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How The Aerospace Industry In Ireland Is Booming Thanks To R&D

The aerospace industry in Ireland is set to double by 2023 which is supported by Enterprise Ireland. But what does R&D have to do with all this?

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


5 minute read

Recent data from Irish Government agency Enterprise Ireland has revealed that the aerospace and aviation industry in Ireland takes up a massive €4.1 billion portion of the country’s economy. Indeed, Irish lessors are responsible for €80 billion in worldwide assets and the aviation industry particularly is moving from strength to strength. Over 250 companies in Ireland are part of the aerospace, aviation and space sectors, employing nearly 43,000 full-time workers.

In 2017 the sector received a significant boost as Ireland's largest independent aircraft maintenance provider, Dublin Aerospace, unveiled plans to create 150 new jobs before 2021. The aerospace industry in Ireland is set to double by 2023 which is supported by Enterprise Ireland. But what does R&D have to do with all this?

R&D and the Irish aerospace sector

The aerospace industry in Ireland has enjoyed an excellent reputation for many years. It’s a reputation that’s growing, and the aviation industry in particular is expanding rapidly. It has long established robust and flexible supply chains which have attracted big players like Rockwell Collins, Thales and Bombardier.

The reason behind such growth is partly down to the unique strengths Ireland has to offer. These include factors like a favourable tax system, a young population and a skilled, highly adaptable workforce, all set against a strong R&D investment ethic.

In supporting the development of aerospace supply chain programmes in Ireland, Irish companies are encouraged to keep their procedures, processes and management styles in line with established international aerospace standards including SC21 and AS9100. These standards again make such companies attractive to crucial prime and tier 1 aerospace companies.

What R&D work is taking place in the aerospace industry at the moment?

The global hunger to travel more quickly, cheaply and sustainably is increasing like never before. This of course means there’s no shortage of opportunities for R&D in passenger aircraft technologies but also within space travel.

Ireland is one of the major players in the aerospace industry not least because so many companies in the sector are based here. Consequently there are R&D projects being undertaken in a massive range of areas, such as on-board data systems, passenger experience, software, hardware and fuel efficiency - just for starters! It’s not about passenger planes either, but military aircraft also rely on the latest technology and R&D investment too.

When it comes to building aircraft, R&D is also present at every stage of production. It takes between 10 and 15 years to design and build a new model, which includes huge numbers of people working across a range of disciplines. This in turn gives numerous opportunities across the supply chain for work to be eligible for R&D Tax Credits.

What are common examples of existing R&D projects in the aerospace industry?

As mentioned there are a myriad of R&D projects that take place in the aerospace industry, but they essentially focus on aircraft design to maximise safety, efficiency and comfort. Much research is carried out around how to make aircraft lighter and more fuel efficient. It’s also about developing ways to make the aircraft fly faster, and to replace older legacy systems with new ones.

Innovative work is also undertaken to find ways of increasing capacity and cutting costs without reducing customer comfort. Then of course there’s pilot training and aircraft testing. Rig development is a consideration, as well as how to create the most realistic, cutting edge simulators. This is just a tiny handful of examples to show the importance of R&D right across the aerospace industry.

What R&D is expected to occur in the aviation industry over the next 5-10 years?

Obviously it’s hard to predict accurately and technology moves on quickly, but the big thing is supersonic speed. With Concorde now sadly consigned to the history books, several Irish companies are keen to make supersonic flight once again possible in future. Technology has indeed moved on already since Concorde took its last flight in October 2003, but such technology is still very expensive. R&D will need to be undertaken in bringing down the costs of supersonic flight so that it becomes part of everyday travel and not simply the reserve of the elite.

Cabin technology and space is another area that will continue to change over the coming years. Satellite technology is moving fast and we already see Wi-Fi offered by many carriers, with this roll out set to continue. Whether airlines charge passengers for the chance to stay connected mid-flight will remain to be seen, however it’s something that passengers are increasingly coming to expect. Excitingly, Airbus has recently started work on developing its Internet of Things connected cabin technologies. This will essentially allow passengers to wirelessly connect a larger number of devices to a central ‘brain’, giving maximum connectivity and access to a huge array of systems and applications.

It’s no secret too that airlines have long bolstered their margins by enabling customers to choose their seat for a fee. However, something that’s likely to occur in the next decade is the ability to actually adjust their set electronically up, down, forward or at an angle. This will be of particular advantage to those that are very tall or very short, or who find existing seats uncomfortable. There’s even talk of a ‘lav-cam’ so customers can monitor the toilet queue from their seats!

Again this is just the start, and seeing new developments occur in the coming years will mean some exciting opportunities for R&D.

R&D Tax Credits and Myriad Associates

R&D Tax Credits are offered by the Revenue as a way to help Irish businesses in any sector meet the costs of innovative projects. The scope of work and costs that can be claimed is very broad and it’s open to any Irish business of any size.

At Myriad Associates we are experts in all aspects of R&D tax credits and can guide you through the process of claiming. It’s not always straightforward, but with offices in both Dublin and the UK we’re proud of our 100% success rate.

Call our specialist team on +353 1 566 2001 or use our contact page and we’ll get back to you.

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