Which industrial policies in Europe for the Space

By Elżbieta BIEŃKOWSKA, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The EU is a global leader in the space domain. Space technology, data and services are an intricate part of the daily lives of European citizens. EU investment has enabled the development of European space technologies at a unprecedented level and speed.

The EU has so far invested some EUR 14 billion to develop and operate the best Earth observation system in the world Copernicus and the best satellite positioning system in the world Galileo. Copernicus sets global standards by offering the most accurate climate and environmental data, 24/7. With Copernicus, we are monitoring Earth; we are saving lives at sea or in the aftermaths of natural disasters. Galileo is delivering beyond expectation: it is the most precise global satellite navigation system in the world, with a precision of around 20cm. Some 700 million users worldwide use it and this number is growing every day.

As Europeans, we are proud of these world reference programmes! Not a single EU Member State could have done it alone. This is the successful result of European cooperation.

Europe is a true space power with world-class European space industry. For the next EU budget for 2021-2027, the Commission proposed an increased budget for the EU Space Programme of EUR 16bn. The new budget will be used first, to maintain and upgrade the existing infrastructures of Galileo and Copernicus, so that our systems remain at the top. Second we will adapt to new needs, such as fighting climate change, security or internet of things.

In addition, two new initiatives will serve the security objective: (i) a Space Situational Awareness system to avoid collision and debris on key satellites and which could constitute an embryo of a European Space Traffic Management & (ii) a Governmental Satellite Communication initiative to provide Member States with reliable and secure satellite communication.

Further to improving the lives of our citizens, the EU Space programme impacts positively on the EU space industry in terms of revenue, employment and technology innovation, but also far beyond the traditional space industry.

The overall benefits of our programme for the EU economy are estimated around EUR 120 and EUR 195 bn over the next 20 years. These benefits represent a return of investment for Europe of between 10 to 20 times the costs of the programme.

Thousands of companies rely on free Copernicus data and Galileo satellite navigation signals to innovate, to develop new products and services and to start new business concepts, creating new jobs and boosting growth.

However, Europe cannot rest on its past achievements in space. Massive changes are undergoing in the space sector worldwide, with new entrants private or public, new business models and disruptive technologies.

The space sector is going through an industrialisation process. The cost of doing space and accessing space has been dramatically cut, and will continue to decrease.

This is therefore paramount for the European Space Sector to act and react to these changes. Failing to do so, it is Europe global position that is at stake.

For this, we need first in Europe a change of mind-sets towards a European approach to ‘New Space’. This is true for the industry, but also for the public authorities. We need to accept to take more risks. We need to open up our tools, such as procurement, to more innovative solutions. We need to open space to new sectors and business models. We need to develop space hubs that will bring together actors from the space and digital sectors at regional and national levels, as well as support entrepreneurs and companies who want to use and develop space-based applications, from green and smart farming to smart mobility.

Synergies are there we need to exploit them. Space can act as multiplier when integrated to non-space sectors.

The new EU Space Programme will precisely foster this new space ecosystem in Europe. We will promote space entrepreneurship so that space start-ups can grow in Europe. We will support innovation partnerships, and develop dedicated financial instruments for space start- ups and scale-ups, including a European Space equity fund under the InvestEU umbrella. We will also make it easier to access space and test new technologies in space through an in-orbit testing programme. This will be a strong innovation accelerator.

Second, we need to acknowledge that Space is a strategic asset for Europe. This is not only a question of economics, but a question of strategic autonomy and non-technological dependence from third countries. Galileo, while compatible with GPS, can work independently from it. Copernicus provides an independent monitoring system of planet Earth. Both are central to Europe’s strategic autonomy and security.

Space is an enabler of Security. There should not be any more taboo in Europe about the link between space and defence.

Through the EUR 13bn European Defence Fund that the Commission propose, we will support the development of space based defence applications and capabilities.

Additionally, there is no Space policy for Europe without autonomous access to space. This is why we will support a European access to space, through European launchers, by aggregating our institutional demand, supporting ground infrastructures and deploying new technologies.

Our challenge in the next years is to explore new approaches and new business models to better leverage Europe’s position in the global space sector.

The EU space programme will help us to achieve this, together.