The West Of England Aerospace Forum (WEAF) is a membership trade association that champions and supports the interests of the aerospace and defence industry in the South West of England. The region’s aerospace cluster generates over £6 billion in revenue every year, employs more than 60,000 people in high-value jobs, and is the only one in the UK recognised as high growth and globally significant.
WEAF’s role is to support the South West aerospace sector in maximising its contribution to the UK’s national aerospace strategy as a key part of the Aerospace Growth Partnership.
We caught up with WEAF’s Chief Executive Officer, Simon Young to find out more.
TechSPARK: Simon, tell us about WEAF’s role in the South West and how it supports aerospace businesses.
Simon Young: The South West has exceptional aerospace capabilities, with an unrivalled mix of the world’s leading aerospace companies and innovative Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) businesses, together with world-renowned universities and research facilities, such as the National Composites Centre in Bristol.
Focusing on technology, skills and supply chain performance, WEAF helps aerospace companies to grow and increase their business competitiveness, as well as being a vital source of help to businesses when problems inevitably crop up.
WEAF: Real social networking
To do this, WEAF delivers an annual programme of networking events which give critical insight into global market and technology trends, enable the sharing of best-practice, and act as a catalyst for businesses to form new and profitable relationships. By participating in international airshows and trade missions, WEAF members can also get an advantage in marketing themselves globally.
Further high-value offerings from WEAF include a comprehensive training portfolio, from basic first-aid right through to higher-order knowledge and skills training, such as programme management and strategic leadership.
Lastly, WEAF delivers European and UK funded programmes aimed at supporting business improvement and growth. The UK National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme is a good example, being a national programme delivered into the South West region by WEAF and on course to realise about 30 innovative technologies and 200 new jobs in the short to medium-term.
TS: What makes you different from other Aerospace and Defence Associations in Europe?
SY: It’s the incredible strength, capabilities and talents within the South West aerospace businesses that marks us out as so positively different.
“Whether it be new aerospace concepts, future ground-breaking technologies, cutting-edge manufacturing processes, or innovative engineering support, the South West has it!”
WEAF can only be a reflection of the sector it represents, and the members that chose to form the WEAF community. We have such aerospace diversity in the South West, ranging from Prime fixed-wing and rotary-wing companies like Airbus and AgustaWestland, through major OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and Tier 1 suppliers such as Rolls-Royce and GKN, to an incredibly talented SME supply chain.
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Whether it be new aerospace concepts, future ground-breaking technologies, cutting-edge manufacturing processes, or innovative engineering support, the South West has it!
TS: What are the best things about being located in Bristol and what kind of an impact has the area had on your operation?
SY: If the South West is the ‘go to’ destination in Europe for outstanding aerospace products, innovation, services and people, then Bristol is right at the heart of this fabulous capability.
Bristol has an incredibly rich heritage in aerospace, so businesses and people have innovation and aerospace in their ‘DNA’.
Standing out: Supporting the aerospace community
That’s not to say that Bristol and all the aerospace businesses here are complacent and rest on their laurels. Aerospace is phenomenally competitive globally.
Investing in new ideas, innovative technologies, and highly skilled people all play a huge part in driving aerospace businesses forward, to help ensure that the UK remains the number two global aerospace player, just behind the USA.
And Bristol businesses recognise that much of the supply chain strength comes from the wealth of capabilities dispersed around the South West region – Tewkesbury/Cheltenham/Gloucester with GE, Moog, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty; Yeovil with AgustaWestland; Plymouth with many outstanding engineering businesses supporting marine and aerospace; and Christchurch/Poole, again focusing on marine and aerospace.
TS: How long have you been working with WEAF?
SY: I’ve been with WEAF for just over 15 months now. It’s been an incredible learning experience for me. Even with over 30 years in the defence and aerospace world, I am always learning something new every day, thanks to the incredible depth and breadth of businesses and people in the South West aerospace sector.
TS: What makes you proud to be a part of WEAF?
“The passion and enthusiasm for aerospace in the South West is simply unique”
SY: Two stand-out reasons!! Firstly, the passion and enthusiasm for aerospace in the South West is simply unique. The creativity, innovation, determination with the aerospace workforce cannot be found elsewhere globally. Outstanding businesses, products, technologies, services and most importantly, PEOPLE!
Secondly, WEAF has a fabulous team, totally focused on making sure we support our members and sector in ways that really add value to what the businesses want and need. As I’ve already mentioned, we can only reflect the values and capability of the sector and membership we represent. So it’s no surprise that the WEAF team are passionate about and committed to aerospace and our members, delivering outstanding events and services every year to all our members!
TS: Do you have any exciting events that we should be marking on our calendars?
SY: We certainly do.
15 – 19 June 2015 – Paris Airshow: An outstanding international marketing opportunity to showcase your company to all the world’s major aerospace companies.
18 November 2015 – WEAF Gala Dinner: Now one of the South West’s key business networking and social events – fabulous food, friends, festivities and black-tie too!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Simon. To get the full picture and information about WEAF’s extensive events, training and services, please visit the WEAF website. To join the conversation and for more event news you can follow WEAF on Twitter. Don’t forget to follow us while you’re there!
To see and connect with innovators in the aerospace industry, don’t miss your chance to register for innovation and investment showcase Venturefest Bristol and Bath 2015.