ESA at the New Space Economy European Expoforum

ESA at the New Space Economy European Expoforum [Dec/2019]

From 10 to 12 December, ESA organised a special programme of events at the New Space Economy European Expoforum (NSE) in Rome, Italy.

Organised in collaboration with Space Foundation, NSE Expo Forum created an opportunity for existing and new industrial players, small and medium innovative companies, investors, start-ups, research centres, space agencies and institutions from the space sector and other sectors to meet and exchange views among

During this event, ESA organised a series of events covering a wide range of topics, including innovative space for smart cities, cooperation with research and academia, access to investment for space companies, and the worldwide competitiveness of the European space industry.

See the full agenda here.



On 10 December, Jan Wӧrner, ESA Director General, inaugurated the ESA booth and signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Professor Francesco Cupertino, Rector of Politecnico of Bari, setting up a new ESA_Lab focused on Space Economy.

An ESA_Lab is an agreement between ESA and academia to promote innovation in European space activities, to fully exploit the benefits of space-based systems to the European society and to nurture a skilled workforce, ultimately contributing to Europe’s overall knowledge base and competitiveness.

Signature of ESA_Lab @ Politecnico of Bari

After the signature, ESA presented downstream projects in the field of Smart Cities in the ESA booth.

”Downstream” activities refer to  those activities based on space technologies that result in an application= or service to the benefit of the European economy or society. 

Across the world, cities are struggling to provide critical infrastructure and urban services to support their fast growing, often unrelenting, growth. The city of the future can be smart, green and connected. Behind many of the solutions necessary for developing Smart Cities and sustainable urbanisation, there are space technologies which are fundamental technological enablers such as using sensors and satellite connectivity, navigation systems, and Earth observation data.

European companies presented their  projects in four different fields : new mobility, 5G, urban environment and cybersecurity. 

ESA created an opportunity for the participants from industry, municipalities, academia and institutions  to meet and discover ESA projects supporting  Smart Cities.

Discussing downstream projects at the ESA booth



On 11 December ESA’s Space Economy Team organised the second Global Space Economic Forum (GSEF).

GSEF is the foremost creative platform to interactively discuss space-led innovation opportunities and the challenges arising from the on-going transformations driven by the space economy and the current and future trends in the global market. 

GSEF 2019

More than 150 attendees from industry, institutions and academia joined this annual meeting to exchange ideas on global challenges and present innovative projects developed with ESA in areas such as cybersecurity, autonomous driving, urban innovation and artificial intelligence.

The theme chosen for the GSEF 2019 was “Space creates value” as space programmes continue attracting public investments, as demonstrated at Space19+,and on top, increasingly more private investments. These investments generate industrial activities that now play a daily part of citizen’s lives, in the domains of telecommunications, positioning, navigation and timing and Earth observation. Markets for applications and services have been created and currently generate significant commercial value.

Eric Morel de Westgaver, Director of Industry, Procurement and Legal Services, welcomed the attendees of the Forum and highlighted the importance of this annual event where ESA and the space sector have the possibility to develop collaborations with industry and institutions from other sectors.

ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti presented the Benefits of Space on Economy and Society during the Global Space Economic Forum

Among other panels and speakers, Gian Paolo Manzella, the Italian Undersecretary at the Ministry of Economic Development, and Samantha Cristoforetti, the ESA Astronaut, gave keynote speeches. 

The event presented the industrial projects launched during the Global Space Economic Workshops organised in Italy and France in May 2019. Finally, the Metalysis-ESA Grand Challenge was officially launched. 



On 11 December, at the ESA booth, a session with European Academia was organised. Bringing valuable external and innovative perspectives, Academia is working with ESA to foster its role as a catalyst for inspiration and innovation.. These presentations showed how to assess ESA value for society (public value by UCLan), for businesses (economic impact on non-space sector by Bocconi) and how to develop a holistic and comprehensive approach for value creation (integrated thinking by LUISS).

ESA Booth

Exhibition: ESA Knowledge Management for Space Ecosystem 

Do you speak Space ? Apps and tools that support space community to understand and use standard terms (ECSS e-Glossary). 

Showcasing the AECA (Access ESA Core Activities) tool - a single entry point to ESA’s mission information’s with Virtual Reality to receive feedback by the space community.



On 11 December Eric Morel de Westgaver, Director of Industry, Procurement and Legal Services of ESA, opened a two-panel discussion organised jointly by ESA and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Early stage and mature SMEs, as well as representatives of the Italian and German Associations of SMEs, shared their experience and difficulties in accessing finance. The EIB, Airbus, ArianeGroup and ESA commented on the role they could play in facilitating the access to finance for space companies in Europe.

When it comes to SMEs, participants concluded, one financial instrument does not fit all. According to their maturity and risk levels, SMEs need to access various financial instruments, from risk capital to loans: risk capital (seed, venture capital, venture debt) is harder to obtain, but difficulties with loans also persist.

The difficulty in accessing capital varies geographically. Germany, Romania and Finland were given as examples where it is hard to obtain loans even for established SMEs. In Portugal and Italy, loans come easier, but risk capital is a problem. Differences in national approaches could partly explain the situation in some cases: for instance, Italy has set up a financial instrument jointly with the EIB for early stage SMEs (though the instrument is not specific to space, some space LSIs have benefited from it).

These difficulties are explained by risk avoidance by “home” banks and early-stage investors alike. Risks are overestimated due to a generally low awareness of the space industry ecosystem and markets. Ernst Pfeiffer, spokesman for the Association of German SMEs and CEO of HPS GmbH called for “a new banker”. Participants went on to define the “new banker” as those lenders and investors that are better informed about the specificities of space in Europe, more incentivised to take the time with due diligence for space businesses, and more willing to take risk.

Access to finance for space in Europe

We need a shift in the investment paradigm” conceded Milena Messori, Head of New Products and Special Transactions at the EIB. EIB’s collaboration with ESA, including the on-going work on an Debt Platform for Space SMEs, was presented as a step in the right direction. By bringing together a critical mass of companies into a platform, the risk of all is lowered. The lending interlocutors are educated about the environment of the loan candidates. The consequence of this is easier access and better loan conditions for the intended beneficiaries: bankable SMEs. However, new instruments should also be considered for early stage companies. Space companies should benefit from a few instruments more fit for purpose (early stage, bankable, primes and LSIs). All will be the subject of on-going reflections, consultations and work in the coming months.


ESA’s toolbox to support a sustainable development of the European space industrial basis session

On 12 December a discussion on competitiveness of the European space industry took place atthe ESA booth. 

A first panel introduced the ESA tools to support the growth of a sustainable  European space industrial ecosystem. In a second panel, space industry discussed the challenges presented by the globalisation of space markets. The two last sessions presented the business opportunities for European space industry in the UAE and in Australia.

Business Opportunities for European space industry in the UAE

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