Katherine Bennett CBE, Senior Vice President of Airbus, addressed members of Cardiff Business Club about the Western Gateway, the pandemic and Brexit.
Ms. Bennett was the guest speaker at the Club’s most recent live virtual event and discussed sustainable aviation, how Airbus expects to be back to pre-COVID levels by 2025 and the new ambitious plans for the Western Gateway.
Each year Airbus spends £500M in the supply chain in Wales alone, while 60% of Airbus’ staff live in Wales. It has established the Airbus Endeavr Wales research programme and works closely with Cardiff University and Swansea University. The Broughton site in Flintshire, where the wings for all Airbus’ commercial aircraft, except the A220, are assembled,, is the most efficient plant across the whole of the company’s operations worldwide. Its Newport-based global cyber innovation hub employs around 500 people, delivering fixed and deployable communications.
With 16 years leading external strategy, Ms. Bennett manages the public affairs for all parts of Airbus in the UK. She also serves on the board of the Aerospace Growth Partnership, the board of the French Chamber of Great Britain, the Wales Science and Innovation Advisory Council and founded Women in Aviation. In November 2019, Katherine was appointed Chair of the new cross-Government initiative, the Western Gateway.
Following in the footsteps of the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine, the Western Gateway is the result of organic growth, combining eight cities, three city regions two airports, ten universities, nine ports and seven research councils. Katherine notes the abolishment of the Prince of Wales Bridge tolls was the catalyst needed to initiate the venture which will foster an environment that allows businesses to thrive and grow across the region. Katherine said: “The Gateway is really an amplification role; creating a wider voice to attract inward investment and working together for cross-border activity.
“The project has had nothing but support from both the Welsh and UK governments, as well as the backing from local authorities. We are also working very closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships, regional businesses and universities. I am very proud that vice chancellors from all local universities have pledged support to help us get inward investment to our area.”
Katherine is searching for business leaders to join her on the partnership board of the Western Gateway and to become a key voice of the Western Gateway and support continuing discussions with the UK and Welsh Government.
In March 2020, Ms. Bennett led on public affairs for the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium of UK manufacturers, including Airbus, and engineering and automotive companies, under the leadership of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to assist the government to supply medical ventilators for the NHS. The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Cymru in Broughton was the production line for two major ventilator components and together they produced almost 13,500 ventilators.
Ms. Bennett said: “COVID has obviously had a huge impact on the aviation industry; it is the most severe crisis our industry has ever faced with flights down 70%. As a sector, we employ 30M worldwide, and this year we have had to make very difficult decisions on how we adapt to the crisis.
“However, looking ahead, we estimate that by 2025 our business will be back to pre-COVID levels.
“In October Airbus launched its new ZERO hydrogen-powered concept aircraft. There is lots of work to be done, but potentially we can build aircraft that use hydrogen instead of traditional kerosene. Along with the new Western Gateway, there is a lot to look forward to in 2021 and beyond.”
The full address and Q&A can be viewed by the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMGuZggm3KU.
Cardiff Business Club’s next event will take place on December, 14 featuring The Rt Hon Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales. Simon will be discussing the Brexit transition, COVID-19, the economic recovery and renewal of Wales and the most recent Spending Review. For more information about the Cardiff Business Club visit https://www.cardiffbusinessclub.org.