Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Avio head: Europe risks becoming a 'half-baked cake'

From Richard Quest, CNN
updated 3:20 PM EDT, Thu April 12, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The head of aerospace firm Avio says a new model is needed for European growth
  • Europe must innovate to avoid being "squeezed" by the muscle of China and the U.S.
  • Avio is the prime contractor for the Vega rocket system, first launched in February
  • The system is for small satellites, which Avio believes will drive the aerospace market

London (CNN) -- Europe risks being squeezed between "low-cost China" and "high-tech America" unless it can rediscover the knack for innovation, says the head of aerospace company Avio.

Francesco Caio, the CEO of Turin-based Avio, told me that Europe's prospects were bleak unless it could find a "new frontier of innovation."

"Europe runs the risk of (being) squeezed between the muscles of low-cost China and the innovation of high-tech America," said Caio, a corporate high-flyer whose resume includes heading Cable and Wireless, Indesit and Olivetti.

"I am genuinely concerned that if Europe is not determined to go all the way we run the risk of having a 'half-baked cake' -- which would be very dangerous if ... digested."

Europe runs the risk of (being) squeezed between the muscles of low-cost China and the innovation of high-tech America
Francesco Caio, CEO of Italy's Avio

European leaders need to face the fact that "an industrial model that has worked very well to create wealth and growth has come to an end," he said.

"That is the challenge and that is the role of leadership in Europe -- (to) make sure we have the ideas, vision and new ability to mobilize the great forces and strength that Europe has for growth."

Avio is the prime contractor for Vega, the new European rocket system designed to launch the small satellites that are expected to be the main driver of the aerospace industry.

Watching the Vega's maiden launch from the Guiana Space Center in February had been exhilarating, said Caio.

"You put seven years of development on the line -- you have a few seconds in which the system needs to perform particularly well," he said. "It was a relief in the first 12 seconds, the first 24 seconds, and then it was off."

Made from carbon fiber, the Vega uses a solid propellant which gives it faster speeds than the Ariane 5.

"I think it lowers the barriers to entry for satellite launch, and for the exploration and exploitation of space technology, for smaller companies, university centers," he said.

Of the nine satellites launched into orbit by Vega rockets so far, seven had been developed by European students.

Despite the gloom surrounding his country's economic fortunes, Caio said there were "two stories" for Italian business at present.

"Companies that have a mix of domestic and export are doing very well, indeed, because they have hooked on to growing markets," he said. "People who have been focused just on domestic market? Yes, they are suffering."

Avio was now looking to Brazil and China for growth, said Caio. "We're going where new consumers are learning the beauty of flight."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
updated 11:31 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
updated 11:30 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
updated 11:40 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
updated 4:23 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
updated 4:14 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
updated 1:15 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
updated 2:03 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
updated 4:25 AM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
updated 6:16 AM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
updated 7:00 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
updated 1:41 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
updated 12:17 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.
ADVERTISEMENT