11 Rabi' I 1444 - 6 October 2022
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Eye of Riyadh
Tourism & Hospitality | Thursday 12 May, 2022 12:19 pm |

Wallonia (Belgium) gives wings to aeronautics industry

Wallonia (Belgium) gives wings to aeronautics industry


This Monday 9th May 2022 marks the opening of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia’s first ever Future-Aviation Forum will unite international leaders from the private and public sectors, international CEOs, and regulators to shape the evolution of international air travel and put forward new solutions. This is a milestone as Saudi Arabia aims to generate $100 million from the aviation sector by 2030. Potential investors should not overlook the Southern region of Belgium when looking for solutions to cater to the needs of this booming sector in Saudi. Indeed, Wallonia in Belgium is a region with a prominent aerospace industry and cutting-edge technology in all of the aeronautics sub-sectors: construction, maintenance, operations, flight training, simulators, testing & commissioning, drone technology, air logistics, CO2 reduction technology, etc.


Aeronautics and Space Industry Bolsters Wallonia Economy


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), an ESA (European Space Agency) station recognized as a center of excellence in the fields of security and defense and also a science museum and educational tourist attraction (Euro Space Center) devoted to space science and astronautics. This centre even includes simulators of space flight and micro-gravity! 


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.


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 giga-projects in this sector, such as NEOM Airport and Airline or the Red Sea International Airport. The expertise of the cluster could also be of great value when it comes to the implementation of the National Tourism Strategy in the Kingdom, advising organizations such as the Saudi Tourism Development Fund in the best and safest ways to reach the 100 million visitors annual target by 2030. 


Last but not least, the cluster’s expertise in space exploration, earth monitoring or even astronautic education could be a laying ground for potential collaboration with the Saudi Space Commission in the realization of its Space Generations AJYAL program, focused on nurturing national human capital in the field of space science and technology. 


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.


Please contact us for more information about this sector in Wallonia, Belgium at [email protected].


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