France and the aeronautic industry, an opportunity for start-ups ?
France has always been a worldwide leader in the aeronautic industry with Airbus. This sector seems to be dominated by big and top ranked companies but is there some place for start-ups on the French aeronautic market?
The aeronautic industry, a sector in which France excels but with many challenges
The economists haven’t stopped repeating it, the French industry is going downhill. Yet, contrary to the food-processing industry or the car industry, the aeronautic sector is the only one to witness an increase of its market shares. The success of France in the aeronautic industry is the consequence of a very well thought out industrial strategy that relies on strong technological assets, strategic alliances on the European market but mainly the important help of the French government at key moments of Airbus history. France is the second aeronautic exporter with 22% of the market shares after the United States that owns 35% of them. Then comes Germany with 14% of the market shares. The aeronautic sector in France gathers 4 000 enterprises and employs directly 320 000 people. Yet, many challenges are coming out.
The first one is the rise of Asia in the air transport market as Asia is more and more able to compete with the well-known duopoly Airbus/ Boeing. The second one is the increasing role of Germany in the European aeronautic industry. The Airbus aircrafts are produced both in Germany and France and Germany’s exportations in Europe increased significantly due to its role in the assembly of the A380 aircraft in Hamburg. However, France plays a key role in the aircraft assembly in Europe as it imports aeronautic equipment, from all over Europe. At Airbus, the leadership in R&D between France and Germany is also changing, sometimes France has the biggest spending in R&D sometimes it is Germany. Yet, France maintain its leadership in the aircraft construction and more generally in the aeronautic sector.
Start-ups are making a dramatic entrance in the aeronautic sector
The aeronautic sector is oligopolistic and largely dominated by Airbus, the French aircraft constructor, and Boeing, the American one. This sector is characterized by a very technical and technologic content and so it is very costly to enter this market. Thus, the arrival of start-ups in a world dominated by big companies seems utopian. Yet, if Boeing and Airbus remains the references of this sector, it is mainly start-ups that have proved to be newsworthy. We hear a lot of Space X, the start-up launched by Elon Musk who decided to conquer space after his success with Tesla Motors or OneWeb by Greg Wyler, a start-up in satellite communications. Those start-ups are now ready to oust the reign of colossus like Airbus and Boeing in terms of innovation.
According to François Chopard, who created the Starburst Accelerator in 2012, « It is no longer a difficult market to enter, the aeronautic industry is about to be shook by start-ups ». He goes on « Start-ups have brought a wonderful innovation rush, some of them are even bringing back some forgotten projects like supersonic aircrafts ». As for big companies, « they are focused on their order book and the upgrading of their devices » Mr Chopard says. Therefore, they lost their grip on technological advances. Will the start-ups surpass the big companies? Mr Chopard is more in favor of a collaboration between those two types of actors. Indeed, his accelerator has many partners like Airbus, Boeing, Thalès, Safran or the NASA. Big companies are essential clients for start-ups. Those partnerships are interesting because they allow start-ups to accelerate their development.
How to proceed to set up a start-up in the aeronautic industry in France?
There is always a problem for the start-ups whatever their sector, the financing. This is even more true in the aeronautic industry as the technology is extremely expensive. Nonetheless, attending some fairs can help to raise funds. The 14th of June 2019 will be the sixth year of the Paris Air Forum. This huge fair includes conferences and debates about the aeronautic industry but also a trophies ceremony for the most innovative start-ups. Forty start-ups cherry-picked will receive these trophies from the hands of big company’s CEO and government members. The Salon du Bourget is also a fair that hosts an area dedicated to the innovation in the aeronautic industry. Those events are the occasion for start-ups to make themselves known. Some of them even have pitch to convince investors and potential partners. They only have two precious minutes to convince them and maybe get the financing they are sadly lacking in. Yet, those fairs are not accessible to every start-up as they are carefully chosen and only the ones with the biggest potential remain.
Nothing is lost for the others, many incubators and accelerators like Starburst Accelerator are committed to help smaller structures. Starburst Accelerator helps emerging structures in their development but also help them getting contracts with major actors of the aeronautic field. Even big companies understand the innovative potential of the start-ups and try to make it grow. Airbus created Bizlab, an accelerator for promising structures. The applicants submit their project to a jury first, then they are invited to pitch it at fairs in Europe and if they convinced the jury and companies, they start a six months acceleration program. In the same vein the Parisian consulting company Impulse Partners or the ENAC, the French school of civil aviation, have also launched their incubator.
There is also a third option to get financing, the consulting companies. ESCadrille Toulouse Junior Conseil is one of them, with a specific asset. We have a full expertise in the aeronautic field due to our location in Toulouse, near to Blagnac and Airbus headquarters. We have worked with big groups but also with start-ups in the aeronautic field and so we are fully able to help you with your projects or be by your side to raise funds. Do not hesitate to consult our services here or contact us for more information.