Aerospace soars in Hauts-de-France
Hauts-de-France has been an aviation hub since the early 20th century. In 1909 the pioneering Caudron brothers made their first glider flight and opened the world’s first flying school shortly thereafter. The pace quickened between the World Wars, as French aircraft engineer Henri Potez set up his factory in Méaulte (Somme) and became a leading manufacturer. The move was critical to the industry’s emergence in Hauts-de-France: in just a few years, his thriving company was the largest in the world, with nearly 5,000 employees, and the Potez 25 and 63 fighters used in World War II were made here.
Open to the world
Today France ranks alongside Germany and the UK as a European leader in aircraft manufacturing. In 2013 the French aerospace industry reported sales of €34.8 billion, making it No. 1 Europe-wide, with exports to other continents accounting for most revenue. Like the domestic industry as a whole, the local aerospace sector is highly diversified. Main activities include tool-making, machining, and assembling components for major equipment manufacturers. Located midway between Toulouse and Hamburg, Hauts-de-France enjoys a strategic position close to aerospace clusters in Southern England and Belgium’s Wallonia region. Though aerospace is well represented throughout Hauts-de-France, there are two main centers of activity: the Aéropole de Picardie in Albert-Méaulte (Somme) and Méru-Compiègne (Oise). Méaulte is home to Stelia Aerospace, an industry leader known Europe-wide that supplies the nose for the Beluga XL to Airbus and a portion of the G 7000’s fuselage to Boeing and Bombardier. To promote these companies and showcase the advantages Hauts-de-France offers to the aerospace industry, the region participates in a range of events. These include the Paris-Le Bourget Air Show, where a large group of regional exhibitors—22 in 2017—join forces to display their wares under a single banner. The region also brings the industry together for local events, including the Hauts-de-France Business Meeting for aerospace that attracts some 50 exhibitors and 15,000-20,000 spectators. The aerospace industry in Hauts-de-France—key figures
- 9,700 direct jobs
- 130 companies
- Eight world-class players, including AD Industries, Dassault, MBDA Missile Systems and Thales
- 34 subcontractors serving European clients
- …including two ranked among France’s top five subcontractors
Innovation and R&D: serving the aerospace industry in Hauts-de-France
Hauts-de-France relies on innovation to stay competitive and keep pace with the challenges and technological needs facing the sector. The region is home to no fewer than eight world-class R&D centers and centers of excellence. The most prominent is ONERA, the French national aerospace research center. Located in the heart of Lille, the ONERA center in Hauts-de-France focuses on areas that affect aircraft safety—fluid mechanics, solid mechanics and flight dynamics—using a combination of digital simulation and experimentation.
Training on tap
Hauts-de-France offers the aerospace sector a highly qualified labor pool, thanks to a wealth of training programs not easily found elsewhere in France. A comprehensive range of institutions—from vocational and technical schools to universities and schools of engineering—are represented here, some with incubators. Together they complement local R&D centers and keep Hauts-de-France at the cutting edge of innovation.