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Europe, We Have a Problem

Space-based technologies are an increasingly important component of both economic competitiveness and strategic defense. Yet compared to other major powers, the European Union is not doing nearly enough to support innovation and entrepreneurship in this critical sector.

BRUSSELS – The digital revolution’s potential to create new growth opportunities, transform our economies, and support the green transition relies heavily on technologies that are literally out of this world. Powering today’s automated services and artificial-intelligence applications requires precise, timely data furnished by space-based technologies (global navigation, earth observation, environmental monitoring, and communication satellites).

This is true in agriculture, transportation, energy, defense, and even finance. Farmers rely on satellites to make decisions about which crops to plant and when, while ships, planes, trains, and automobiles use satellite data to navigate safely and efficiently. Power companies need satellites to monitor performance and maintain their grids, and financial services use the unique data they collect to inform investment decisions and for accurate time stamping.

The European Union has invested heavily in this area through multi-billion-euro projects such as Galileo and EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service); Copernicus, the Earth-observation system; and GOVSATCOM, the secure satellite-communication program. Europe also boasts many companies that are at the forefront of space innovation. But European investment in space-based technologies – particularly fast-growing strategic sectors such as consumer solutions and drones – is being outpaced by others, including the United States and Asia.