Jorge Gutiérrez
View from the Top

Mexican Aerospace Industry 2.0 Begins

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 11:09

Q: What opportunities does Mexico offer the aerospace sector and what needs to be done in the short-term to develop those?

A: Mexico plays a key role in North America’s aerospace supply chain and its relevance will grow as more OEMs seek to reinforce their manufacturing in competitive countries. During the next two decades, global demand will require over 37,000 new aircraft. Mexico has a 10-year window of opportunity to fully enter the aerospace global value chain. If we do not create a foundation to support local industry we might miss it.

Q: How would you describe the evolution of Mexico’s aerospace sector?

A: During the 1920s, Mexico was able to design and build aircraft. While this capacity has been lost, the country has maintained a small, limited aerospace sector ever since. This period can be referred to as the Mexican Aerospace Industry 0.0. This lasted until the arrival of Bombardier in Queretaro in 2006, which led to drastic changes in the sector and led the Mexican government to establish public policies to encourage the industry’s growth. The introduction of this OEM can be considered the start of the Mexican Aerospace Industry 1.0. Now, we are entering the Mexican Aerospace Industry 2.0. From this point on, the goal is to generate a larger number of Mexican companies, to manufacture pieces with higher added value and to develop a strong military segment. At this point, 90 percent of aerospace companies manufacturing in Mexico are foreign.

Q: What role is UNAQ playing in the development of the local aerospace industry?

A: Our goal is to train the best workforce in Mexico, from technicians to engineers and researchers. We want to be a key player that focuses on competencies and supports the industry’s technological development. The university will become a hub for industry knowledge, programs and competencies and will support high schools and research centers. To date, the university has trained over 7,000 technicians and graduated almost 1,000 associate bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Today, UNAQ has approximately 1,400 students from across Mexico and some from outside the country. We are also creating a new master’s degree in air transport industry management.

Q: What R&D projects is the university supporting?

A: Alongside SEDENA, the university is working on technology for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and composite-based materials to shield helicopters. UNAQ has also developed simulators for pilot training alongside the Mexican Air Force and is focusing on tooling and other capabilities for manufacturers of landing gears and engines. With financing from the Mexican Space Agency (AEM), the university also participates in research of nano, micro and pico satellites, launchers and embedded systems design for navigation. Additionally, UNAQ supports entrepreneurs. One of our goals as an institution is to incubate startups. We provide technical assistance to several companies incubated in the university, some of which were created by graduates of our master’s program in engineering.

Q: What new programs is UNAQ developing to address the needs of the sector?

A: The growth of the aerospace sector led us to widen the number of our training programs according to the needs of the sector. Today, we are developing training programs for process and product engineering. We incorporated a master’s program that supports high-end products and processes for manufacturing and design of new components. The construction of NAICM is expected to be a significant opportunity for Mexico’s aviation sector because it will centralize many activities, including air traffic control and operations for the aviation industry. This also represents an opportunity for us and we will develop training programs for flight crews, pilots and technicians. In 2017, we will launch a training program for pilots. ICAO recently said that 1 million new pilots will be needed by 2030.