Manufacturers are facing huge uncertainty and potential losses unless the EU clarifies its chemical regulations, the annual conference of Farnborough Aerospace Consortium heard.
The FAC event at Brooklands Museum in Surrey brought together big names in the aerospace, defence and space sectors who spoke to delegates mainly from SMEs.
One important debate concerned the EU’s REACH regulations that were introduced some years ago and were designed to remove harmful chemicals from the workplace and the environment.
While alternatives have been found for the majority, some remain in use and these chemicals are due to be outlawed next year.
The regulations affect all businesses in the EU and any company in the world that sells into that market.
Many companies have simply stopped using the chemicals because they are unsure whether the implementation of the ban will be delayed for a second time, or not.
The FAC conference heard from SMEs about how they are frustrated with the uncertainty.
Sean Hammond from South West Metal Finishing, described the situation as like ‘trying catch fog’.
He said the company’s ‘chrome’ processing is affected and he was pleased to be able to make his point to industry heavyweights.
He said: “As a company we are having to make educated assumptions about what will happen because there is no guidance.
“But the ability to have an escalation of our voice through the FAC conference to those who will listen is very important.
“The level of information at the conference was extremely high and very useful for SMEs.”
One of the keynote speakers was Sir Michael Ryan CBE, who co-chairs the Aerospace Growth Partnership, among other roles, and he said he’d pass the concerns directly to Government Ministers.
Alan Fisher, FAC’s chief executive officer, said: “Delegates heard much to be positive about, including the increased production rates of Airbus and Boeing and the opportunities that brings to the south-east.
“It was a first class conference and showed how FAC takes concerns of SMEs to those who can make a difference.
“The REACH regulations are a big issue and there was a very frank discussion about what they mean for business.
“The regulations relate to all manufacturing, but aerospace is more affected than most.
“Our speakers were all excellent and we were pleased to have a focus on the space industry that really opened some eyes and showed the potential many companies have of expanding into that sector.
“We also had some lively Q&A sessions and there was opportunity for networking and I’m sure plenty of business will have been done.
“We will continue to help our members win business with the world’s major companies, and lobby hard on their behalf.”
FAC said it was delighted that Neil McManus, MD of Marshall Aerospace, Jon Hulks from the UK Space Agency, Robert Elliott from pioneering satellite company SSTL, Anisha Patel and Katie Roscoe from Airbus, Dr Louise Butt from Space South Central, Stephen Cowan of GKN Aerospace Defence, Ryan Green from ATI and Nigel Woodford from Safran Landing Systems all gave insightful input to the conference.
Also speaking were Chris Colston of BAE Systems, Mikhail Majid from ADS Group, Chris Nunn from UK Defence Solutions Centre, Sue Elliott from British Business Bank, Anthony Lalsing from Menzies LLP, and Mark Stimpfig, co-founder of GTM Global.