“At the European level, the Aeronautics, Space and Defence industry is one of the leading high-tech industries in the global market, supporting over 865,000 highly skilled direct jobs,” the chairman of the board of AED Cluster Portugal, José Neves, is quoted in a statement as saying. “In this sense, it plays a key role in the global economy, catalyzing technological development and innovation throughout the social and economic fabric.”
The Covid-19 outbreak has affected “all sectors … with the civil aeronautics industry being the hardest hit, leading to cuts in orders, supply problems, production stoppages and cash flow problems,” he went on.
As for the defence and space industries, these are mostly directed to the public sector, so have not yet faced the same impacts as the aeronautics industry, the statement notes, adding that the indirect impact will, however, soon be felt.
For these reasons, the AEDCP has decided to act and assess what can be done to reduce the implications of this new crisis, according to Neves.
In the document, the organisation advocates an integrated national strategy to mitigate the economic impact of the crisis and strengthen the three sectors in question, proposing a series of cross-sectoral and sector-specific measures.
In sectoral terms, the organisation argues for the approval of a package of online training and qualification specifically for professionals in the sector, with the objective of maintaining existing qualifications and certifications, as well as taking advantage of the reduction in activity to increase and diversify skills.
It also suggests the drafting of measures to support part-time work in the sector (such as the creation of time banks) to avoid current professionals being excluded from the sector, and measures promoting research and technological development projects, including in the areas of productive and organisational innovation, focussed on the current context, to enable the sectors to meet new challenges and leverage new opportunities.
“Reviews of sectoral strategic plans and redefinition of the themes of societal challenges, such as digital transformation and the impact on civil society are necessary,” Neves is quoted as saying.
For the aeronautics sector, an action plan is proposed that could be integrated into the economic diplomacy carried on by the government, to respond to opportunities generated by changes in international supply chains, namely the reallocatation of operations and supply chains from Asia, North Africa and America back to Europe, and a restructuring of the models of cost and production volumes in line with the new reality of civil aviation.
In the space sector, the AEDCP mentions the need to ensure national funding for both mandatory and optional programmes of the European Space Agency, as committed at a meeting of European ministers on the subject in 2019, and the continuation and revitalisation of complementary initiatives foreseen in the Space Strategy for 2030, such as the construction of the Azores SpacePort.
It also refers to a need to accelerate public procurement procedures for services and projects for the introduction of space technology in public administration, through the launching of public tenders.
In the defence sectort, the AEDCP wants the investments laid down in the Military Programming Law to be assured, guaranteeing wherever possible the participation of Portuguese companies throughout the development of new systems and equipment.
It also asks for “institutional and diplomatic commitment in maintaining the budget and launch date of the European Defence Fund (EDF), as well as ensuring future [Portuguese] participation in major European projects to reshape forces, promoting employment and competitiveness of companies.”
The AEDCP was created in 2016 as a private non-profit association. It currently involves over 80 entities with operations in Portugal.
According to data cited by the organisation, in Portugal the three sectors represent aggregate turnover of over €1.7 billion, with exports accounting for around 90% of that, and employ more than 18,500 people.
With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, airlines are expected to see a 55 percent decrease in revenue from passengers this year compared to 2019 and a 48 percent decrease in traffic, based on the forecast of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which on 14 April predicted that the aviation industry would lose $314 billion in passenger revenues this year as a result of the pandemic.