Growth

The space industry

The space industry

The space industry contributes to the objectives of the EU's Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. It drives scientific progress and boosts growth and employment in other areas such as telecommunications, navigation, and Earth observation. These systems and services guarantee EU independence and security, while also helping to address major societal challenges including climate change, scare resources, health, and an ageing population. They also provide us with strategically important knowledge that underpins the EU’s external relations in areas such as development assistance and humanitarian aid.

The key priorities of an EU space industrial policy, as defined in a Commission Communication of 2013, are:

  • establishing a coherent and stable regulatory framework to support space activities;
  • further developing a competitive, solid, efficient, and balanced industrial base in Europe and supporting the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector;
  • supporting the global competitiveness of the EU space industry by encouraging the sector to become more cost efficient;
  • developing markets for space applications and services;
  • ensuring technological non-dependence and Europe’s independent access to space.

Communication on EU Space Industrial Policy - Releasing the potential for economic growth in the space sector [COM(2013) 108 final]

Legislation

One of the main pillars of the EU’s Space Industrial Policy is the commitment to establishing a regulatory framework for the Internal Market in space products, applications, and services. An example of a recent legislative initiative is:

The aim of the “Proposal for a Directive on the dissemination of Earth observation satellite data for commercial purposes” is to ensure better access to high resolution earth observation satellite data (HRSD). Together with HRSD-based applications, this is an essential tool for environment monitoring, urban planning, agriculture, natural resources management, disaster and emergency management, and security and defence.

At the moment, regulations governing commercial activities using HRSD differ between EU countries. This situation creates obstacles to market development as it hampers access to vital data for businesses.

The proposed Directive will facilitate commercial Earth observation and access to satellite data within the EU, accelerating the development of the sector and the creation of new products and services. It will achieve this by introducing:

  • a common definition of HRSD specifying which satellite data is considered high resolution and in need of regulation, and which data is already “business-ready”;
  • common standards for transparency, predictability, legal certainty, and fair treatment;
  • common standards for efficiency and business-friendly implementation, in particular regarding the procedures used by EU countries to regulate the dissemination of HRSD.

Standards

Standardisation is key in ensuring the most efficient use of space-based systems and the opening-up of new markets for space-based services. Clear standards help define the shape of future markets and form a solid basis for investment decisions. Public bodies are often major users of space systems and can accelerate the development of standards.

European standardisation organisations (ESOs) such as the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) have a mandate from the Commission to develop standards for the space manufacturing and service industries on the basis of the work already performed by the European Cooperation for Space Standards Organisation. A particularly urgent need is to achieve full interoperability between national and European space and ground-based systems.

Competitiveness and SMEs

The participation of SMEs is essential to the competitiveness of the European space manufacturing industry. SMEs are also key in the development of many downstream services and applications. Currently, the European satellite navigation and Earth observation service industry are mainly made up of SMEs and start-ups.

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