The aeronautical industry, composite and mechatronics companies
in the Basque Country
Due to its strategic location and its natural and human resources, the Basque Country has been an important part of the aeronautics industry in France for several years. Attractive and dynamic, our region benefits from a large ecosystem around mechatronics, composites and aeronautics. We tell you more about this industry and the major companies.
The aeronautical industry in the Basque Country
As a historic cradle of aeronautics, where the famous Wright brothers, pioneers of aviation, liked to land, the Basque Country today offers an exceptional pool of skills. The presence of companies as emblematic as Safran Helicopters or Dassault Aviation make the Pyrénées-Atlantiques a place of choice for the aeronautical industry. A total of 200 companies and 9,000 jobs represent the sector in the Basque Country, making it one of the pioneer regions of the aeronautics and space industry in France. The Dassault Aviation factory in Anglet, for example, employs 900 people and produces parts for the Falcon jets and Rafale aircraft.
In 2022, the Basque country was chosen by the Canadian company Optima Aero to set up its European headquarters. Based in Anglet, the company specializing in the reuse of aeronautical parts for helicopters has inaugurated its industrial site, which is particularly strategic for the company and the aeronautical industry in France. Located 2 hours by road from Bordeaux, where the Aerospace Valley world competitiveness cluster is located, Optima Aero benefits from its proximity to potential customers and suppliers. Aerospace Valley, located in New Aquitaine and Occitania, aims to consolidate France’s world leadership in Space and civil aeronautics (commercial and business aircraft), and to strengthen its position of excellence in embedded systems (electronic systems and autonomous computing).
Committed to the circular economy, Optima Aero wishes to develop its offers and services in order to recondition aeronautical industry parts, and will be able to take advantage of the ecosystem and skills present in our territory.
Composite companies in the Basque Country
The composite sector is well represented in New Aquitaine and is booming, particularly in the aeronautics, automotive and nautical sectors. This sector (plastics and composites industry) represents a turnover of 31 billion euros in France, achieved by 3,800 companies employing 133,000 people. 22% of this turnover is achieved through exports. (Source: entreprises.gouv.fr)
The Basque Country has no shortage of assets and know-how in the sector, notably with the Technocité site, located in Bayonne and hosting around 30 composites companies specializing in advanced materials, robotics and aeronautics, such as :
Compositadour, the composite and robotics technical platform dedicated to composite materials at ESTIA (Ecole Supérieure des Technologies Industrielles Avancées): it promotes collaboration and innovation between research, training and industry. Major investments have enabled the installation of equipment dedicated to the manufacture of composite parts at the highest technological level (in particular a Coriolis robot and a KUKA platform). Also part of Compositadour, we can mention Addimadour, a platform dedicated to metal additive manufacturing, and Roboticadour.
Pika Composites, which is experiencing strong development and whose customers are major aeronautical contractors: Dassault Aviation, Astrium, Turbomeca, Daher-Socata. Pika Composites’ core business is the design and manufacture of high-performance composites and semi-finished or finished parts for industry, aeronautics and the marine sector.
Akira Technologies, having an activity in different sectors: aeronautics, motorbike (engine development) and defense industry. In 2018, the company took over Price Induction, a company specializing in aeronautical motorisation and based in Anglet, in order to further complement its expertise. It will also create the Turbolab in partnership with ESTIA.
This network of companies ensures highly qualified subcontracting, particularly in the field of high-performance composite materials (approximately 2,000 jobs). The Basque Country has developed certain aeronautical programmes for Airbus, Boeing, Eurocopter, Safran and Dassault Aviation.
Composites companies in France are constantly involved in research and technological development. In order to be at the heart of the new trends and innovations in the sector, Basque Invest is a partner of the JEC group. The JEC, organizer of the composites trade fairs, federates the world composites industry and offers an overview of processes, new materials and composite solutions. Compositadour, ESTIA’s technical and robotics platform, was awarded the 2015 JEC Award in the “Aeronautics” category for its participation in the “Design and manufacture of a self-stiffening fuselage panel” project carried out in partnership with HEXCEL, STELIA and CORIOLIS COMPOSITES.
Mechatronics companies in the Basque Country
According to Artema, the mechatronics industry association, “mechatronics is a technology that combines mechanics, electronics, computing and new information and communication technologies”. For all sectors, and particularly aeronautics, its aim is to make systems and components more intelligent in order to constantly improve processes. Mechatronics companies in France have a turnover of around 6 billion euros.
In the Basque Country, thanks to the Technocité cluster in Bayonne and the Izarbel Technopole in Bidart, specialized in advanced digital technology, we are fortunate to host innovative mechatronics companies that can develop and test solutions very easily with local companies. This is the case, for example, of 2MoRo, a company in the Sopra Steria group specializing in software for the aeronautics and defense industries. 2MoRo also has a research and development lab where it works on applications, technologies and augmented reality concepts. As a partner of the biggest names in aeronautics such as Airbus or Safran, it can benefit from the ecosystem of companies in the Basque Country in order to design offers adapted to the needs and trends of the market.
Aeronautics, mechatronics, composites: what are the benefits of setting up in the Basque Country?
The aeronautics, mechatronics and composites industry in the Basque Country is a historically dynamic sector. It is a growing sector, creating jobs and undergoing a process of renewal, and is constantly seeking innovation, new technologies and new production processes in order to become more sustainable. The Technocité cluster, located in Bayonne and in partnership with Aerospace Valley, is the very symbol of this sector of excellence in the Basque Country, with companies that have been established for several years or that are more recent, and whose objective is the same: to transform the aeronautics industry in the Basque Country in order to make our region a forerunner.
Thanks to the ESTIA school, our region has the qualified skills and training to develop this industry: mechatronics engineers, project engineers, robotisation and processes of the future, etc. The school has also developed a specific course in partnership with the CFAI (Aquitaine Industry Training Center) to train the mechatronics engineers of tomorrow: the three-year mechatronics and embedded systems engineer course, which can be completed as an apprenticeship in the region’s leading companies.
In addition to its talent and skills, the location and lifestyle offered by the Basque Country is also an important criterion of choice, as Toby Gauld, CEO of Optima Aero, which recently set up its European subsidiary in the Basque Country, points out: “To attract the best talent, with a taste for innovation, you have to offer a pleasant environment.”
Proud to have helped the establishment of composites, mechatronics and aeronautics companies such as Optima Aero during the last years, Basque Invest is present to help you on the potential development axis of your company. Our objective is to help you discover all the assets of our territory, its actors, its ecosystem, so that you can set up your business serenely and under the best conditions.