Zenith Aerotechnics (formerly Qapex) is expanding in the aeronautics cluster near the Marseille Provence Airport

success story
Zenith Aerotechnics (formerly Qapex) is expanding in the aeronautics cluster near the Marseille Provence Airport
Romuald Mantelin, Founder and President of Zenith Aerotechnics
07 September 2023 / Aeronautics , doing business in provence

The company is thriving in the dynamic Aix-Marseille aeronautics ecosystem

Following the acquisition of the Zenith Aviation business unit from Safran in September 2022, Qapex became Zenith Aerotechnics. The company, which specializes in ground refueling equipment for civil and military aircraft, continues to grow from its base in the South of France. Founded by Romuald Mantelin in the Paris area, the company moved to Aix-Marseille in 2020 with the support of Provence Promotion. To meet its growth objectives, Zenith Aerotechnics is now expanding in the Technoparc des Florides in Marignane, a dedicated aeronautics zone close to the Marseille Provence Airport. To date, the company has hired ten local staff, with plans to recruit three more employees in the near future.

“When my team and I decided to set up Qapex in Provence four years ago, Covid didn’t make things any easier, but we were greatly encouraged by local stakeholders, in particular Provence Promotion, which quickly put us in touch with key players in the area, including the armed forces. This support reinforced our confidence in the vibrancy of the aeronautics industry in Provence,” explains Romuald Mantelin, the Founder and President of Qapex, which has since been renamed Zenith Aerotechnics.

The company provides aircraft refueling solutions and is developing its business around three core activities: product supply, filtration systems, and fuel transfer equipment.

"After Qapex made the strategic acquisition of Zenith Aviation, a division of Safran, the company changed its name to Zenith Aerotechnics, thus retaining the brand’s well-established reputation in the aerospace industry. “Today, we are proud to be able to embrace a history of over 100 years in the field of fuel transfer equipment,” says Romuald Mantelin.

With 60% of its sales generated by exports, Zenith Aerotechnics plays a crucial role in the international aeronautics sector, particularly in Europe and Africa, which is a high-potential market.

The company is expanding its facilities near the Marseille Provence Airport

When the company arrived in the South of France, it first established a base in Marseille before taking up a lease in July 2022 in mixed-use facilities at the Technoparc des Florides in Marignane close to the Marseille Provence Airport. This opportunity, which arose from the acquisition of Zenith Aviation from Safran, enabled the assembly and test activities, which were previously based in Roche la Molière in the Loire area of France, to be relocated to Marignane.

“The location of the Technoparc des Florides is ideal for our aeronautical activities. The site is easy to access for transport companies, and we’re in a calm environment close to major customers such as the Marseille Provence Airport and Airbus Helicopters,” explains Romuald Mantelin.

The current site (200 square meters of offices and 700 square meters of workshop space) will soon be expanded to include 1500 square meters spread over three buildings, enabling better organization of logistics, storage, assembly, testing, and associated manufacturing activities.

The company’s decision to locate to Provence was also motivated by the strong presence of military activities in the area, such as the Istres and Salon de Provence bases, as well as the CEPIA inter-army petroleum expertise center in Marseille.

Preserving “Made in France” expertise

While the filtration business is historically linked to a partnership with a German firm, for the equipment supplied by Zenith, the company is proud to carry out all its sourcing and production in France. This is an important commitment both for the company and its civilian and military clients, who prefer local suppliers. In the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) economic zone, Zenith Aerotechnics is unique because it is the only European manufacturer of equipment and systems for aeronautical fuel transfers. The other three companies active in this specialized field are all American.

Supporting the French industrial economy is a powerful selling point, particularly for customers such as Total Aviation, the French army, and the SMCA aviation fuel handling company.

More growth and innovation are on the horizon

Since its creation in 2018, the company has experienced strong growth, multiplying its sales by four to reach more than €4 million in revenues in 2023. The team, initially made up of seven people, now has 15 members, and three new recruitments — a business engineer, a procurement manager, and a salesperson — are planned between now and the end of the year.

In terms of innovation, Zenith Aerotechnics is positioning itself in the French military market as part of the DGA military procurement agency’s initiative to renew the fleet of fuel delivery vehicles (the next-generation tanker truck market). Furthermore, with support from the BPI public investment bank, the company will soon be offering its clients significant new solutions for nozzles to provide even greater safety and tracking during refueling operations.

Zenith Aerotechnics is also exploring possible synergies with the Team Henri-Fabre shared innovation cluster in order to benefit from additional computing capacities and to carry out testing in both hot and cold chambers. Zenith Aerotechnics is even considering spurring growth through a second acquisition. “Our prospects are very promising,” concludes Romuald Mantelin. “This gives the team the opportunity to grow along with the company.”

And Zenith Aerotechnics’ success is further proof that France’s aeronautics industry is not limited to the traditional stronghold of Toulouse!