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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Strata sets pace for growth of UAE aerospace sector

Global Aerospace Summit is supporting the long-term strategies of Abu Dhabi and the UAE

An Airbus A330 plane. Mubadala owned Strata, which works with Airbus and Boeing among other major aerospace players, is positioning the UAE to take best advantage of forthcoming developments in the global industry. Greg Baker/AFP
An Airbus A330 plane. Mubadala owned Strata, which works with Airbus and Boeing among other major aerospace players, is positioning the UAE to take best advantage of forthcoming developments in the global industry. Greg Baker/AFP

Abu Dhabi is hosting the fourth Global Aerospace Summit – a landmark event that continues to grow the emirate's status as an international hub for the aerospace industry.

The summit represents an important opportunity for leaders in the private, public, and non-governmental sectors to come together to advance partnerships, explore groundbreaking technologies and demonstrate capabilities.

It is the Year of Zayed, 100 years after the birth of the late Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE, and as he famously highlighted, “We have to diversify the sources of our revenue and construct economic projects that will ensure a free, stable and dignified life for the people.”

Since then, Abu Dhabi has been working towards diversifying its economy away from oil and gas through investments in various vital sectors, including aerospace.

By making the capital the destination of choice for key voices and decision makers, the Global Aerospace Summit is supporting the long-term strategies of Abu Dhabi and the UAE – enhancing the development of high-tech industries that promote the economic diversification the late Sheikh Zayed envisioned.

The Government’s current strategies, such as the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, lay out challenging yet attainable goals through the integration of a clear vision, approach and mindset; in less than a decade, we have demonstrated to the world our capabilities in turning a vision into a reality.

Strata Manufacturing, the advanced composite aero-structures manufacturer in Abu Dhabi and wholly owned by Mubadala Investment Company, is focused on spearheading efforts for this kind of approach. Our company’s growth dovetails with the growth of Abu Dhabi, and we have identified three pillars for achieving the goals of the Vision 2030 within the aerospace sector.

First, the domestic aerospace industry must leverage relationships with external partners, building on the UAE’s existing cross-border connections. Our nation has strong ties with governments in the region and around the world, and a long history of working with the most prestigious members of the private and non-governmental sectors at the global level. In order to catalyse local production, we should encourage knowledge-transfer with established market leaders. This will prevent reinventing the wheel, by incorporating technologies and strategies pioneered elsewhere. Furthermore, we need to push to extend our aerospace business agreements to allow for a greater amount of aerospace production at the local level.

For example, Strata partners with the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing and Leonardo-Finmeccanica aero-structures division, and we are a tier one supplier to FACC, Saab and Sabca. In recent months, Strata has also reached new agreements with Solvay, Boeing, Honeywell, IBM and Siemens. With these agreements, we have been able to increase our product offerings, as well as the complexity of the parts we manufacture in the UAE.

Successful partnerships build upon themselves and increase the trust and reputation of our local industry for global dialogue. The UAE continues to build and grow these relationships, in order to promote our national brand in this sector and establish more frequent and more in-depth opportunities for the exchange of expertise.

Second, we need to implement a top to bottom approach to education, training and research, so local human capital is able to meet the needs of the burgeoning aerospace industry. By recent estimates, the Middle East is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets and, in the UAE alone, the sector is expected to contribute Dh194.5 billion to the country’s economy by 2020 and provide approximately 750,000 jobs. These jobs will need to be filled by candidates who have received hands-on training and advanced education, especially in Stem fields.

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In this regard, Strata has attempted to meet human capital needs by working with partners to create research centres and develop training programmes, such as that by Boeing in the United States, which will result in Strata engineers being trained at Boeing facilities around the world. We also engage with local universities, and regularly offer programmes for youth to inspire them to pursue education and careers in Stem fields. For example, since 2012 Strata and Mubadala have partnered with Khalifa University on the Aerospace Research and Innovation Centre (Aric), where we build local capacity and create the next generation of engineers in advanced aerospace technologies.

Aric aims to develop an international reputation for cutting-edge research in aerospace technologies, with a focus on efficient techniques for manufacturing advanced composites and novel procedures for automated manufacturing and assembly of aerospace components.

Third, we should invest in diversifying our business portfolio so that we are capable of competing in wider parts of the value chain. This can be achieved by implementing new innovations, such as Fourth Industrial Revolution advancements in 3D printing, big data, digital manufacturing and advanced materials, which can improve profitability and technical competencies.

Strata follows this strategy and we are always incorporating innovations into our operations. For example, last year we signed a joint agreement with Belgian composite materials firm Solvay to expand our capabilities in high-tech carbon fibre prepreg manufacturing. This JV will lead to the creation of a new 8,500 square metre facility, further cementing Abu Dhabi as a global aerospace hub.

Strata is also focused on evolving beyond being a manufacturing-based company, to compete in more sectors, while offering new careers for young Emiratis - inspiring them to join the industry.

Overall, the long-term outlook for the aerospace sector is bright, and we are making progress in positioning Abu Dhabi to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. This positive outlook and achievements so far underscore the rationale for aerospace serving as one of the core industries targeted by the Government to support the realisation of Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030.

As Abu Dhabi brings together more than 1,000 C-level executives, decision makers and government officials from over 50 countries to the Global Aerospace Summit, the key takeaway will undoubtedly be that the emirate is rapidly becoming an international leader in the aerospace industry. Front and centre, Strata will be prepared to do its part to show the world that the UAE has local capabilities and local innovation, but global aspirations.

Our Vision is the future, and the time to join us is now.

Ismail Abdulla is the chief executive of Strata, and vice president at Mubadala's aerospace, renewables and ICT (AR&I) platform