Positioning Europe as global hub of space entrepreneurship

The EU is getting ready for the next technological races

Photo: ESC Thierry Breton.

Economic recovery, development of secure public telecommunications, resilience, space and defence, digital and green transition are among the hot topics of the high-level debate during the 13th Space conference that is going hybrid, in Brussels and online, on 12 and 13 January.

The organiser Business Bridge Europe created conditions for the smooth running of the thirty sessions of the conference titled ‘Space embracing a changing world: green, digital, resilience and security’.

Among the participants are the President of the Council European, ministers, MEPs, EU Commissioners, directors-general, the new executive director of the GSA, the director-general of ESA, his successor and seven directors of the agency, directors of specialised European agencies, the EIB chief executive, presidents of national space agencies.

From the business community, on the list of participants are twenty CEOs, thirty vice-presidents and other managers as well as several senior representatives of the scientific world and from the technological research and development ecosystem.

Council President Charles Michel underscored that in the new budgetary space programme there are €14,9bn, which is a significant increase from our previous budget.

This will help step up support for a space industrial base that’s already highly competitive on private markets, with great potential for growth, from data to the Internet of Things, broadband, Earth observation and launch systems, President Michel specified.

“We are determined to do everything we can to support and facilitate access to financing in these fields, particularly for start-ups and SMEs. This is true for the space sector, and for the digital sector, which will boost the space economy.”

He also asserted that space has a direct impact on EU’s geopolitical goal of strategic autonomy. Europe is already a major player in space and if we must ensure safe, autonomous, reliable and affordable access to space, he said noting that “as competition in space increases, we need to use our weight as a global player to help build robust global governance”.

According to President Michel it will also be a challenge “how we manage space traffic and space debris. Space also offers commercial challenges, he believes.

Saying that 2020 has been an extraordinarily turbulent year, with the worst worldwide health crisis in the last century, Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton underlined that over the past year, the EU has made extremely important progress for the future of Europe’s space policy.

He pointed out that in addition to providing the largest budget ever at EU level for Space, it will be complemented to the investments that will be done in ESA and in the Member States.

The new EU space programme, the first of its kind for Europe that will allow to act on the European space policy in all its dimension, was also agreed. Implementation modalities are still under discussion, but I am confident we can find a way forward in the coming weeks, so to ensure continuity in the programmes while securing a modern, agile and efficient governance, the Commissioner said.

“Let me be crystal clear on one point: the European Space policy will continue to rely on ESA and its unique technical, engineering and science expertise. ESA will continue to be the European Agency for Space matters. So if we are to be successful in our European strategy for space, I will need ESA by my side.”

Commissioner Breton highlighted four key dimensions of his strategy for space in the years to come: consolidating Galileo and Copernicus, secure digital connections for the future, strategic autonomy in launchers and Space Traffic Management and Europe as space entrepreneurship hub.

He outlined that Galileo and Copernicus are established infrastructures, the best in the world and recognised as such, and also instrumental to the green and digital transition.

He stressed as well that Galileo and Copernicus must evolve, otherwise, they will fast become obsolete. This is the reason why the Commission decided to frontload the launch of the second generation of Galileo satellites, with a first launch in 2024.

There was no time to lose on past technologies as we needed to project Europe into the next technological races, he said adding that it might entail more risks, but this is the new reality of space business. In Europe, we must learn to take more risks, to anticipate them, to mitigate them, Commissioner Breton explained.

The last element of the space strategy for 2021 is to position Europe as the hub of space entrepreneurship in the world.

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