Go back

Commission allows €415m state aid for helicopter research

The European Commission has authorised France and Italy to loan €415 million in R&D state aid to two helicopter companies.

State aid means governments are using public money to support national businesses. In principle, it is not allowed in the EU to prevent member states from distorting business competition. But under the EU’s so-called R&D&I Framework (research, development and innovation) governments can give state aid to research organisations or businesses in specific circumstances.

In these two cases, the Commission decided that the proposed state aid is “proportionate” and acceptable because of the projects’ large scale and high risk.

The French government will provide helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter with a €143m advance. This will cover around 30 per cent of R&D costs to design an improved mid-weight helicopter, called X4. The advance will be refunded when a pre-defined sales target is attained, and the government will earn a royalty fee for additional sales.

Italy will provide a zero-interest loan worth €272m and spread over 19 years to company Agusta Westland. This includes about €94m of R&D state aid to develop the AW169 helicopter.

Competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia said in a statement that public loans to these two projects were “fully justified”.

“These two helicopters will bring significant progress in terms of flight security and reduced environmental impact. They will also help to increase European know‑how in leading-edge technologies,” he said.

The Commission said that these activities would help boost Campania, Lazio and Apulia, the under-developed areas in Italy where the R&D will be carried out.

The Commission completed a public consultation last month as part of a review to improve EU state aid rules for R&D&I (see RET articles via link below).