“The current research focus is developing composite process solutions that are specifically adapted to meet the technical needs of the aerospace industry, such as those that can be repeatedly exposed to extreme temperatures without suffering a deterioration in quality or performance.”
Can you give us an introduction to Compose, and the services it provides to the aerospace industry in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes?
Compose initially focused solely on producing tools and molds for the automotive industry, until we decided in 2005 to change our strategy and integrate the aerospace market into our operations. Today, 60% of our revenue is generated by the aerospace market and we have long-term relationships with a wide range of leaders and SMEs in this industry, from across Europe. We are looking to expand our geographical presence further around the world, but we will need to form partnerships in order to do so.
What is the current R&D focus at Compose?
The current research focus is developing composite process solutions that are specifically adapted to meet the technical needs of the aerospace industry, such as those that can be repeatedly exposed to extreme temperatures without suffering a deterioration in quality or performance. The main difficulty we are facing is developing methods to transform materials that can then later be effectively manufactured in larger quantities.
We are part of the European project “CleanSky”, which aims to reduce CO2, gas emissions and noise produced by aircraft, while encouraging collaboration within the industry and the competitive performance of individual companies. Through this program, leading companies fund SME activities. Participating in projects like these is a difficult application process and only a few projects are accepted each year, but they are very worthwhile both in terms of the funding available and the experience of companies involved.
How does Compose differentiate itself from its competitors?
The main difference with our competitors is innovation; over the last 10 years we have invested more than 10% of our revenues in research and registered around 30 patents. One of our main assets is our wide range of innovative solutions for different technical requests, particularly those involving composite materials. Most companies are using similar technologies, so in order to stand out in a competitive market it is necessary to apply these technologies in very specific ways.
How do you see the rise in the global aerospace industry?
One of the main issues for our company is that we are an SME in an industry which requires a very high production capacity as it enters a ramp-up phase. Two years ago, we were approached by Boeing who had identified that we have very specific knowledge and abilities which could significantly reduce development and production timeframes, however the main problem is that to work with Boeing, you must be located in the US.
Since Compose is producing highly technical products, it does take a longer time to sell them, because we must find the specific customers who need our products and then we have to convince them that our technology is the right fit for them compared to other technologies available.
The aerospace industry is not a particularly conservative sector, but there is a need to update some methodologies. Over the past 30 years, the automotive industry has developed their production methods to a far more advanced level, and in my opinion the aerospace industry needs to make the same progress.
What is the future strategy for Compose?
Our future strategy is to grow as a company, not necessarily by entering new markets but rather by acquiring other companies within the aerospace industry. For SMEs to successfully work with leaders such as Airbus, they need to be generating revenues of over €20million; this is going to be a big barrier over the next few years for SMEs across France, but Compose is committed to meeting this goal. We see this as a huge opportunity to grow and develop rather than a barrier.