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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 13:26 GMT
34m 'green' research at Airbus
Rhodri Morgan meets Airbus workers at Broughton on Monday

A 34m investment aimed at developing greener aircraft has been confirmed for the Airbus factory in Flintshire.

The UK government will provide 17m towards the Integrated Wing programme at the plant in Broughton.

Trade and Industry secretary Alistair Darling, First Minister Rhodri Morgan and the chief executive of Airbus Louis Gallois are visiting the plant.

Mr Darling said the research project meant Britain was "leading the drive for greener aerospace technology".

The factory employs about 7,000 people making wings, including for the world's largest airliner, the A380.

As a result of the announcement, 50 jobs have been created at Filton, South Gloucestershire.

Mr Darling explained why the UK government was backing the project, calling British excellence in aerospace design, development and delivery "world renowned".

Today's given the whole site a really good feeling
John Marshall, Broughton engineer

He said: "This project looks to the future of aircraft design and brings together our best from the drawing board to the factory floor.

"By being smart and working as one - from wings to landing gear, fuel systems to electronics - we can lead.

"Innovation and creativity like this are crucial if we are to win in the global economy."

The research programme will be led by the Broughton plant but will involve other technology companies and four universities across the UK. A total of 17 organisations will take part.

The research programme will be led by the Broughton plant

The UK government said it was a "core element" of the UK's aerospace technology strategy and could lead to a "step change" in future civil aircraft wing design.

The research includes developing new technology which will improve design and contribute to more fuel efficient aircraft.

An Airbus spokeswoman said that funding was available for the industry to "look at ways of achieving this for 2020.

The industry would "look at the research programmes we've done so far and see if they can move them forward.

"The research is geared to making them more environmentally-sensitive and more effective."

'Very encouraging'

Gordon McConnell, head of engineering at Airbus UK, said the project would "provide a platform for future innovative aircraft designs and will help to ensure that Airbus and our partners in this programme will retain our competitive position".

Mr Morgan said it was a "joint effort" involving Wales, the south west and south east of England and Northern Ireland which would pave the way for the industry "to maintain its lead in wing technology".

It comes after recent knocks to workers' confidence over their future at the plant.

Airbus's parent company EADS plans to outsource half the work on its latest plane, the A350.

Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois refused to confirm on Monday that the wings for the A350 would definitely be made at Broughton.

Mr Gallois said he could not give a cast-iron promise regarding any one site, as all other sites would be looking for the same assurances.

But he did say that Broughton was the centre of excellence for wing production.

John Marshall, a graduate engineer, said of Monday's announcement: "It's definitely going to give people an increased feeling of security within the whole of the UK aerospace industry.

"Today's given the whole site a really good feeling."

Sally Derrick, who works in manufacturing operations, added: "It's obviously very encouraging because we need this manufacturing base to stay in Broughton."

"We do need the investment to carry on"

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