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5th Space Forum – Lisbon, November 5th 2014

Answers to questions by António Neto da Silva, President of PROESPAÇO


Question 1 by FCT:
For the successful participation of Portugal in Space and in ESA it is necessary an extremely good articulation and interaction between these three stakeholders ESA, the Public Administration and the community (scientific and industrial), which is understandably challenging and always improving.  You have had wide experience on these issues. What could you advise, on your perspective, to improve the interaction between these stakeholders, for the benefit of the overall space sector?

António Neto da Silva: First of all let me congratulate the Organizers of this Space Forum. Secondly I wish to thank my colleagues at the speakers table for their knowledge and sensibility about the importance of Space. Thirdly to stress that Space is definitely a first priority for Europe. As stated by ESA and the EU Commission, Space is now fully assumed as a strategic asset for Europe. Strategic in all its dimensions of sovereignty (science& technology, economy, defence, etc.). But more than that, it is assumed as an engine of industry leadership and of economic value in Europe.  Actually, for the first time ever, the new European Commission has a Commissioner explicitly devoted to Space. And this Commissioner is associated to another first priority to Europe which is Transport. The recently nominated Commission has a Commissioner for Transport and Space. Fourthly let me say that for the Portuguese Administration to deal correctly with Space it absolutely needs to adopt a National Strategy for Space. We, PROESPAÇO, the Portuguese Association of Space Industries, representing more than 95% of the Portuguese Space offer, already handed to the Portuguese Government a Strategy for Space two years ago. By last September we updated our document and, again, handed it to Government. We do expect the Public Administration to do its job as PROESPAÇO did. And we do stimulate the Government to change its lethargic “we have no money” attitude to a dynamic attitude of defining the true priorities for the Country and promote investment on the sectors that are actually a priority. Fifthly, being Space a responsibility of different Ministries, this Golden Staff of FCT, under the exemplar executive leadership of Mr. Cabrita Carneiro, should be reinforced and have a binding decision power to coordinate the different Ministries. Delegates, as well, should be professionalized and not just part-timers on Space This can only be possible if this team is fully empowered by the Prime Minister given that no single Minister how powerful he can be has the power of coordination inter-pares. This said I answer directly your question.

Public administration is key, as it is most of the times the messenger and the intersection between ESA and the space community. So, most of all, it has to be strong, stable and with a clear view and strategy that can guide both sides in their choices and decisions, and this is most important the more developed the space community is in a country.

Portugal is an ESA member for almost 15 years - our current status and responsibilities demand much more. To grow and reap the benefits of Space, we need now, and urgently, a well dimensioned, more dedicated and professional structure within the Portuguese public administration able to respond and react accordingly. The effort put so far by FCT has been incredible and we only have to thank and praise their work these last years - all the pains they have suffered have now to be compensated.
In particular, we urgently need

  • Process transparency and due information to hamper useless efforts due to ill information
  • Having national programs linked to Space in order to improve stakeholders efficiency
  • Improve the communication between ESA contracts office and the Delegation so that the delegation can have the full visibility of the awarded tasks to Portugal.
  • Provide more detail in the IPC (and other) reports to understand ahead what are the opportunities that will be presented to the industry and allow for a better (more focused) preparation.

Question 2 by FCT:  
To close with one of the most relevant topics for the space community, by the end of the year, ESA will hold a Ministerial meeting, where Member states take important decisions, which define the future of space in Europe and the future of the space community, mainly through the subscription of optional programmes. Proespaço has already submitted to the Public administration the industrial perspective for this Ministerial. In summary, what are your expectations for this Ministerial, and for the evolution of the space industry for the next couple of years?

António Neto da Silva: We expect two main actions from Government.

  • First we absolutely expect the Government to follow the example of Europe and definitely Compromise to Space.
  • Second, we expect main ESA programs for which the Portuguese Space Industry is skilled to be seriously reinforced, returning to a subscription of € 36 million at each Ministerial and improving.
    This said.

For Portugal, this Ministerial should mark the start of a new cycle. We need to re-industrialize our economy focusing in high value added industries (space, biotech, aeronautics, defence, etc). The years after the 2008 Inter-Ministerial have been agonizing and should not be repeated.

After 15 years Portugal does have a consolidated capacity, developed in open competition. Today, the role our industry wants to play, and our partners are expecting us to take is being limited by our budget. We can't either afford being left out when the next level of interaction is at stake or enduring "small subcontractor" when we can already tackle systems, nor not having funding to support emerging technologies.

We have done so much with so little. Let’s dare to dream what we can do with a level of investment in line with our capabilities! To mention just one example, take FP7 for instance, where Portugal competitively returned in Space much more that it invested. Portugal is a spring loaded space industry waiting to be released. For Portugal the € 36 million subscription foreseen by PROESPAÇO is critical to guarantee that the effort done by industry and the associated results can continue allowing the growth of Portuguese competitiveness, in particular in technological programs, key for the overall positioning within the mandatory program which is still a concern for Portugal.

Other elements of relevance in the next coming years are

  • Relevance of the role of ESA and EC with the transitioning of programs (e.g. Galileo) and the possible impact in industry (from IOV to FOC phase). Measures to guarantee involvement of small players.
  • Coordination between ESA R&D programs (TRP, GSTP, EREP, etc.) and EC’s H2020.
  • Alignment between ESA-led R&D efforts involving Portuguese industry and ESA-led programs implementation to guarantee reuse.

It is, though, essential to increase the participation of Portugal in the ESA programs and avoid deviation of resources to other activities with less value added both in financial and knowledge improvement.

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