Source: European Parliament
This study considers the market size and structure of the European space industry, the activities and impact of the flagship EU Space Programme (Galileo, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) and Copernicus) in fostering the uptake of space data, as well as the challenges and drivers of maximising synergies between the EU upstream and downstream space sectors. In addition, the study examines the recommendations proposed by the European Court of Auditors (Co) to strengthen the uptake of services and data derived from the different EU space programmes, which have been integrated into a single European Space Programme.
Europe has the second largest space industry in the world, which employs over 231,000 professionals and is estimated to be worth EUR 53-62 billion. The newly integrated EU Space Programme, supported by EUR 14.88 billion in funding, supports the EU's ambitions in space over the coming years, building on its strengths, particularly in the upstream sector, and developing the European downstream market for space services and data. The Space Programme aims to ensure high-quality, secure space-related data and services which can bring about socio-economic benefits for Europe's citizens and businesses, enhance EU security and autonomy, and strengthen the EU's role as a leader in the space sector, allowing it to compete with other leading space economies, and emerging space-faring nations.
Additionally, the new Space-based Connectivity Initiative is considered. This has the potential to enhance connectivity in underserved areas of the EU and further afield and to deliver secure communications. It could also help to enhance the EU's strategic autonomy, as well as to increase digital sovereignty.
To date, Copernicus, Galileo and EGNOS have had positive socio-economic impacts, providing key Earth observation and navigation and timing services to millions of Europeans and encouraging Europe's SMEs and start-ups to develop and provide innovative services. The EU has further tools at its disposal to boost Europe's space ecosystem, such as wider EU programme funding mechanisms and legislation. The Horizon 2020 programme, for instance, provided opportunities to firms looking to bring new applications to market and through pre-commercial procurement. Horizon Europe, its successor, will seek to develop Europe's space industry further.
The new CASSINI programme (Competitive Space Start-ups for INnovatlon) supports space entrepreneurship and will provide EUR 1 billion of access to risk capital, which should provide a needed boost to investment by SMEs in the European space sector, and draw attention to this sector as a potential investment among venture capitalists.
Additionally, legislative measures can help to support the uptake of space services. Progress has been made in some areas, such as in the field of road safety and emergency, enabling emergency teams to respond to an accident faster, while there is a legal base encouraging the use of Earth observation for the Common Agricultural Policy. Other legislation supporting the uptake of space services include the INSPIRE Directive, which encourages the uptake of environmental data by public authorities, and the Open Data Directive and proposed European data regulation.
However, in spite of progress made in the upstream through the maturation of the EU Space Programmes, further action is required to maximise the potential of the European downstream sector, including in the non-space sectors and to overcome fragmentation. This was highlighted in the CoA report which concluded that, although Galileo and Copernicus provide valuable services and data, their uptake needs to be increased to achieve the expected societal and economic benefits from the significant EU investments made.
The report provides recommendations to strengthen the uptake of space data. These are regarded by the Commission and ESA as being useful and realistic to implement within the timeframe suggested.
The European Space Strategy also recognises that the potential of the space programmes needs to be better exploited, and argues that research activities need to address the entire space industrial value chain and Europe needs secure and safe access to space. Without the achievement of these objectives, the EU's position on the world stage would be diminished.
This study provides recommendations to boost the European space sector and to foster the uptake of space services and of space SMEs, taking into consideration the potential of the space programmes, the tools at the EU's disposal, the development of the internal market, and the need to strengthen the EU's position on the global stage.
The EU should maximise the potential of the regulatory framework to support the uptake of space data and services, whilst recognising the limitations of a prescriptive approach. Although progress has been made in some areas, such as in the field of road safety and emergency, less progress has been observed elsewhere (e.g. in road transport and logistics). It would be of value to assess those areas where EU legislation could promote the use of space data. If legislation can strengthen safety and foster the integrity of the internal market in parallel, there is potential to introduce new legislation. Additionally, the Commission should more regularly undertake studies to assess the strategic contribution of the EU Space Programmes) towards the achievement of the broader policy objectives of the EU Space Policy (including its industrial dimension).
This would ensure a broader assessment of the space programmes in terms of their importance to Europe's economy, industry and competitiveness and future security. More regular assessments should also be undertaken of the uptake of space data and services generated through upstream space infrastructure investment and to develop more reliable methodologies to estimate the potential economic and societal benefits. This study found that there remains a lack of awareness among EU citizens and many public authorities regarding the potential benefits and capabilities of the EU Space Programmes. As such, there is a need to improve EU-wide communication about the benefits of space services. This could be achieved, for example, through events where the Commission engages with citizens to understand where the information gaps are and additional areas where space data could be used. Educational programmes, events, television and radio programmes and webinars are other methods which could be used to engage with the public.
Additionally, there is a need to enhance synergies between Member States to foster the uptake of space services. Member States should more actively work together to better understand what applications and services are used and for what purposes/fields. Europe has a strong space SME sector, which continues to grow and bring innovative solutions to the space industry, particularly SMEs serving primes in the upstream sectors and data-based service providers in the downstream sector. SMEs are also crucial to innovation and the ecosystem in the emerging new space economy. As such, the development of SME space services should be actively encouraged, as well as their procurement by public authorities and the private sector alike. This would help to create jobs, improve technological skills and boost Europe's competitiveness, which are increasingly important for the EU's twin transitions to a sustainable and digital economy. Additionally, the Commission should collect improved monitoring data on ME participation across key EU funding initiatives to better understand how SMEs contribute to the space ecosystem.
The EU should also use its position on the global stage to encourage stronger international coordination to work on issues of common interest to all space-faring nations, such as addressing concerns over the need for more active space traffic management, space debris, space mining (the exploitation of raw materials from asteroids, comets and other minor planets, including near-Earth objects), and the potential misuse of space. Strengthening cooperation and coordination is important, given the need for international stability in space to foster an innovative European space market.