Fabián Varas received a degree as a Telecommunications Engineer from the Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña, and has a Master’s Degree in Innovation Management from La Salle International Graduate School, training in digital transformation from ICEMD-ESIC and in entrepreneurship from Stanford University and the University of California – Berkeley. He is the Technical Director of CTA. Previously, he was the technical manager of the ICT sector at CTA, where he was an evaluator and consultant for R&D+i projects. Prior to that, he started his career at BT in the UK, becoming an expert in wireless technologies and radio spectrum management. He has 20 years of experience in the execution and management of R&D+i business projects.

“The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different,” management expert Peter Drucker used to say, adding that “the best way for us to get ahead of the future is to create it.” The Andalusian aerospace sector is facing a period packed with uncertainty, especially after the storm caused by COVID-19, and the industrial and air transport stoppage that the health crisis has caused. Innovation is one of the most powerful tools for dealing with contexts of change and uncertainty like the one we are now experiencing, since it is one of the best ways to find new paths and new opportunities, or “create them”, as Drucker said.
And this is not something that only CTA is saying: according to the ImpaCTA report, 90% of the companies that are developing R&D+i projects financed by CTA confirm that it has helped them to improve their competitiveness. Without a doubt, a continued commitment to R&D+i is a competitive factor for any company, especially for SMEs, which account for more than 90% of Spain’s productive fabric. An orderly and stable innovation strategy helps to achieve elements of differentiation with respect to the competition, as well as to adapt the business to a market in continuous change, both because of new technological trends that are emerging and because of new customer demands.
This is demonstrated by the case of Titania, a CTA member company and leader in aerospace materials and process testing. R&D+i is a distinguishing feature of the company, which was born from a research group at the University of Cadiz (UCA) and has state-of-the-art equipment for research projects in surface treatments and composite materials. This is certainly one of the ingredients that explain its base of more than 100 customers and its contracts in the main European aeronautical hubs.

“Thanks to innovation, Titania has managed to adapt the service it provides to its customers”

One of the R&D+i projects developed by Titania with CTA funding, called Nanodizing, applies nanotechnology for the development of chromium-free aeronautical anodizing. The most common anodizing technique in the industry to make composite materials resistant to corrosion used a solution of hexavalent chromium as the electrolyte. However, the chemical’s dangerousness and toxicity (it is considered to be carcinogenic) led to its inclusion in the European REACH regulation and to the restriction of its use. The aerospace industry therefore reacted by developing new, more environmentally and health-friendly anodizing methods. Titania’s project has developed a chromium-free anodizing method that presents better behaviour against corrosion than other new alternative methods. Thus, thanks to innovation, Titania has managed to adapt the service it provides to its customers.

The Andalusian aeronautical industry, made up of more than 130 companies with a turnover of 2,530 million euros and employing nearly 16,000 professionals in the region, contributes 1.57% to Andalusia’s GDP and has a significant weight in exports. The huge direct impact of the coronavirus crisis and the high dependence on the Airbus industry as a motor are clouding the future of this valuable industrial fabric. Apart from possible plans for specific aid to the sector, such as that already launched in France or as is being demanded by the Andalusian government, one of the best ways to deal with this stage of uncertainty and instability is a solid R&D+i strategy on the part of each company. This will be the key to remaining competitive and finding new ways to grow in the future.