Driving innovation in the civil, defense and space sectors – EURACTIV.com
The EU action plan to link space and defense is a step forward. But there is still a long way to go if Europe is to develop the next generation of critical defense capabilities, writes Simon Hoey.
Simon Hoey is the Director of Business Development for Intelsat.
With the acceleration of the global technology race, the European Commission’s action plan on synergies between civil, defense and space industries to boost innovation has been a welcome announcement, as it will be essential for the future of Europe.
However, the fragmentation of the defense industry calls into question Europe’s ability to build the next generation of critical defense capabilities and the EU’s future industrial and digital leadership will be based on a well-developed and competitive space industry. .
Stimulate the European space and defense market
While the Commission has recognized the importance of the interaction between space and defense with the creation of the Defense and Space Industry DG (DEFIS), much remains to be done to identify and create synergies which will stimulate the space and defense market. Some already exist such as satellites providing both civilian and military applications.
The R&D landscape will be at the heart of the dynamization of the market. Although diversified and well funded, and combined with a lower TRL (Technological Readiness Level) investment approach, the EU’s R&D approach does not easily translate into a broader system of systems implementation nor does recognize that most real-world implementations are iterative and continuous, not programmatic or stand-alone.
If we look at the space industry, “space” for satellite operators is the environment, with a global technological ecosystem, to build systems of systems. The holistic understanding of the ecosystem leads to continuous innovation in hardware, user applications, network, and business models.
As satellite operators coexist within a global licensing and regulatory framework, they can move assets into orbit as needed, contract with each other, and participate in NATO’s NIAG programs, NATO RFIs. EU and EDA. This flexible and integrated dual-use technological approach optimally meets the needs of civilian and military customers.
Another EU strategic priority is to support start-ups and SMEs in the space and defense industry, including skills upgrading. Satellite operators compete, but also collaborate to provide guaranteed resilient services.
Operators typically do not focus specifically on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or low TRL engineering, but rather on strategic investments in businesses to enable the development of key solutions.
Such partnerships with industry would strengthen European capabilities and enable projects such as 5G and pan-European data spaces, boosting the entire European space and defense market.
The European Commission roadmap rightly recognizes that ‘money is not enough’ and that the specific challenges facing the defense and space industries must be overcome, including long development cycles, small markets heavily dependent on government clients; and market fragmentation based on national criteria, among others. other considerations.
I would offer the following recommendations to resolve these issues:
The future of connectivity and satellites
Innovative technological developments, such as secure and ubiquitous 5G, connected cars, connected cities, AI and IoT, will rely heavily on satellite connectivity. Satellite communications will increasingly be characterized by key trends such as lower costs, easier launch, higher throughput and better antennas.
EU projects should make more use of available satellite services, and decision-makers should partner with industry to ensure the required availability and diversity of connectivity solutions.
A strong and innovative European space industry with autonomous, reliable and profitable access to space cannot be built with the support of a limited set of assets and should therefore make full use of the competitive and diversified solutions available. Safety standards and a strong supplier accreditation system will be essential in building the European space market.
The EU must ensure that projects such as GOVSATCOM continue to allow the participation of existing suppliers in European governments in order to avoid distortions of competition in the internal market.
Policy makers should review public procurement rules to ensure that they demand the highest possible safety standards and take a more flexible approach to what constitutes ‘support for European R&D’, with criteria to include both where work is taking place and / or where value is being generated for that project or service.
Accessing EU funding requires a commitment to find and track ongoing initiatives across several different agencies, portals and websites, which can present a logistical challenge for an organization whose primary modus operandi does not. is not based on public funding, but around an existing business plan.
To maintain and optimize access to a diverse international market, simplifying alerts and monitoring initiatives would increase engagement.
Framework contracts for space should also be used more systematically, rather than relying too much on project funding, as this makes the qualification stages faster and simpler.