The space policy pursued by successive Belgian governments over the last few decades has enabled our country to build up a high-performance scientific and industrial fabric that is recognised as such in Europe and the world. This policy allows Belgium to hold a specific and decisive place within Europe's space sector, particularly as the 5th largest contributor to ESA.
A recent study (Impact of Belgian investments in space research programmes, IDEA Consult 2019) on the impact of investments via ESA in the Belgian space sector, showed that € 559 M of contracts received during the period 2015-2018 (first quarter) led to € 642 M of added value, € 1,566 M of turnover and 6,473 full time jobs in the wider economy (direct, indirect and spin-off). Furthermore, it was shown that investments via ESA during this period resulted in 57% fiscal return to the state (without taking into account possible fiscal returns after 2019).
Belgium is determined to continue to make the most of and mobilise investments in space, to maintain a central position in this field, to benefit fully from the most promising developments and, above all, to continue to allow all industrial and scientific players, as well as users and, more generally, our fellow citizens, to benefit from the advantages of space. To this end, the Belgian space policy focuses on the following objectives:
- Giving Belgian scientific teams the opportunity to enhance their skills and acquire new ones. Several university laboratories and research centres have acquired a real know-how internationally recognised in highly specialised technical and scientific fields. A networked approach based on excellence should continue to be favoured and synergies and cooperation between universities, research centres and industry should be strengthened to ensure long-term innovation and its transfer to industry.
- Giving Belgian industrial teams the possibility to maintain a central position in their specific niches (core business) and to conquer new markets (multiplier effect) in a rapidly expanding sector. In this context, the programmatic orientations must undeniably make it possible to ensure their competitiveness at the European or even international level, and to limit their dependence on institutional funding.
- Moving Belgian actors up the chain of responsibility by focusing on "small" missions. This means directly (i.e. without going through the large space system integrators) mobilising the scientific and industrial capacities present in our country.
- Focusing on space applications for public authorities and citizens. This should lead to the creation of new services and the strengthening of the corresponding industry in a rapidly expanding sector.
- Taking into account major developments in the space domain and adapting to them. These measures include:
- Since the Lisbon Treaty, the European Commission has assumed increasing responsibilities in the field of space. This offers an opportunity for Belgian players to win additional contracts. This market is completely competitive. The participation of our actors in ESA programmes helps them to do so;
- Developments in the field of space follow one another more and more rapidly. Think of the New Space developments driven by disruptive players such as Space-X in the field of launchers and Planet Labs in the field of Earth observation. The Belgian strategy must absolutely adapt to this, notably by stimulating co-financed projects close to commercial markets;
- The 'security-defence' component of Europe's space sector is in full evolution. Belgium must position itself to be part of it and allow its players to occupy key positions, particularly in the field of cyber security.
The strategic considerations and priority axes developed above have notably guided Belgium's programmatic choices at the last ESA Councils at ministerial level, and in particular the most recent one held in Seville in November 2019.