Feb 04, 2015

The Way Forward for Europe’s Space Industry

The space industry appears to be edging towards increased privatization. How will this change the industry and how will the European space sector adapt to this brave new world? Speakers gathered at last week’s Seventh Annual Conference on European Space Policy to discuss the issue.

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Investment in Space

The market may be growing increasingly privatised but many speakers insisted that public investment is key. According to Jerzy Buzek, Chair of the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee in the European Parliament, the EU needs more investment in research and development and innovation to create a European space market. “The money should be brought back to innovation sector. Investment in space is an absolute must – an ambitious space policy will boost competition and also the safety of citizens.”

Isabelle Sourbès-Verger, a researcher at CNRS (Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique) insisted that it is the US government’s long-term investment in space that has allowed for the emergence of new actors on the private side like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Sourbès-Verger noted, “They are benefitting from public investment by the US. It is the strength of a robust public program with public support that makes it different from rest of the world.”

Sourbès-Verger pointed to the fact that Europe is far behind the budget investment being made by US and Russia (as a percentage of GDP). She suggested that cooperation is one way of improving in the future.

Industrial Policy for Space

Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General, European Space Agency (ESA), also pointed to the importance of industrial policy, naming it as the “spinal cord” for the space sector. He emphasised the importance of maintaining partnerships with both public authorities and industry and stressed the role of public procurement for space.

François Auque, Head of Space Systems at Airbus Defence and Space, supported this point insisting that public procurement could serve as a lever to develop innovation. He also noted that Europe is the major exporter of observation satellites thanks to Airbus: “We are going to go further in the future and are in the process of extending the private market but this depends on innovation and risk taking.”

“What do we expect from the public authorities?” Auque asked, “We expect to be given a level playing field and the funding of research and development.” Jean-Loïc Galle, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space, also called for the creation of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between industry and the European Commission.

Increased Competition – An Asset for Europe

Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director-General of the DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs was keen to underline the advantages inherent in the new reality: “Competition is an asset because it will compel us to be more competitive. New markets are opening up for industry … We must use our market to gain access to third country markets.”

Barry A. Matsumori, Senior Vice President of SpaceX which is among the private companies shaking up the industry in the US, echoed Delsaux’s point: “We hope that people see that SpaceX has brought competition to the table. And competition is a sign that capital markets are interested in investing and innovation is happening.” Matsumori added, “We have partners and customers in Europe. I look at this as a world market place.”

For further information, please visit www.spaceconference.eu/intro.html

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