance of Trevor Truman. The group meets more regularly than the full EAG and attempts to get a greater input from the industry as a whole by circulating questionnaires and soliciting opinion. It will present its findings to the Commission in December.

Mr Truman said: 'Although some of us are experienced in business, it is from a particular perspective, so we must be careful that we are not just imposing our own system. So we canvas advice from our colleagues outside the group I believe that this is what we should be doing and I am prepared to give some time to do it properly.'

Source: European Commission, Research Directorate-General; EAGs secretariat

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