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Space Forum: Space Revival-strengthening the hi-tech ecosystem in Europe

“What are the new challenges that the space industry needs to take up? What is the position of Europe within the international framework: its assets and weaknesses? How to support the devel-opment of European newcomers and start-ups? Can Europe be a player?”: These were the main questions of the afternoon session of the ICT Spring’s Space Forum.

The master of ceremonies, Jacques Denavaut, President, Communications-Smart, started with a tribute to his late “buddy” Yves Feltes, former head of communications at SES. He pleaded for “harmony” in the European space sector before giving the stage to Marc Serres, CEO, Luxembourg Space Agency, who presented “The case of Luxembourg: an EU anchored national space policy”. The Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) is an emanation of the Luxembourg minister of Economy, so its policy is driven by economics. “From the early 80’s, the government stimulated the creation of satellite operator SES with the objective to create an ecosystem in Luxembourg”, Serres explained. All LSA initiatives are part of a European collaborative approach, especially with the European Space Agency (ESA). From the funds and investments side with the creation of a Luxembourg specialized fund supported by EIB and European Investment Fund, to the education side where LAS is part of the ESA initiative to create a European Space Education Resource Office. In terms of R&D and innovation, LSA focuses on space resources and created the European Space Resources Innovation Center in collaboration with ESA, other space agencies around the globe and the industry. 

The session continued with a fireside chat between Geraldine Naja, Acting Director, Industry, Procurement and Legal Services, European Space Agency (ESA), and Christoph Kautz, Head of Unit for Secure Connectivity, Space Surveillance and Applications in DG Defence Industry and Space, European Commission, on “How to support the development of European newcomers and start-ups”. As the commercialisation is the second priority on ESA Agenda 2025, the European agency want to act on three main lines: talent by investing in brain; access to funding by collaborating with business incubators and investors; speed in a large approach (speed in having demonstration and validation of products, speed to place contracts, to make payments, etc.). On its side, in complementarity with ESA, the European Commission wants to adapt its action to three important trends. The first one is the development of new products and services. “Space tech is more affordable and there is an increasing fusion between digital services with space data and information services “, explained Christoph Kautz. The second trend is the development of a new business model with the commercialisation of space, the reduced cost of launches or entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk building multi-constellations. The last trend is the development of a new financing scheme with the increasing role of VC funds. 

Geoffroy Legros, Sales Director, Arianespace, then delivered a keynote on the business of launchers. “The launch industry used to be driven mainly by big geo satellites above 7 tons. Now we have plenty of other markets to address”, summarized Legros. These new markets are composed of small satellites under 400kg,  new geo-servicing to extend the life of satellites or mega constellations composed of hundreds or thousands of satellites. In order to do so, Arianespace is developing new launchers Ariane 6 and Vega C and has to face a lot of pressure on prices by actors such as SpaceX. Arianespace intends as well to bring flexibility to small companies with different small satellites carrying systems. While working to reduce costs, Arianespace wants also to reduce the timeline between the signature of the contract and the launch itself as a better way to address start-ups’ market. On the innovation side, Arianespace is working on in-orbit servicing, space rider, debris removal or last mile in-orbit delivery to accompany new space applications. 

Marco Chini, Senior Research and Technology Associate, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), then took the stage, to address the topic “LSA Data Center and the Wasdi cloud computing platform: a synergy to facilitate the exploration of satellite EO (Earth observation) data for urban applications”. “The current deluge of EO data is transforming the way the products are provided and the way operational EO-based services are deployed. End users are accessing the data and the products derived therefrom”, Chini stated. In this context, the ESA Copernicus program is having a disruptive effect, as it is able to provide global, continuous, autonomous, high quality and wide range Earth observation capacity. The Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) Data Center is the Luxembourg entry point to data products of the Copernicus Sentinel 1 and 2 data, the only data repository around the globe where both Sentinel 1 and 2 are fully available online. 

To process EO data, the Wasdi platform is a solution for EO experts and end users. EO experts access data on the cloud and elaborate a product in a cloud from their own environment. With Wasdi, end users access the product and the services, with a dedicated online marketplace view and a distributed scalable cloud engine. 

“How to leverage Europe’s hi-tech ecosystem to boost the space sector?” was the subject of a roundtable moderated by Maxime Puteaux, Principal advisor, Euroconsult, that brought together Jim Keravala, Co-founder and CEO, OffWorld, Christine Leurquin, Special Advisor, Government and Institutional Affairs, RHEA Group, and Gregory Pradels, VP Business Development, Hemeria Group. The discussion focused on two main topics : the collaboration between space and terrestrial industries and the role of government. 

The three participants called for a cross sector integration. Terrestrial innovation industries such as cybersecurity, AI, Industry 4.0, cloud, can provide technologies that can be used in space and in the other way space innovations can help industries on ground to accelerate the pace of innovation. In order to do so, “Europe has a job to do to communicate better about what space can do for terrestrial hi-tech industries”, Leurquin said. The three speakers teamed up as well to highlight the essential role of government and public institutions. For Keravala, “governments can provide unique leadership to face the existential war that is coming, to set the investment framing of that fundamental level of high risk, non-conventional research that we need.” Governments need to provide a clear vision, to increase the fundings and to be the first and anchor customers of innovative companies for a long-term period until they are really successful. 

In the continuity of the previous conversation, Raphael Roettgen, Managing Partner, E2MC Ventures, gave a keynote speech titled “Developing a space ecosystem in Europe - lessons from around the world”. “Customers”  is undoubtedly the key word of Roettgen’s demonstration. For instance, having a launcher is not enough, you need customers to have a sufficient launch cadence to be economically viable. Various skills are also an important criterion. Not only technical skills but commercial skills to support engineers. Financing with “smart money that understands the space industry” and clear rules based on appropriate laws and regulations are also important conditions to develop a space ecosystem. Last but not least, having a strong education and knowledge base is essential as well. “If we want a vibrant ecosystem, we need real end customers from non-space sectors. We need broad education about space and to teach how space is beneficial to those non-space sectors”, Roettgen summarized. 

Clément Galic, CEO, Unseenlabs, as a moderator, Dan Isaac, Business Development Executive, Spire, Juan Tomás Hernani (live from Bilbao), Founder and CEO, SATLANTIS, and Shay Strong, VP of Analytics, ICEYE, then joined the stage for a roundtable titled “Earth Observation 2.0 : strengthening European space field with nanotechnology” that brought together four companies active in the new space sector, especially in the smallsat domain. According to all participants, the space market is in the process of normalization, more open than ever. “The barrier to entry is very low. There are more fundings opportunities, because of the smallness of the technology itself. It is very easy to break into”, Strong said. The arrival of cube satellite systems, smallsat systems and new flying models changed the paradigm of the market. “Space has become market driven or customer driven because it is now possible to rapidly deploy new technology at a relatively low cost”, Isaac explained. With the Copernicus project, Europe is leading the EO (Earth observation) field. It changed the landscape of users by creating a huge demand for data. 

Katia Stambolieva (photo), CEO, Cosmos Pics, then took the stage for a keynote entitled “Earth observation to serve humanity's greatest challenges”. Human eyes can see only three different types of radiation (red, green, blue). Satellites can see more, sometimes up to 14 types of radiation. “Satellites allow us to see the invisible”, Stambolieva stated. Her first concrete action in Earth observation was in the late 2010’s in Portugal. By using satellite data analysis, she helped the government and businesses to mitigate wildfires. Thanks to satellites, it is possible to collect precious information on climate change, migrations or pollution at a very low cost. 

The Space Forum ended with a roundtable about “GAFAM: from Big Tech to Space Tech? Opportunities and threats” that brought together Frédéric Filloux, Business writer and the editor of the Monday Note, as a moderator, Gautier Brunet, Chief of Staff, Loft Orbital, Judy Wallace, Chief Procurement Officer, OneWeb Satellites, and Murielle Lafaye (virtually), Head of the Economic Intelligence Pole and Project Manager of the Observatory of Space Economy, CNES. “The amount of cash reserves of Amazon, Microsoft and Google is 340 billion dollars, 37 times the amount of money which has been raised in 2020 in the New Space sector”, Filloux said to illustrate the power of the GAFAM. The three speakers are not afraid of the involvement of GAFAM in New Space. “New Space means that space is now a real commercial, industrial sector”, Lafaye stated. GAFAM can have a positive impact in terms of talent, emulation, and investing environment because if they invest, it means that the sector is profitable. However, Europe should accelerate to be independent and to develop its own ecosystem. “We need to be more reactive and flexible.” The main impact of GAFAM will be on the supply chain. Reducing cost could be a result of increasing competition. 

Article by Nicolas Klein

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