Andras Roboz ?± bringing space down to earth

26 October 2006
 
Andras Roboz joined DG Enterprise as Head of Unit for Space Policy and Coordination in September 2006. Following a varied career in research and government on both sides of the Atlantic, Andras Roboz joined the Commission from the Hungarian National Office of Research and Technology. After just one month in post, Roboz responds to questions about his aspirations for European Space Policy.
 
You have degrees in space science and physics ?± did you have an interest in space when you were younger?
 
Having a technical background in space research is certainly a bonus in this post. But I have also been involved in space policy, although my main activities were recently associated with R&D and innovation.
 
At school I realised that I wanted to study physics ?± it was the adventure of science that attracted me to the subject. I felt that science lets you act as a modern-day explorer ?± and I wanted to play my part in that adventure. The same applies for space as an inspiration. When I was a space science researcher it was a fantastic feeling to be able to work intelligently on objects and concepts that are millions and billions of kilometres from you.
 
In the recent past there have been some truly spectacular European space missions, such as the Cassini-Huygens mission to Titan, that have had very large public impact. How important are these space exploration missions compared to other programmes?
 
Space exploration is glamorous and the great adventures catch the public attention. But in many ways my main goal in space policy is to bring home to the European public that so many aspects of their normal daily life are dependant on services based in space. There needs to be a common feeling for the citizens of Europe that space ?´belongs?? to them. It is there for us ?± and we are making use of it. The citizens need to know how space can work for them and how the Commission is enabling this.
 
Galileo and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) are ?´flagship?? space projects for the EU ?± do you think Europe is aware of the new business opportunities that these systems will provide?
 
Galileo and GMES will have a big impact on EU citizens. The Galileo constellation of satellites will be an autonomous European civil system that offers improved global positioning services. It will have immediate applications for example in transport. That is why the EC is involved because we can see benefits from the system in terms of other European policies, like the transportation policy, R&D policy, the Common Agricultural Policy and many more areas.
 
The services for the public from GMES involve a more complex integration of data from space and also from other sensing systems in the air, on the land and sea. However the potential range of services is very broad indeed.
 
The large European companies involved in space are already heavily involved in the development, delivery and launch of these systems, but they will generate enormous opportunities for downstream industries ?± including many SMEs. The data from these systems will provide the basis for innovative and entrepreneurial service businesses. It is important that business people are aware of the possibilities and can start to think about the new business development this can offer.
 
For every aerospace job that is created and associated with the space system itself, a further five jobs can be created in the downstream sectors. This multiplication effect has large potential for growth and jobs in Europe and is the sort of development that underpins our aspirations for the new European knowledge-based economy.
 
What can space policy offer in terms of security and defence objectives?
 
Today we face a very different security environment compared to 15 years ago. Then there was a clear military threat to Europe. Today the threat is more dispersed but just as real: global terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and local or regional conflicts that impact on European economic interests and security.
 
Space policy helps to fulfil the global mission of Europe for security. Lets not forget that the ?´S?? in GMES stands for security. Everything is open from space in terms of monitoring events ?± nothing is hidden. A wide variety of crises can be monitored or the potential for crisis evaluated by an early warning system. Space-based systems also allow us to respond better during a crisis by providing robust communications and enabling crisis management. The need for this was clearly demonstrated in the recent crisis in Lebanon and after the Asian tsunami.
 
What are your ambitions for European Space Policy?
 
Firstly we must state that the Member States of both the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA) have given their full support to the development of a common space policy. We have already had three Joint ESA/ EU Space Councils in the past two years that have given clear orientations on how the policy should be built.
 
My own vision is based on a wish to see the European citizens receiving more benefits from space-based systems and consequently, truly appreciating these services. I see EU citizens being served by an array of space-based services that have been made possible due to EU activities both in terms of its financial contribution and its co-ordinating role.
 
The coordinating role is a difficult and delicate policy task! The European Commission will have to identify and collect the needs of the European citizens related to the different EU policies. On the other hand, we need to ensure that the various space activities in Europe are not duplicated but produce synergy, while we also have to increase funding levels and promote competitiveness in this special market sector.
 
At the same time we do not want Member States to loose their motivation at the European level. We cannot tell Member States to stop a task that they see as strategic to their national interests ?± however we can find ways for nations to collaborate and work to their strengths to give the synergies that will produce a truly efficient EU space policy.
 
(Source EU Space Policy


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