Space as an essential component of the global economy

01 December 2020

On 25-26 November, a workshop was held, entitled “Gli Stati Generali della Space Economy”, addressing Italy’s leading space companies and institutions.

The first workshop session, focused on “the relationship between businesses and institutions within the industry’s horizons,” was attended by Giorgio Saccoccia, President of the Italian Space Agency; Luigi Pasquali, Leonardo’s space activities coordinator and CEO of Telespazio; and Luca Del Monte, Head of ESA’s Industrial Policy and SME Division. Riccardo Fraccaro, the Undersecretary of State to the Presidency of the Italian Council of Ministers with responsibility for Aerospace, made the closing speech.

The afternoon session, dedicated to “Space projects, design and concreteness: the upcoming future of Space-in-Italy”, included speeches by Massimo Comparini, CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italia, and Giuseppe Aridon, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Competitive Analysis at Telespazio.

On the second day, Paolo Minciacchi, CEO of E-Geos, participated in the panel, “Space projects, from qualification to application: the complete supply chain”.

We asked Luigi Pasquali to explain Italy’s role in the space sector and the importance of collaboration between public and private companies.
 

Can Italy still play a leading role in space?

We certainly can, and we believe that we will continue to do so for a very long time because of certain advantages that allow us to keep up with the big players. I would like to mention two in particular. Firstly, in Italy, space governance has developed rapidly over the last few years, driving dialogue, coordination and direction. Secondly, our industrial sector covers the entire value chain through large enterprises, SMEs and research centres. As a result, Italy has managed to develop SAR radar technology, which keeps us at the cutting-edge, developing the latest generation hardware. We have also developed secure communications systems such as those of the SICRAL satellites, which are critical for the armed forces, enabling them to interact safely and securely with other countries and with NATO. And let’s not forget that Italy was responsible for almost 60% of the housing units of the International Space Station, enabling our country to establish a privileged relationship with the United States and NASA for future exploration missions. We have some of the best control centres and operational capabilities in Europe, and we are also among the first to work on the issues of collision avoidance and space situational awareness.
 

In Italy, does the future of space lie in collaboration between the public and the private spheres?

This will certainly be an important aspect of space exploration going forward. At Leonardo, we believe that the growth of SMEs and of the national supply chain is key, and occurs through open innovation. This commitment forms part of our strategic mission, because no one can do everything on their own. In addition, venture capital is increasingly prevalent in our industry – both in the US and Europe – as a means of enabling SMEs to harness their full potential. The institutions play a significant role in space exploration, which is primarily used by their operators as a strategic element of national sovereignty. Therefore, the importance of effective governance can be demonstrated by the Italian experience. Private entities can contribute from an industrial point of view and as investors. The space economy has brought space closer to users, broadening its previously technological horizon. Today, space is “user-driven” by the needs of the market. This new paradigm justifies private funding as it ensures a return on investment. Space is already becoming an operative domain; a place with an economic, strategic and defence purpose; an extension of Earth in which to carry out numerous activities. In the medium term, its importance will be even greater. We are already striving to make this happen, and I am sure that in a couple of decades, what I describe will have become a reality.

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