Spanish New Space, the fourth aerospace power in the European Union
Until recently, Spain was a place where the weight of the aerospace industry was practically non-existent. However, in recent years, different companies related to the entire value chain of this sector have emerged that have profoundly transformed our position, giving our country a strength that has propelled us to become the fourth aerospace power in the European Union.
The data are there to testify to this. The aerospace sector already represents 1.2% of the Spanish economy's gross domestic product (GDP), generates more than 150,000 direct and indirect jobs, and in 2020 it invested more than 1.5 billion euros in research, development, and innovation.
In this period, which we can describe as a real revolution, private initiative and public support have come together, albeit timidly and insufficiently, to lead to the construction of a sector that we could describe as strategic.
Companies located in Spain have proprietary technologies in all segments of activity, satellites, launchers, operations, and service providers. We are intensive in R&D&I, create quality employment and boost exports. We are also actively involved in the European Space Agency, ESA, participating in national and international programs.
This is the New Space that we have created together, although it has been the private sector that has acted as the leader and driving force. All in all, we have a good basis for further progress.
That is why the Government's approval of the Strategic Project for Aerospace Economic Recovery and Transformation, PERTE, and the appointment of Miguel Belló as its commissioner is such great news. It is an investment of 4,533 million euros until 2025, of which space will receive around 1,480 million euros, money that will be invested in improving control systems, as well as communication and security systems.
However, despite this announcement, the following question should be asked: Does anyone know how much of this 1,480 million will be allocated to the companies that make up the Spanish New Space? I have asked myself this question and I have also passed it on to the Government.
We need someone to do it, and urgently. If we do not open up the possibility that these investments will end up in the so-called Old Space, we will continue with the same inertia as always, when the future and the present are in the New Space. This means democratizing the space, involving all companies, including SMEs, and, in a cross-cutting manner, all sectors and, ultimately, society as a whole.
Three challenges that we need to consider in Spanish New Space
In my opinion, we must consider three challenges to address this situation that I have just mentioned. The first must be to ensure that the money from European funds reaches the companies that make up the Spanish aerospace ecosystem so that we can grow, gain muscle and develop our projects.
The second concerns the creation of the Spanish Aerospace Agency. This must have a truly effective function that serves to coordinate all activities in the Spanish space sector, unifying in a single body the currently dispersed competencies of no less than 11 ministries.
And thirdly, by establishing a real and effective change in the relationships, agreements, and projects to be promoted between the public administration and private companies. The business fabric of the Spanish New Space is made up of start-ups with very powerful projects that need the support of the administration and the largest companies to become part of their capital.
If we manage to make these three aspects work, we will be able to face the challenges that the Spanish aerospace sector still has to face with more guarantees. These challenges must answer the questions: what place do we want to occupy in the international panorama and in which activities do we want to be the leaders?
One of the main challenges is the growth of our industry. This means gaining a foothold in international markets. But to do this we need our companies to grow in size and weight. The international space market is a place inhabited by giant companies. If we want to play a relevant role, we have to gain muscle.
If we do not do so, we will end up being swallowed up by larger companies from other countries where governments are committed to their space sector. We will lose all the knowledge, know-how, and economic effort we have made over the years, and we will be mere branches of large corporations that make decisions outside our borders and are far removed from our interests. Without this impetus, the dreaded relocation will occur, as has happened in other sectors of our economy.
And obviously, these movements must be coordinated with a European policy that helps to develop this sector, with specific attention to the defense segment, where Europe faces the challenge of establishing its leadership in the face of the tremendous push from other countries, such as the US, China, India, and Brazil. We must be strong at the national level and also at the European level.
Sateliot's approach and the role of our next-generation infrastructure
At Sateliot we are ready to do so. This new impetus comes at an unbeatable time to consolidate our position.
We have already put the basic pieces in place to achieve the goal we set out to achieve when we created the company, to democratize access to the Internet of Things, IoT, with 5G coverage. Because today only 10% of the earth's surface has mobile coverage. This is where Sateliot's next-generation infrastructure comes into play as a complement to traditional operators to make this hyper-connected universe possible.
300 million between now and 2025 in the deployment of a constellation of 250 small satellites, the size of a shoebox, which will enable this global connectivity.
But our efforts alone will not be enough, I am sure. It is essential that things change and that the Government commits to investing in New Space and in the whole constellation of companies that are waiting for its support to get on a train that Spain cannot afford to miss.
Author: Jaume Sanpera, Sateliot's CEO & Co-Founder. This article was originally published at Avion Revue Internacional.
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