European Space Agency (ESA)

ESA : “Competition is a driver, cooperation is an enabler”

Dossier : Vie des entreprisesMagazine N°759 Novembre 2020
Par Johann-Dietrich ‘Jan’ WÖRNER

Johann-Diet­rich ‘Jan’ Wörn­er, the ESA Direc­tor Gen­er­al, tells us more about the space indus­try, the place of Europe and the main chal­lenges fac­ing the sector.

In the past years, the space industry has undergone several evolutions and disruptions. According to you, what are the main aspects that can be remembered here ? 

In gen­er­al terms com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion is the key aspect. The devel­op­ment in this direc­tion is very strong in the US, but one can see it in Europe as well. The mar­ket sit­u­a­tion in Europe is not com­pa­ra­ble to the US, there­fore it needs spe­cial activ­i­ties to devel­op a mature space indus­tri­al land­scape. ESA is sup­port­ing there­fore star­tups with our Busi­ness Incu­ba­tion Cen­ters and has spe­cial tools to get SMEs into busi­ness. More and more the down­stream is becom­ing impor­tant, the space and the non-space actors are coop­er­at­ing. With the Down­stream Gate­way ESA estab­lished a spe­cial instru­ment for these activities. 

We also witness a reinforced international competition with the arrival of new private actors. In this landscape, what is the place of Europe ? 

Com­pe­ti­tion is a dri­ver, coop­er­a­tion is an enabler. Based on this mot­to, ESA is sup­port­ing com­pe­ti­tion but at the same time the over­all struc­ture of ESA with 22 Mem­ber States is based on coop­er­a­tion. ESA is also build­ing many pro­grammes in coop­er­a­tion with most of the space agen­cies in the world. Europe has a broad vari­ety of pri­vate actors and ESA sup­ports the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion by sev­er­al means, e.g. pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ships. New Space is under­stood as a way for­ward to cost reduc­tion, com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion, agili­ty, flex­i­bil­i­ty and inno­va­tion. In this under­stand­ing ESA is work­ing in dif­fer­ent roles : as an R&D agency, as a part­ner, as a cus­tomer and as a bro­ker. Only by using the dif­fer­ent roles at the same time, we can sat­is­fy the needs. 

And we sup­port the strength­en­ing of Euro­pean indus­try so that it can bet­ter com­pete with pri­vate actors on the inter­na­tion­al market.

Actually, what are the main topics that you are working on ? 

ESA’s pro­gram­mat­ic set­up is defined in 4 pillars :

  • sci­ence and exploration ;
  • safe­ty, secu­ri­ty and sustainability ;
  • appli­ca­tions ;
  • enabling and support.

In each and every pil­lar there are pro­grammes to shape the future, from Mars Sam­ple Return to Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence for Earth Obser­va­tion and Space Safe­ty. 

What are the main challenges you are facing ? 

The world­wide devel­op­ment is very fast and the glob­al com­pe­ti­tion is fierce. Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is a must and the spe­cif­ic chal­lenges of the Coro­na Cri­sis have to be tack­led. As men­tioned above the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion is one key aspect and needs to be accel­er­at­ed as well. 

En Bref

The Euro­pean Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gate­way to space. Its mis­sion is to shape the devel­op­ment of Europe’s space capa­bil­i­ty and ensure that invest­ment in space con­tin­ues to deliv­er ben­e­fits to the cit­i­zens of Europe and the world. ESA is an inter­na­tion­al organ­i­sa­tion with 22 Mem­ber States. By coor­di­nat­ing the finan­cial and intel­lec­tu­al resources of its mem­bers, it can under­take pro­grammes and activ­i­ties far beyond the scope of any sin­gle Euro­pean coun­try. In 2020, the bud­get of ESA was 6.7 bil­lion of euros. 

Poster un commentaire