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The European Space economy: between challenges and opportunities

The space economy is expanding and becoming increasingly global. Today it represents €300 billion per year globally. And the projections indicate €1000 billion per year in the next ten years. 10% of those current 300 billion, i.e. 30 billion, are dedicated to space manufacturing: building satellites, rockets, etc.…The other 90% represents the "so-called downstream applications and services type of industries, who sell services and applications based on the data that flows from the space infrastructure". Europe became a massive player in this global context, representing one-quarter of this global economy. Consequently, how to develop a European competitive space industry capable of competing successfully worldwide on the market?

The space economy is expanding and becoming increasingly global. Today it represents €300 billion per year globally. And the projections indicate €1000 billion per year in the next ten years. 10% of those current 300 billion, i.e. 30 billion, are dedicated to space manufacturing: building satellites, rockets, etc.…The other 90% represents the "so-called downstream applications and services type of industries, who sell services and applications based on the data that flows from the space infrastructure".[1] Europe became a massive player in this global context, representing one-quarter of this global economy. Consequently, how to develop a European competitive space industry capable of competing successfully worldwide on the market?

The European Space Agency (ESA), Europe's gateway to space

Created in 1975, ESA is an intergovernmental organisation with the mission to “shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to support the competitiveness of European industry and deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world".[2] ESA has 22 Member States, including Luxembourg, measuring the impact of its activities and programmes and gathering best practices from the experience of its Member States. To do that, ESA is creating a sustainable ecosystem and an interconnected set of actors. Historically, space investment has been driven by geopolitical considerations, but the international space context is changing fast. Global competition is fierce. Digitalisation, miniaturisation, artificial intelligence and other technological developments have disrupted traditional business models in the space sector, reducing the cost of accessing and using space. To keep its leadership and strategic autonomy in space, Europe, with the support of ESA, needs to adapt, expanding notably the funding landscape.

 

Expanding the space funding landscape in Europe.

Europe has a significant base on which to build, with the second-largest space industry in the world, employing over 231,000 people, estimated to be worth up to €62 billion. For the last five years, the growth of the space economy has attracted private investors. The private investment represents today worldwide 12,2 billion euros. But, according to Luca del Monte, Head of Commercialisation Department European Space Agency, the private investments at European level represent only 5% of the European government spending per year. The "New Space" revolution is changing this as the convergence of the space industry with the digital economy has introduced new business models. The investment landscape for entry-stage investment in Europe for space is relatively strong. But the problem is on the scaling part in Europe. That is why ESA is partnering with the EU and European Investment Fund to contact the “big ticket investors” to attract them and explain the "New Space opportunities." Space is an enabler for several industry verticals; it needs to be translated much more often into a commercial advantage. [3]



Luxembourg, at the centre of space business.

Building on its successful experience since the 1980s of investing in near-space, orbital satellite networks, Luxembourg has since multiplied the efforts to position the country as an attractive location for new space ventures[4], launching several initiatives. In 2016, the government launched the Space Resources Initiative[5] to provide a unique legal, regulatory and business environment, enabling private investors and companies to explore and use space resources. As stated in an article by the Conversation “More than US$200m was earmarked for investment in start-ups working toward space mining." [6] In late 2020, Luxembourg entered a strategic partnership with ESA to create a "European Space Resources Innovation Centre" (ESRIC) to partner with public and private international players in this field to develop a hub of excellence for space resources in Europe. Just the beginning of the story…