“A modern economy ignores innovation at its peril”; this stark warning was the theme of Tom Enders' 102nd Wilbur and Orville Wright lecture..

The CEO of EADS, soon to become Airbus Group, put forward a compelling case for national investment in advanced technology manufacturing.  He naturally focused on the importance of aircraft, defence and space programmes, but the message was a timely reminder that Europe and the UK could not rely entirely on services to provide employment and high-value exports. Benefits from aerospace flowed generally into the economy, where a euro spent on R&D would generate two euros of added value. Dr Enders also forcibly put the case for Britain in Europe.  The UK was a powerful defender of free trade and of de-regulation. Without this voice, Europe would close its frontiers; buying short term relief from competition at the expense of long term competitiveness. Britain was needed in Europe to influence events and to promote best practice. 

In the aerospace sector, the UK government had taken several important initiatives to underpin Britain’s contribution to European aerospace.  The Aerospace Growth Partnership, the Space Industry Growth Strategy and the current work on the Defence Growth Partnership continued a government-industry partnership that would keep the country in the forefront of world aerospace. But this would all be for naught unless there was a continued flow of young people coming into the industry.  Investment in scientific and technological education was vital.  And this had to tap all available talent, especially young women who, he hoped, would emulate the career of the Society’s President, Jenny Body. 

The Wilbur and Orville Wright Lecture was established to honour the two pioneering brothers who completed the first successful controlled powered flight on 17 December 1903.  In the words of Boeing's Tony Parasida, who delivered last year's Lecture, Wilbur and Orville Wright “changed the world through their creativity, innovation and hard work …. wherever we labour in this field, we’re standing on their shoulders, and we’re building upon their legacy”. 

Prior to the Lecture, a presentation of RAeS Honours, Medals & the Young Persons' Achievement Award was made to the winners for 2013.  As the most prestigious and long-standing awards in global aerospace, the RAeS Honours, Medals and Awards honour achievements and recognise the innovation and excellence of both individuals and teams.  They are conferred for achievements and contributions in all disciplines of the global aerospace industry.  

Nominations for 2014 are now being accepted so please complete the nomination form by 31 March 2014 to submit your choice for a worthy recipient or team. The Lecture and Awards were followed by a black tie dinner for over a hundred invited guests, including senior figures from the military and industry. 

If you were unable to attend this year's Wilbur and Orville Wright Lecture, the audio will be available on the Society's website as a podcast in the New Year. The Royal Aeronautical Society is grateful to EADS for their sponsorship of this event.

Gail ward
17 December 2013