Game-changing technology and engineering innovation have been reshaping the aerospace sector over the past five years. From tech firms using satellite imagery to map out the carbon footprint of buildings, to manufacturers engineering unique components to extend the longevity of satellites, the landscape has dramatically changed.
In celebration of these advancements, Halston Group and Page White Farrer hosted the inaugural session of their new event, Aerospace Innovation: Collaboration for the Future, as part of Leeds Digital Festival. Inviting experts from across the aerospace industry to share their perspectives.
The panel featured a collaborative conversation between three industry experts. Chaired by Jessica Farrow, Head of Digital Communications at Halston Group, the events speakers included:
One of the first points raised by the panellists was the need for diversification, in the sense of ensuring manufacturers’ client bases are a mixture of both private and public contracts. Over the past five years, the aerospace industry has gone through rapid advancements as a result of steady innovations and the digitalisation of the manufacturing landscape. While these have brought many positive changes to the industry, including giving many private businesses the ability to quickly expand, they have also highlighted the need for diversification within the sector to better allow for risk management amid shifting landscapes.
Panellists noted that the industry’s historic reliance on government contracts has led many to be limited in their ability to be flexible in the wake of changing circumstances such as raw material shortages. To mitigate this risk, industry members must increase investment in their supply chains and aim to serve multiple markets, to ensure that they are not putting all of their flying eggs into one proverbial basket.
In addition to focusing on diversification, panellists stressed the need for the closing of the aerospace skills gap in the next generation of industry professionals, in order to secure future innovations.
Many noted that the recent advancements in the industry will likely lead to a disconnect between essential sector specific skills, and government issued academic curriculums. Amongst the wider employment landscape, 23% of employers admit that their current workforce lacks the essential digital skills needed to advance in their industry, and although younger candidates recognise that advanced digital skills are crucial to their career success, participation in digital training while in further education is limited. To ensure that this trend does not significantly impact the aerospace industry, businesses must step away from their reliance on government and academic institutions’ curriculums and instead look towards nuanced in-house training programs that match technological advancements. Suggestions for these include university placement opportunities, on-the-job training, and consulting with higher education institutions to allow for a better foundation of knowledge.
After detailing the current and future challenges that the aerospace industry will need to overcome to secure the next steps into future innovation, the panellists then turned to how the worlds changing landscape will ensure the integration of sustainable practices within the aerospace industry.
While government legislation regarding the measurement and reporting of a business’s carbon footprint continues to be stunted, customer expectation is expected to soon put pressure on manufacturers. As the next 5 years progress, many estimate that consumer trends will continue to prioritise sustainability over other factors, leading aerospace suppliers to shift their brand focus. Panellists predicted that obtaining a B Corp status will slowly become a “headliner” for companies looking to boost their image, as well as an increased effort into overcoming the challenges size and weight pose to the suitability of emerging aviation fuel. Both of which will allow them to better fit the wants of their customers.
Given the challenges and changes that the aerospace industry will likely face in the coming years, the experts at the Aerospace Innovation event, called for an emphasis on national cooperation to secure future innovations. They pointed to the fact that past regional integration has not only led to the sharing of essential knowledge, but also the establishment of UK space hubs that have seen the creation of many key technological advancements. To mitigate the formally discussed risks, key industry leaders must harness the building of national knowledge bridges to secure a stronger future for the aerospace sector. Using cross regional partnerships to turn ideas into tangible products and exports.