Wallonia pushing back the frontiers of aeronautics and space
The industry’s development has made strides forward thanks to its large companies that have teamed up with the world’s leading aeronautical and space constructors and thanks to a very dense economic system of SME active in very specialised niche markets.
The sector accounts for around 7,000 jobs and a turnover of around € 1.4 billion.
Walloon companies have made a name for themselves in aeronautics thanks to the foundations laid by the mechanical and metallurgical know-how of the Liege and Charleroi industrial basins. From the 1970s onwards, close to a hundred Walloon companies specialised in the construction of plane engines, structures and accessories, making up a network of specific sub-contractors. Furthermore, many companies maintain and repair these parts.
Wallonia’s space adventure is in the hands of around thirty players that manufacture launcher and satellite parts as well as control instruments and software. More recently, new space applications have seen the light of day in the fields of satellite navigation, earth observation and telecommunications.
The sector’s SME
Hinged mainly around 3 large companies (Techspace Aero, SABCA and Sonaca) the industrial network of the aeronautics and space sector is comprised above all of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). The know-how of this network is recognised in several disciplines: software for multiphysical simulations, high-precision electroerosion, optic systems, moulded and machined honeycomb parts, engine modules, etc. are only some examples of the dynamism and performance of the sector in Wallonia.
Research centres and universities at the cutting edge
Via its research centres, the Walloon university sector makes a valuable contribution to the success and excellence of the aeronautics and space sector.
The universities of Liege (ULg), of Louvain-La-Neuve (UCL), of Namur (FUNDP) and of Mons have almost 80 departments working in the fields of aeronautics and space. CENAERO and other research centres help to keep the sector buoyant thanks to the quality of their research programmes and innovations.
The SkyWin competitiveness cluster
Skywin, which is the umbrella structure for the aeronautic cluster of the Walloon Aeronautics Enterprises “Entreprises Wallonnes de l’Aéronautique (EWA)” and the Wallonia space cluster “Wallonie Espace”, is a networking initiative that is particularly profitable to SME wishing to develop new research in the form of a partnership.
Skywin focuses its R&D projects on the following 3 strategic priorities:
- More Composite: the objective is to monitor and anticipate the evolution of the market, namely replacing metallic materials with composite materials that offer many advantages (weight, longevity, reduced ecological impact).
- More Intelligent: on the one hand, better meet the needs of the market. The plane of tomorrow will have more electrical components. On the other hand, developing the technological niches of the future in terms of the reliability of the equipment, maintenance performance and the optimisation of navigation.
- More applications and services: with a “Space” orientation, this aspect of the Cluster sets out to face up to the reality of tomorrow -more economical and secure means of transport, more efficient and less energy-consuming logistics, effective environmental management both at local and global level, etc.).
The Aeronautics & Space cluster (Skywin) organises its activities around three precise area: it encourages partnerships (between large and small enterprises, universities, research centres and schools), stimulates technological innovation at all levels and, finally, works to increase the visibility of Walloon industrialists abroad.