PARIS ― Onera, an aerospace research center, said it aims to shut down two sites in pursuit of its broad restructuring plan.
That reorganization is part the “structural outlook” for this year, Onera Chairman and CEO Bruno Sainjon said during a May 3 news conference on the 2017 financial results.
This year will see moves to shut down research facilities at Meudon and Chatillon, just outside the capital, and the staff moved to the Palaiseau headquarters on the Saclay plateau, a high-technology business park also in the suburbs.
A total of some 1,200 staff work at the three facilities near Paris and a shuttering of the two sites will require a few hundred personnel to move to headquarters, an Onera spokesman said.
Closing down the Meudon facility raises the question of what to do with the wind tunnel at the site. The Meudon wind tunnel is among a park of wind tunnels operated around France by Onera engineers, who work on aerodynamic tests for combat aircraft, missiles and civil airliners for French and foreign clients.
Onera must weigh up the benefit of holding on to all its wind tunnels against the cost of the funding needed to maintain the high-tech facilities.
The Chatillon facility consists mainly of offices for engineers.
Onera plans to invest €5.2 million (U.S. $6.23 million) this year in its large capacity and high-speed S1MA wind tunnel, a key system at the Modane facility in the French Alps. That investment is part of the total €28 million the agency plans to invest modernizing capabilities in 2018.
The financial outlook for 2018 is for a budget and French government funding similar to last year’s, said Jean Leger, Onera secretary general.
Onera 2017 net profit rose to €7.6 million from €4.8 million in the previous year. That higher profit last year was on a budget of €228 million, slightly down from €235 million in 2016. The 2016 budget was a particularly buoyant one, reflecting strong foreign contracts.
The Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office made an “exceptional grant” of €10 million last year, which boosted the budget. Of the total budget, the government funded €114.7 million, with the remaining €113 million won from commercial contracts. The park of wind tunnels won work orders worth €23 million.
Onera looked last year to win more business from small and medium enterprises, which account for 70 percent of contracts for the agency.
Last year was the first full year in a contract for objectives and performance (COP) signed with the government, which called for a restructuring of Onera.
“Onera hit the targets set by the COP with very good results, as much scientific as economic,” Sainjon said in a statement. “This success was due to the work of Onera staff and support from the Armed Forces Ministry.”
Last year marked the third in a row that Onera posted new profit, the agency said.
Onera came under criticism in 2015 from the National Audit Office, which published a report which pointed up a weak strategic approach and lack of competitive spirit. The NAO examined the record from 2008-2013, before the arrival of Sainjon.