Built on the local expertise in shipbuilding and naval aviation, aerospace is emblematic of Nantes Saint-Nazaire's ability to reinvent itself. Airbus, the global leader in aerospace, has two production sites here. The Nantes site manufactures the central wing boxes, centre line beams, nose cones and nacelle air intakes. The Saint-Nazaire site specializes in assembling, equipping and testing the forward and central fuselages of all aircraft.
Subcontractors benefit from Airbus' success
With an order book that ensures visibility for the next 10 years, Airbus attracts a great many subcontractors to Saint-Nazaire and Nantes. Companies like Figeac Aero, Sogeclair, Dufieux Industries and Simra have moved here to be close to their main client. Stelia Aerospace, born from the merger in 2015 between Aerolia and Sogerma, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Airbus. But it also works with other global aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, Bombardier and Dassault. Hexcel, the global leader in advanced composites, opened one of its three French sites here to supply its aerospace clients around the world.
Research, innovation, training... three pillars for the future
The public partners support the growth of the aerospace sector. The Region Pays de la Loire created the EMC2 Technocampus for composites, where SMEs can put together collaborative projects and enjoy high-tech facilities in close proximity to major clients. The Jules Verne Technological Research Institute (IRT), created under the Investments in the Future Programme, works with EMC2 to improve the performance of industrial sectors like aerospace. Its model combines research, innovation and training in advanced production technologies to develop the factory of the future.
The factory of the future is here today
Inaugurated in 2014, the Smart Factory Technocampus in Saint-Nazaire serves businesses in several sectors, including aerospace. Virtual reality is used to design digital models, which are much less expensive than physical models, to perform maintenance tests or train operators.
In Nantes, the plant of equipment supplier Daher is one of the first four technology projects accredited by the Alliance for the Industry of the Future, which brings together industry and digital tech stakeholders to roll out the "industry of the future" programme.
A cluster to win new markets
Manufacturers also depend on the complementary businesses here. Sixty-five SMEs in the sector make up the aerospace branch of the Neopolia cluster, which fosters various forms of alliances (consortium, co-contracting) to combine skills and bid on larger contracts and tenders.