Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to start 2021 addressing an important community that can provide strategic contributions for the future of Europe.

The aerospace sectors progressed a lot in the past decades and now we are developing advanced Earth Observation data-intensive services, developing Earth and Ocean digital twins and starting the era of quantum based satellite links.

Research and innovation in the aerospace sectors entail three critical aspects:

  1. It pushes forward the Frontiers of theoretical and applied knowledge.

Many fields could develop further in the past decades through access to data collected from space and through access to research infrastructures for experimentation in conditions that only space laboratories can offer.

Preparing space missions imply a whole exercise of innovation where each tiny gain in mass or power consumption makes a big difference.

  1. Secondly, it enables a Fusion of science and technology, including Weather and Climate sciences, Biology, Astronomy Cosmology, Metrology, Mechanical and power engineering and others.
  2. Finally, the aerospace sector is key for the Future of our society and our economy, to reach the European Green Deal goals and to develop an Advanced European Digital society.

Let me start by the need to reinforce our investments to support the research end innovation communities in their efforts to move forward the frontiers of knowledge.

One of the key objectives of the European Research Area is to increase EU investments and provide a frame to co-decide on their prioritisation focusing on the digital and green transformation and on the recovery.

We propose a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe to be signed by EU Member States in 2021. A Pact leading to increased cooperation and alignment of regional, national and European investments.

The EU R&I investment in Aerospace and Defence is around 35% of the global investment.

It represents a robust share vis-a-vis our international competitors. However, looking further ahead, the growing investments of Asian and US counterparts are putting Europe under pressure.

The objective is to increase competitiveness at global level, ensuring access to space and lead the evolution of Earth observation for which the Copernicus and Galileo programmes are essential.

We have invested, through Horizon 2020, around 1.5 billion Euros in space research and even more if we consider related programmes.

With the European Parliament and Member States we have finally reached in December an agreement on Horizon Europe programme, which is ready for a timely start.

Europe can now count on the largest transnational programme ever supporting research and innovation worth more than €95.5 billion to be invested in the next seven years.

The space sectors can support this ERA objective by strengthening public and private R&I investments supporting synergies with other space programmes.

Also by supporting strategic infrastructures such as the Global Navigation System, Copernicus, Space Situational Awareness and Secured Governmental Communication.

The sector’s competitiveness should be fostered to reinforce EU capacity to use and access space. This includes the new space entrepreneurship Cassini with a series of actions to help companies get an easier access to finance.

Investments are even more relevant in the current context of setting the conditions for a robust economic recovery of Europe that can benefit from synergies with the NextGenerationEU programme from which around 5% is allocated to Horizon Europe.

The alignment of European and National R&I programmes is also a key ERA objective.

Therefore, potential synergies extend to leveraging effects that can emerge from other Space related programmes as well as the national recovery plans supporting forward-looking investments that research and innovation can offer.

Let me now turn to the Fusion of science and technology.

We are entering two decisive decades to deploy the European Green Deal.

To succeed in reaching the ambitious targets to making the EU climate neutral by 2050 we cannot have geographic or disciplinary barriers.

An alignment is not only necessary at R&I policy and programme levels but in setting up multidisciplinary strategic research agendas.

Monitoring Earth’s soils, forests oceans and atmosphere is going to be critical in our fight against climate change, for example, to study the evolution of desertification in some areas and to deploy reforestation policies.

Huge volumes of data are, already today, distributed through Copernicus to science teams, policy and the public.

Copernicus-based services are monitoring significant changes to our planet, such as the loss of over 80,000 square kilometres of lakes, and the drowning of over 180000 square kilometres of land as new lakes are created and others expand.

Horizon Europe missions are new instruments offering possibilities for pan-European cooperation enabling a virtuous fusion of different expertise and infrastructures.

Four of the proposed Missions address sustainable socio-economic development in the context of the Green Deal objectives, in particular on Healthy Oceans, Climate neutral and smart cities, Soil health and food, and Adaptation to climate change.

For example, the Mission on adaptation to climate change starts by preparing 200 European regions to fight against heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, floods, storms and climate induced diseases more effectively. The mission on climate neutral and smart cities will make 100 European cities climate neutral by 2030.

We are setting up a number of knowledge hubs to support data-intensive services provided by EU aerospace infrastructures. They can be key elements for the four Green Deal Missions.

  • the EU Observatory on deforestation & forest degradation for monitoring forest cover and wood consumption in the EU and globally,
  • the Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity, where the variety of data, ranging from Citizen Science to Earth Observation will provide the knowledge for reverting biodiversity loss.
  • the European Soil Observatory that I launched at the World Soil Day of 4 December, combining statistical information and Earth Observation evidence to give information-based guidance on land and soil use.
  • And since the work never stops, the Commission will launch in the first quarter of 2021 the Knowledge Centre on Earth Observation to improve and make more efficient the use of products and information from Earth Observation.

With so much data and information, we need lead in the extraction of knowledge, using the contribution of many different research and technology fields – from climate modelling and advanced simulation, to high-performance computation, from soils chemistry to biodiversity.

It is of strategic relevance that Europe gain or reinforce its competitiveness on emerging commercial Earth Observation technologies and services and on global secure satellite communication.

European sovereignty is important in the space domain as well as in critical technologies such as low-power processing technologies, mission-critical software and artificial intelligence to name a few.

We have to work hard to lead on innovative applications and software, which incorporate advanced features based on deep-learning and profit from processing.

In this context Horizon Europe Partnerships are other important vehicles for alignment of technological roadmaps and public-private co-investments.

They can play an important role for European competitiveness while contributing to more choice of leading edge technologies avoiding locking-in effects.

The strategic agenda proposed by the co-programmed partnership candidate on Globally competitive Space Systems defines very ambitious scientific, societal and economic objectives.

Other European Partnerships in Horizon Europe will use services provided by EU Space programmes such as the one on Agriculture of Data, using technologies in the field of environmental observation to improve the sustainability of agriculture.

I ask here the space research community and industry to foster cross-cutting cooperation of the space partnership with other proposed partnerships, for example in the domains of digital, energy, circular industries, transport and environment.

As with all partnerships, it is important to define their objectives in a framework of trust so that all industry, big and small players, can have an opportunity to participate, and contribute to innovation towards the next generation of space technologies and services.

As an intensive deep tech R&I sector, space is also covered by the European Innovation Council, in particular through the EIC Accelerator, which is supporting breakthrough innovations.

Since 2014, around 130 space projects were selected and funded, including 141 participants and totalling in 2019 a budget of over € 60 million under the SME Instrument and the EIC Accelerator.

Two currently running EIC Horizon Prizes are also linked to the space sectors such as the Prize on European Low-Cost Space Launch, but also the Prize on Early Warning for Epidemics.

The Early Warning for Epidemics prize aims to develop a system to prevent disease outbreaks and reduce the impact should they occur. An award of Euro 5 million is available for the best solution provided.

For our European space researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs, getting access to finance is key for their success, for example through the InnovFin Space Equity Pilot (ISEP), a EUR 100 million programme under InnovFin Equity of Horizon 2020 was launched exactly a year ago.

This pilot is specifically dedicated to supporting the innovation and growth of European SMEs operating in the sector of space technologies.

Let me say a few words about another “F”. The “F” of Future of our society and our economy

Sustainability is not only about greening our Planet but also ensuring we have the knowledge base and the people with appropriate preparation to respond to challenges and to the shift in the job demand.

Recent European employment trends indicate that employment opportunities for high-qualified jobs grow more than twice faster than for those requiring low-qualifications.

Indeed, 45 % of jobs to be created in the EU until 2030 will be in highly skilled sectors and the space sector is certainly one of these.

I launched at the end of 2020 a series of initiatives to develop a European Education Area with a framework to improve coordination at European level and define holistic strategies for education and training.

It includes the Digital Education Action Plan as well as the Education for Climate Coalition to enrich and modernise the scope of our education systems and infrastructures.

The aim is to ensure that education provides European citizens with enhanced digital literacy able to support their actions against climate change.

Developing further the EU aerospace sector in a context of competitiveness requires to pay attention to the regional dimensions in the areas of research and innovation but also Education and to build effective bridges between the initiatives we are developing with the Committee of the Regions.

We also need to reinforce initiatives such the one in the context of Copernicus programme collaboration with the EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), in particular the one on Climate. It supported the implementation of education activities to accelerate the use of Earth observation data

Being Space a shared resource, international cooperation is important to strengthening Europe’s position as a global leading partner in space-science, technology and services.

Engaging international partners in using the services and data provided by our leading Galileo and Copernicus infrastructures will reinforce our position of a strong, reliable and global partner in the space domain.

It is important to lead by example and stimulate the creation of innovative Earth observation solutions to support the Paris agreement, the Sendai Framework, and the UN agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals including the cooperation with developing countries.

To that extend, I signed in December the working arrangement between the European Commission and the World Meteorological Organisation. We hope that our cooperation with WMO can inspire other world partners to progress towards concrete initiatives aiming at respecting our Planet boundaries.

To conclude, let me stress that Europe is embarking into decisive decades in which our societies and our economies need to find the path for sustainable prosperity, addressing the threats to our Planet.

I would like to recall a poem of Jorge Luis Borges – “La Luna” – where he tells a wonderful story of a man who decided to encode in a book every single bit of the Universe…

… but realised looking at the sky after his prodigious effort that he had forgotten the Moon.

He is right. The willingness to succeed in our scientific and technological objectives may distract us from the essential.

Research and innovation in Aerospace can definitely contribute to deliver on EU key policy objectives.

Deliver by advancing frontiers of knowledge and technology but not forgetting the essential which is to prepare the future generations and the sustainability of our Planet.

Thank you for your attention!