UPDATED: Airborne accelerates growth through capital injection

Joint investment by South Holland and North Brabant

Airborne International, manufacturer of composites (high performance fiber-reinforced plastics), has received a capital injection of € 12 million specifically to foster its growth in the aerospace sector. The Hague-based company wants to invest in new technologies that will allow them to produce composites more efficiently. Additionally, Airborne sees opportunities to expand its maintenance services at the Woensdrecht Air Base. Hans de Boer, President of the Employers’ Association at VNO-NCW, officially announced the investment during his working visit to the Digital Factory, which is the field lab of Airborne Composites Automation.

The growth capital comes from a consortium consisting of four investors: InnovationQuarter, Brabant Development Agency (BOM), Pangaea Ventures and HPE Growth Capital. In 2010, HPE already made an important growth capital injection in Airborne. For Pangaea Ventures, which focuses on modern materials, this is their first investment in the Netherlands.

Airborne delivers its advanced composite solutions to key players in the fields of Aerospace, Defense and Marine Industries. As a preferred supplier, Airborne develops, engineers, qualifies, produces and maintains composite products, for use under the most demanding conditions.

V.l.n.r.: Arno van Mourik (CEO Airborne), Hans de Boer (voorzitter VNO-NCW) © Daniel Verkijk

In the rapidly growing market for composites, the emphasis is increasingly being placed on the broad industrialization of the composite production process. Besides the development and production of composite components, Airborne builds and implements automation solutions which are both large-scale and flexible, while at the same time, providing industrial production at internationally competitive price levels.

AUTOMATION AND MAINTENANCE

Founder and CEO Arno van Mourik is pleased with the investors’ confidence: “Part of the capital injection will be used to improve our automation. We also plan to put some of the capital into building and expanding our maintenance activities at Woensdrecht Air Base. The demand for lightweight and low maintenance solutions is increasing rapidly, and the major challenge now is affordability. Composite production needs to be brought up to a truly industrial level, and there are no standard solutions currently available. With the support from investors, such as InnovationQuarter and BOM, specialized companies, such as Airborne, can obtain a leading position worldwide in this development.”

INVESTMENT PARTNERS FROM TWO PROVINCES

It is the first time that the regional development agencies InnovationQuarter (Province of South Holland) and BOM (Province of North Brabant) are working together to provide growth capital. Both agencies invest venture capital in promising innovative enterprises that strengthen the regional economy. Airborne is represented in both provinces, hence the close co-operation.

In The Hague, where the company was founded, Airborne developed automated production lines for composite products, together with Siemens and Kuka. This ‘digital factory’ is an example of the Smart Industry Action Agenda – a self-managed factory where people issue the commands, but computers provide the information on which production should run. Airborne Services was established in Woensdrecht. The maintenance site for military helicopter rotor blades is still being used, but the company sees many opportunities to expand their services to civil aviation, including services for international customers.

Deputy of the Province of South Holland Adri Bom-Lemstra heartily welcomes the development agencies’ joint investment: “Aerospace is a market segment in the high-tech manufacturing industry of South Holland with promising prospects. Airborne is a major player in this market, and through more efficient production of composite products, the company can further strengthen its position.”

V.l.n.r.: Jurgen van Eck (BOM), Hans Dröge (BOM), Arno van Mourik (Airborne), Hans de Boer (VNO-NCW), Rinke Zonneveld (InnovationQuarter) Carolien Sants (InnovationQuarter), Jean-Paul van Damme (BOM) © Daniel Verkijk

EMPLOYMENT AND INNOVATION

The investors see Airborne International as a very progressive company, with a technological edge in robotic automation. Airborne strengthens employment and innovation in both regions. Francis Quint, Head of InnovationQuarter Capital, stated: “Since the very beginning, Airborne has offered solid employment opportunities and innovation to the region. It is expected that the number of employees in South Holland will increase by 50% over the next five years (currently 115 positions). South Holland has a strong maritime and aviation sectors, and an investment in Airborne can therefore be seen as a direct reinforcement of these sectors. Major clients are located here, and to remain innovative, Airborne works closely with key regional knowledge offices, such as the Technical University of Delft, and the Dutch technical research bureau TNO. “

BOM finds the innovative power of Airborne a major asset to achieve its ambitious growth plans. Miriam Dragstra, Director of BOM Capital, stated: “Our joint investment with InnovationQuarter will provide part of the capital. This investment underscores our goal to further strengthen the maintenance, logistics and smart manufacturing sectors, and we expect to achieve employment growth of more than 60 positions. “

Deputy of the Province of North Brabant Bert Pauli (Economics and Internationalization) is happy with the arrival of Airborne to the Woensdrecht Air Base. “Airborne’s high-quality products and services are not only important for Aviolanda and the Air Base, but also for the ecosystem we are building around aircraft maintenance. That ecosystem unites different key sectors, and is also of great significance for the rest of Brabant and the Netherlands. As a region with the highest density of these important industries, we are in an excellent position. The ultimate goal is to create as many jobs as possible! “

Also the Ministry of Economic Affairs welcomes this financial contribution. The Ministry has supported Airborne on previous occasions. In January during the informal Competiveness Council in Amsterdam, Minister of Economic Affairs H.E. Mr. Kamp presented Airborne as a smart and innovative company. During this event all European Ministers presented a high profile entrepreneur from their own member state.