Scandinavian suppliers association, FKG says it has worries surrounding future R&D financing following the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) in 2019.

Britain recently started what are sure to be two years of marathon horse-trading between London and Brussels, with the manufacturing sector among many to raise concerns about continuing tariff-free access and no border restrictions, but research funding questions are also being highlighted.

“There are a lot of R&D programmes funded by the European Parliament together with the UK,” FKG CEO, Fredrik Sidahl told just-auto at European supplier body, CLEPA’s annual Innovation Awards in Rome. “I am afraid what will happen when we stop these very fruitful programmes.

“We don’t know the result of Brexit, but I hope they continue to fund ways to have European R&D. When the UK took the decision to be [the] specialist in drivetrain it is a little bit stupid for Europe to split. We have to stick together otherwise the Far East will conquer, take over.

“We would like to have as soft, as soft as possible Brexit. You can imagine all these difficult technical regulations, new forms to be filled out. You don’t even have forms today in Europe, you just ship your goods to each other. There was no topic [in UK referendum] about Free Trade Agreements, this is about immigration and trust for the political system, the same reason as happened in the US.”

Despite the febrile atmosphere currently percolating through the negotiations between London and Brussels, the Scandinavian supplier chief nonetheless detects a thread of optimism among his members after a challenging few years for manufacturing in Europe.

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“We made a survey asking how business is going?” added Sidahl. “How do you see the future? [and] 98% of suppliers said we feel positive or very positive about our business. It is positive momentum – sky-high compared to the year before. Volvo is doing great, we have new cooperations, like the [one with] Autoliv and Zenuity [joint venture between Autoliv and Volvo Cars].

“We have a truck industry – Scania and Volvo Trucks – and market shares are coming back and in Russia specifically in construction equipment.

“Russia is coming back slowly, China is still a growing market but on lower figures, [while] Europe is growing faster than it has.”

Another country of great interest for FKG continues to be Iran and the association – along with its component counterparts in France and Germany – has banged the European drum for suppliers looking to enter the country for some time.

Sidahl has led delegations to Tehran and elsewhere in the country now emerging from decades of sanctions imposed by the West nervous of Iran’s supposed nuclear ambitions and the Scandinavian influence is continuing to reap rewards.

“[There is] Still a very high interest in Iran,” noted Sidahl. “We will have a delegation [from] Iran in Jönköping to follow up our visit in Tehran two years ago. There is still interest but it grows slowly and the reason for that is companies are still uncertain what will happen in the Middle East.

“I thought the supply industry should be faster to find cooperation inside Iran together with other companies than has actually happened.”

CLEPA’s Innovation Awards took place in Rome with the top three winners in each category receiving recognition for work in the fields of Environment, Safety, Connectivity & Automation and co-operation with fellow automotive companies.