Aeronautics Innovation Roundtables:
Uncertainty, Globalization and Skills


"Non-auto transportation equipment production has been a major contributor to job losses in the tradable sector in the US since 1990, and the vast majority of the loss occurred in the aerospace" (Spence and Hlastshwayo, 2011). This has been mainly associated to relocation of production and shifts in investment in certain fields. In the US, sectors such as air and spacecraft have lost 30% of their jobs in a 30-year period, and machinery and equipment, including computer, electronic and electric products and instruments have lost 45% of the number of jobs in the same time period, while increasing value added. At the same time, there was a growth in the number of jobs in certain tradable services, such as the computer systems design and related services, and management, scientific and technical consulting (Acs and Armington, 2004).

Labor productivity growth is increasingly being concentrated in knowledge intensive activities, ICT services and high technology and medium high technology manufacturing. Trade in high technology goods, such as aircraft, computers, pharmaceuticals and scientific instruments, accounts for more than 25% of total trade, which represents a significant increase over the last two decades (Markusen et al., 1986). This trend is followed by an increase in the generation and use of knowledge through investments in R&D, use of ICT, patenting, and development of scientists and engineers in the OECD countries (OECD, 2010).

The aeronautic sector is highly dependent on ICT technologies and systems for product design and the management of complex supply chains, is knowledge intensive, and represents an important case of innovation towards industrialization. The aircraft industry has been considered of strategic importance for nations due to their potential contribution to industrial dynamics, innovation, human capital development, enhancement and maintenance of national security systems and socioeconomic development in general. In fact, it has been the most important industry to US economy in terms of skilled production employment, value-added and exports (MacPherson and Pritchard, 2003).

The issue is how regions and economies develop processes of transforming human capital into competitive advantages in different sectors, and are able to contribute to knowledge generation and commercialize technology and from their acquire socioeconomic resilience. Or, in other words, how can regions benefit and use their increasing knowledge capabilities given by the growing levels of education? In addition, how far we all take advantage of opportunities that arise with the increasingly dynamic and globally distributed geography of innovation, as well as how it fosters a new global order and helps others to use similar advantages at local levels is an open question.