The Spatial Distribution Within the European Aerospace R&D Collaboration Network

Shedding light on the spatial distribution, intra-regional connections are of importance concerning the knowledge diffusion within the region and external or interregional relations are of extreme importance concerning the adoption of new knowledge and the frontier of existing knowledge, as Bathelt et al. (2002) suggest. From a regional economic perspective, those regions whose innovation system is more open to new technologies do have better chances to use development and growth opportunities. With respect to the adoption of new technology, according to Franz (2008), educational institutions (universities, colleges, etc.) and research organizations have the function within the innovation system to collect, prepare and transmit new knowledge. Regional agglomeration advantages lead to regional technological spillovers, which are the factors responsible for innovative and economic success of firms in these regions, due to the regional resources and capabilities (Pyka 2002, p. 160). Interestingly, over the decades the aerospace industry has undergone changes caused by internationalization and economic concentration (Niosi and Zhegu 2010). Those changes impact clusters directly: most of the regions have been radically downsized and are now involved in international trade. Additionally, due to commercial and cost reasons, as well as the proportional allocation between the Airbus consortium member states, no entire

The European aerospace R&D collaboration network

Fig. 7 The European aerospace R&D collaboration network. The nodes give information about the overall number of participants per region. The links between the regions provide the number of connections between the regions: the darker the links the higher is the amount of connections of regions within the respective FP

large commercial aircraft is made in any region, even if the region is capable of producing it. Together with the shrinking breadth of topics, this suggests the centralization to distinct regions within Europe. What is clearly visible in Fig. 7 is that especially in FP2 and FP3 more regions are involved in the projects.

This can be traced to the thematic development in the FPs, with the early FPs having greater diversity in topics. Again, this indicates that technology influences industry structure, or in our case the invention structure of the European aerospace industry. In all FPs, aerospace invention centers can be observed. It is quite striking that the region FR10 (Paris) is the overall center.[1] On the one hand, this is plausible since EADS headquarter is located there; on the other hand, Scherngell and Barber (2009) obtain the same results over all funded projects (not only aerospace) in FP5.

For FR62 (Toulouse), the prominence is straightforward to understand, as this is the main Airbus production location in Europe. Therefore projects focused on topics like optimization of the manufacturing process (OMP) are frequent. Further, through the agglomeration of a large supplier industry, the frequent categories of simulation and numerical tools (SIM), aerodynamics (AER) and especially electric and electronic (ELE) are explainable. ELE is a key technology for avionics which is primarily done by Thales, located in that region. DE21 (Munich) has broad capabilities in diverse topics, as indicated in Fig. 7. This appears due to the location of MTU Aero Engines (jet engines), Cassidian (defence technology), Eurocopter (helicopters) and the EADS innovation center. ES30 (Madrid) and UKK1 (Bristol) are further EADS and Airbus locations, focusing on tailplane fin and wing production, which explains the strength in SIM, RSY and AER. Additionally, UKK1 is especially strong in AER and ELE which might be traced back to the jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. The reason for the high participation of Greece, specifically the NUTS2 region GR30 (Athens), can be traced back to the special knowledge located within this region (as we have shown above). Beside the large number of education facilities and research organizations, especially the Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A. is the major player. The company has considerable experience in unmanned vehicles (UAV) since the early 1980s. The knowledge incorporated in this product class—e.g. transmission and information technology knowledge, electronics and avionics knowledge—finds application in space and satellite topics, explaining the region’s increased participations through FP6 and FP7.

Concerning inter- and intraregional connections and therefore possible spillovers, we must keep in mind the participation premise for the European framework programs: at least two partners from two different nations have to take part in a project. What we can see in Fig. 8 is that intra-regional collaborations are relatively rare. With the exception of ES43, where about 17 % of all project collaborations are implemented within the region, all other regions have a proportion of less than 3 % of intra-regional collaborations. It seems to be more the case that these infrequently participating regions are in the first instance connected to the major regions, regardless of spatial proximity, suggesting a hub-structure in the European aerospace invention networks.

The relation between inter- and intraregional activity

Fig. 8 The relation between inter- and intraregional activity

  • [1] An interesting article focusing on the anchor tenant concept was written by Niosi and Zhegu(2010). They argue that an anchor is able to spin off new firms and attracts other firms. That favorsour findings in the aerospace centers as there is a high agglomeration of participating firms whereat least one big player is located.
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