>@ESA–Pierre Carril, 2015
© ESA–Pierre Carril, 2015

Today, the EIB and the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency signed an agreement to cooperate on supporting investment in the European space-based service economy. The signature took place in Prague during the celebration to mark the 15th anniversary of GSA.

To explore new investment support for the European space-based economy, the EIB and GSA are bringing together their expertise and experience. The common objective is to create high-skill jobs in the EU and improve the day-to-day lives of Europeans by supporting innovative companies and accelerating the development of new applications that use European global navigation satellite systems and earth observation data. These applications could be used to ensure smooth navigation, e.g. in search and rescue operations to save lives, for observing crops, and in precision farming to reduce the need for fertilisers and pesticides.

“Space is the final frontier, and there is a new worldwide ambition in reaching it. The EU’s global competitors and new private actors are investing heavily in the space sector. At the same time, new disruptive technologies and business models are emerging and changing the playing field,” said EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle responsible for innovation. “We need to make sure that Europe stays in the game. That is why we are particularly enthusiastic about this agreement with GSA. It is an important step to develop further support for European space entrepreneurs and businesses to eventually give them and the EU a competitive edge in this new space race.”

“Our expertise in market intelligence for satellite navigation and in supporting new business opportunities – thanks to EGNOS and Galileo – is the basis of our agreement with the EIB,” stated Carlo des Dorides, GSA Executive Director. “We are confident that our cooperation will bring the extra added value required by entrepreneurs to transform their application businesses into globally successful companies.”

A changing space sector

The global space economy has been evolving rapidly in recent years. On average it has grown by 6.7% per year over the last 10 years, which is almost twice the 3.5% average yearly growth of the global economy. This growth has been partially driven by the US, China and other countries that have developed new ambitious space missions. The main driver, however, has been the “New Space” phenomenon: a number of technological and business model innovations that have introduced new products and services and reduced the cost of accessing and using space.

The transformation of the space economy has seen new space companies investing over EUR 14.8 billion since 2000, with a fast accelerating trend: total investment in space companies grew by a factor of 3.5 in 2012–2017 compared with the previous six-year period. Moreover, US-based investors dominate the field accounting for around two thirds of the 400+ worldwide investors in space companies.

Historically, Europe has always been at the forefront of publicly-funded space exploration, investing massively in space infrastructures such as the Copernicus and Galileo satellite programmes. Europe still boasts academic and scientific excellence but risks missing the next wave of space innovation unless it seizes the opportunity to stimulate more private investment in the new space sector.

According to a recent EIB and European Commission study on the future of the European space sector, European space entrepreneurs feel there is a lack of private financing sources, particularly for late-stage investments. They therefore tend to keep an eye on private capital outside the EU, especially in the US. 

In this context, European public innovation instruments play an essential role in unlocking private capital for the space sector. 40% of the European companies surveyed seek public funding, which serves as a seal of approval in the market, as a precondition for further private investment.