Christophe Smitz
Economic and Commercial Counselor for the Walloon Region
Embassy of Belgium in Mexico
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Expert Contributor

Aeronautics and Space Industry Bolsters Wallonia Economy

By Christophe Smitz | Thu, 02/11/2021 - 09:30

When businesspeople think about Belgium, and specifically Wallonia, the health and food sectors come to mind first. Due to its central location in Western Europe, logistics is also an obvious pick. But there is another sector that may surprise some.

The aeronautics and space sector occupies a key position in the Walloon economy and constitutes one of its major assets for the future. The sector's development is based on the existence of a metal-working industry and, in particular, on a network of specialist sub-contractors (precision mechanics or armament, for example).

Wallonia is the region in Belgium with the largest number of companies working in the aeronautics industry. Based essentially around four major enterprises (Safran Aero Boosters, SABCA, Sonaca and Thales), the industrial network of the aeronautics and space sector mainly comprises SMEs.
Walloon aerospace know-how is particularly apparent in the province of Luxembourg, which has a business park centered on the space sector (Galaxia) and an ESA (European Space Agency) station recognized as a center of excellence in the fields of security and defense. In 2016, the European Commission selected the Galaxia site for the installation of the terrestrial maintenance platform for the Galileo constellation, a European satellite navigation system.

In this sense, Wallonia can be compared to the state of Queretaro, which is the foremost territory in the aeronautics and space sector in Mexico.

Skywin, the Walloon Aerospace Cluster

Created under the framework of the Marshall Plan in 2006, SKYWIN has more than 150 members, bringing together companies, research centers, universities and training centers working in the aeronautics and space sector in Wallonia. This partnership is aimed at revealing synergies around common innovative projects with a view to creating but also maintaining jobs in the sector's companies.

 The cluster in figures:

  • 158 members
  • Turnover of more than 1.75 billion (90 percent of which is from exports)
  • 7,500 direct jobs
  • 85 labeled projects (54 in R&D)
  • Total budget: €250 million (US$303 million)

We can imagine collaboration with Mexican clusters in this sector, such as those found in Sonora, Baja California, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, and Queretaro.

Via their research centers, Walloon universities participate widely in the success and excellence of the aeronautics and space sector. More than 80 university departments address the subject of aeronautics and space. CENAERO, the Liege Space Centre, and other research centers contribute to the industry's development through the quality of their research and innovation programs.

WAN, the Wallonia Aerotraining Network, is the Walloon skills center active in the aeronautics sector. Its varied training offering (aeronautic construction and maintenance, aviation operations) ensures access to a profession, or offers the chance to pursue a career in this sector that is constantly evolving.

In March, Christophe Smitz, the Economic and Commercial Counselor for the Walloon Region at the Embassy of Belgium in Mexico is planning a trip to Queretaro to gain some knowledge and extend his network in the Mexican aeronautics and space industry. Mexican companies active in this field can contact his office if they wish to be in touch or get to know more about the Belgian companies based in Wallonia.

mexico@awex-wallonia.com

Photo by:   Christophe Smitz