The Brazilian EMBRAER KC-390, an aircraft that can refuel other aircraft in the air, recently completed its first test flight. A special moment for EMBRAER, the world's third-largest aircraft manufacturer, and a special day for NLR. For the wind tunnel model of this aircraft, tested in the DNW-Wind Tunnels, was designed and manufactured by NLR. The model was particularly complex. This 'maiden voyage' reflects the strong position NLR has gained in Brazil; a position that is also of benefit to the broader aviation sector in the Netherlands. This position did not come easily, but is the result of intensive investment in relations in Brazil, by NLR itself and by the Triple Helix of government, industry and knowledge organisations, the so-called 'Golden Triangle' in the Netherlands.
NLR is a perfect fit for this Golden Triangle, taking an active, visible role in a wide range of projects. The NLR establishment in Marknesse-Flevoland, for instance, recently joined Fokker Landing Gear in celebrating the opening of the ACM Pilot Plant for the automated production of composites. This new facility derives from a Public-Private Partnership between Fokker Landing Gear and NLR, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the province of Flevoland and the Noordoostpolder municipality. This epitome of the Golden Triangle, supplemen-ting the existing CompoWorld, further boosts the establishment of a regional centre for composite development that has national relevance and international outreach.
It gives me great pleasure that the expertise and experience NLR has gained so far within the Golden Triangle in the Netherlands is being deployed in BRIC countries like Brazil, a growth economy where business is in full development and more and more air tickets are sold every year. Brazil now has six international airports and plans to build a further 270 regional airports. This drives the need for technology to make air traffic safer and more efficient and sustainable, so that CO2 emissions can be reduced, among other things. This creates great opportunities for the knowledge and experience of an institute like NLR; a reliable organisation that has been around for almost a century, gaining the ability to convert scientific knowledge into smart technology that can be applied by industry, particularly by smaller businesses.
Brazil is certainly no easy market. Our partners there are sensitive to gaining trust in relationships. It takes time to get to know each other as professionals and at the personal level. A 'hit-and-run' strategy doesn't work and neither does window dressing in the hope that you can impress customers with an impressive display. The great thing about NLR is that they take Brazilian needs and challenges as their starting point, and from there on not only focus on their own expertise but also serve as a bridge to Dutch industry and knowledge institutes as a whole. That is where our strength lies; joining forces as a sector. That is our unique selling point. The Netherlands Ministries of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure and the Environment and Foreign Affairs paving the way; universities sharing their knowledge; NLR operating as a mediator; and the industry taking care of the business side of things. A road from contact to contract – this model works really well in Brazil.
The EMBRAER KC-390 has made its maiden voyage, but this does not mark the end of cooperation between NLR and EMBRAER. Mid-2014, these two parties extended their research & development agreement. The new agreement extends and intensifies cooperation in the areas of new materials, cockpit technology, system development and aerodynamics, among other things. This is a sign of trust. Trust that is crucial for the Netherlands aerospace sector to be successful in Brazil.