I first attended international air shows like Farnborough, which brings together leading representatives from the commercial and military aviation world, as a major in the UAE Armed Forces. I remember being astounded by the technological advancements on show and being inspired to continue my development in the industry, in Europe and the US. At that time opportunities simply weren’t available at home.
Returning to Farnborough last week as a representative of Mubadala, I am particularly proud to have signed a number of significant agreements that both show how far we have come and demonstrate the exciting next phase of Abu Dhabi’s aerospace development, built around our ever-increasing capabilities. It really is no stretch of the imagination to say that Al Ain will one day join the likes of Montreal, Toulouse, Seattle and Singapore in being one of the world’s leading aviation centres.
Aerospace was defined as one of the original industrial engines of the Abu Dhabi economic vision – a capital-intensive, export-oriented sector in which Abu Dhabi has or can build a competitive advantage, and that can form the basis of a knowledge-based economy.
The competitive advantage comes in part from the growth of our national airlines. Put simply, their exponential growth, based out of modern commercial aviation hubs means more planes based in the region, requiring world-class services and maintenance. Our home market is a critical one for the world’s leading original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs.
Mubadala’s long-standing partnerships with OEMs such as Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and GE also continue to create exciting development opportunities to make Abu Dhabi, and specifically Al Ain, the home of world-class aerospace manufacturing and services businesses. And it is very much a partnership rather than the traditional vendor-buyer relationship.
Strata’s new agreements with Airbus and Boeing demonstrate the trust it has generated with the global OEMs. Strata (a company owned by Mubadala) has shown that “Made in the UAE” parts can meet the exacting standings of the leading manufacturers. This graduation to tier 1 status allows us to secure contracts for more complex units such as wings and empennages going forward.
Another deal signed this week will also involve a further development on Abu Dhabi’s aerospace manufacturing and services capabilities. In partnership with Rolls-Royce, we will begin to produce discs, a key component within the engine. This graduation to rotable parts is another major milestone for the UAE, which also has us play an important role in Rolls-Royce’s global supply chain.
As part of this deal we will also open a Rolls-Royce approved maintenance centre in Al Ain. Thanks to the remarkable growth of the region’s airlines, more than 20 per cent of Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB engines sold to date will be located here, which means maintenance opportunities in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. This approved maintenance centre will be only the second worldwide that Rolls-Royce does not hold an equity stake in, and will service 150 engines per year when operational in 2021.
We are particularly pleased to be bringing advanced composite materials manufacturing to the UAE, in partnership with industry leader Solvay. Prepreg materials are the lightweight and super-strength building blocks of the industry’s next generation aircraft. Ours will be one of only four manufacturing facilities of its kind worldwide, driving cost efficiency for Strata and its customers, as well as accelerating Abu Dhabi’s position as a critical advanced aerospace hub operating across the manufacturing chain.
This chain begins with research and development, and young Emirati talent is already working alongside academic and industrial specialists at key academic institutions such as Khalifa University, UAE University and Masdar Institute, to develop made-in-the-UAE intellectual property and technology that will help companies such as Strata and Turbine Services and Solutions drive efficiency and lead the way.
We closed the week by agreeing to sell a majority stake in our Swiss maintenance, repair and overhaul business SR Technics to HNA Aviation of China. As well as the opportunity to drive growth in the Asia Pacific region, there is a deep strategic relationship between the UAE and China, built on strong economic and political foundations. Deeper involvement with China will further contribute to the UAE’s economic development and open investment opportunities.
In December, Mubadala created a US$10 billion global investment fund with China Development Bank Capital and China’s state administration of foreign exchange, demonstrating the shared commitment of both nations to elevate our partnership.
With these deals, plus the developments in Al Ain, as well as those taking shape across the UAE, I am most proud of the employment opportunities we are creating. With a target of 10,000 aerospace jobs in the next 15 years – that makes the dreams I had as a young engineer more tangible for the passionate young engineers of the future.
Homaid Al Shimmari is the chief executive for aerospace and engineering services at Mubadala.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter