WEAF Annual Conference 2018

WEAF Annual Conference 2018 – The Challenge of Change – Key Takeaways

Last Tuesday I headed up to Bristol for the annual WEAF dinner, followed by the conference on Wednesday. It was great to catch up with clients and colleagues in the sector. As a WEAF partner, we were exhibiting but were also able to attend the conference sessions. There was an excellent mix of speakers representing both SMEs and Tier 1s. These were the stand out points for me:

  • Cyber-security needs to be taken seriously across the supply chain. Working in the insurance sector, I read a lot of content from insurers and industry bodies about cyber-security. The Thales team did an excellent job of highlighting how every member of the supply chain needs to take cyber-security seriously. It needs to be a ‘team sport’ within an organisation, it’s not just down to leadership to drive it. 
  • Martin Baker and the history of Ejector seats – it’s easy to get caught up in the manufacturing side of the aerospace industry, looking at the latest metal finishing, or the newest cockpit technology, but Martin Baker’s presentation was a reminder that engineering saves lives – over 7,500 to be precise. I was biting my nails watching the early videos of ejector seat testers!
  • Transformation through technology – Malcolm Scott of the Aerospace Technology Institute, highlighted the strong commitment to innovation and R&D in the sector. It’s fantastic news that this commitment has been extended from 2020 to 2026, with 150m from government and 150m from the private sector earmarked for R&D each year. In a sector that employs so many in the region, this is exciting news.
  • Innovation in the sector – Having heard all the positive news about commitment to innovation in the sector from previous speakers, it was great to hear GE Aviation mention that ‘disruption and innovation in the cockpit is going to come from SMEs’. Chris Wilson, WEAF Chairman and MD of Safran Landing Systems, reminded WEAF members about all the funding opportunities open to them to invest in R&D.

While the topic of the conference was ‘The Challenge of Change’, my overwhelming thought was that while change is a constant, this sector is well placed to turn change into advantage.

However, on the downside there was an eerie silence on the elephant in the room, Brexit! This ultimately has the potential to cause serious damage to the sector here in the UK. Many SME’s are over reliant on the Primes. It is rumoured that EU countries are now bending the ear of Airbus. Watch this space.

As a partner of WEAF, I feel proud to be supporting an organisation that champions our sector and our region.

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