European GNSS – key enabling technologies for a connected, prosperous digital Europe

30 January 2018
Carlo des Dorides (third from right) at the Tenth European Space Policy Conference

The second day of the Tenth Conference on European Space Policy in Brussels saw a significant contribution from GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides on the role of European GNSS and other EU space systems in the future of Europe, digitalisation and competitiveness. The conference, which has become Europe’s premier annual forum for space policy debate, took place on 23 and 24 January 2018 with the overall theme of ‘More Space for more Europe – stronger together’.

Des Dorides’ contribution followed opening remarks for the second day from Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, who emphasised the positive links between space and digital policy and the need to ensure a “fair and correct” digital infrastructure that served the needs of all European citizens. “Space has a major role to play in a digital Europe,” she said. And GSA, Galileo and EGNOS have a key role.

Space is an increasingly important component for a prosperous Europe and an asset for a more connected society and economy. The European GNSS Agency (GSA) and the flagship Galileo programme are essential elements of the EU’s space programme. But how does this fit with the digital agenda?

"Space is enabling the digitally connected world that we are only starting to appreciate now, but that will be the world of future generations,” said Carlo des Dorides. “Satellite navigation, positioning and timing enables ubiquitous connectivity between people, services and infrastructures."

The World is changing fast. There are now more than five billion smartphones in use in the World – in the EU there are more smartphones than humans. These devices place in citizens’ hands powerful sensors and computing. Geolocation is becoming ubiquitous and where the smartphone goes, internet goes too. And for this, two components - content and connectivity – were developing in parallel, said des Dorides.

Today, as the physical limits of Moore’s law on computing power are being reached, computing is moving into invisible infrastructure such as embedded computing and cloud computing. Satellite technologies were part of this invisible infrastructure offering added security from cyber-attacks compared to terrestrial systems.

Knowledge is key 

“Knowledge building is crucial for the future of Europe,” said des Dorides. “And investing in innovation is key to shaping this fast-changing world.” Europe needs to ensure that it can access the right talent to ensure continuing prosperity.

Galileo is providing excellent infrastructure for jobs and growth in Europe. “Today some 50 000 jobs in Europe are linked to the implementation of Galileo and EGNOS in downstream industries,” claimed des Dorides. “This compares to some 3 000 jobs in upstream industries.”

“By switching from a satellite launch model to a business service model, the GSA has enabled the Galileo application market to grow and contribute to a more prosperous and successful Europe,” concluded des Dorides.

Christian Ehler, MEP and member of the European Parliament’s industry (ITRE) Committee reinforced the value of satellite technologies to EU competitiveness, jobs and growth and said that his party, the European Peoples Party (EPP), would be supporting the space budget in the forthcoming Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) discussions to ensure full implementation of the EU’s flagship satellite programmes: Galileo and Copernicus.

In later panel discussions on ‘Space for security and defence in Europe: beyond the dual-use’ Tomasz Husak, Head of Cabinet for European Commissioner Bieńkowska praised the progress made during 2017 and that Galileo was now delivering the most precise signal on Earth: “at the room level rather than just the house” he claimed. And he looked forward to the launch of Galileo’s PRS secure signal.

Jorge Domecq, Chief Executive, European Defence Agency, also emphasised the dual use capabilities of both the Copernicus and Galileo satellite systems.

Roberto Battiston, President of the Italian Space Agency reminded the conference that if the EU wanted to become the reliable global space power for peace and development, it needed to build up its workforce and capability, reinforcing the point made earlier by Carlo des Dorides.

Closing praise

In his closing remarks, Jerzy Buzek, MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s ITRE Committee, also highlighted the MFF debate and underlined the need for adequate funding to “carry on the success of Galileo, Copernicus and EGNOS” and take on the emerging issues, such as cyber security.

In particular, he felt that the GSA required more resources. “This is a potential risk to one of our flagship projects,” he claimed and called on the European Commission to ensure adequate funding for the agency. “The ITRE Committee was ready to support this,” he said.

Finally, Emil Karanikolov, the Bulgarian Minister of Economy, concluded the conference on behalf of the European Council Presidency. He said the presidency was “convinced of the strategic nature of the sector” and the need to “take the possibilities given by space policy.”

He praised the EU flagship satellite programmes, Galileo and Copernicus, calling them undoubted successes. He said that the Bulgarian Presidency would support the success of these leading EU programmes, adding that their development and continuity were of paramount importance as drivers of jobs, growth and competitiveness.

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Updated: Jan 30, 2018