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ESPI - The European Space Policy Institute

bridges vol. 9, April 2006 / Institutions & Organizations
by Irene Eckart

Vienna, Schwarzenbergplatz 6, Palais Fanto - a neoclassical Ringstraßenpalais, formerly seat of the Austrian Federal Alcohol Monopoly. This, rather unexpectedly, is the place from which the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) provides Europe with an independent source of policy analysis with respect to the needs, capabilities, and long-term perspectives in space. Austria is unlikely to show up on anybody's short list for space powers, and Vienna is not the first place to look for a think tank devoted to space issues. Nevertheless, the country's geographical situation in the heart of Europe makes it attractive for a variety of international organizations with space involvement: the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Wessenar Arrangement on export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, and - the youngest of them all - ESPI.


{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} Legally founded on November 26, 2003, by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Austrian Government, represented by the Austrian Space Agency (FFG/ASA), yet completely independent from both ESA and Austria, ESPI now has around ten staff members. Its international team of nationals from EU Member States including EU newcomers reflects its truly European character, which does not stop with geographical symbolism. ESPI has the stature of a non-profit organization under Austrian Law, and has close contact with other institutions (e.g., ad hoc Expert in ESA).

ESPI intends to close the gap between strategy research, space tools, and decision makers. To this end, it produces its own studies with specific recommendations addressed to heads of space agencies, politicians, industry managers, and external clients such as the European Commission. The Institute's long-term orientation is proposed by the Steering Committee, a high-level advisory group composed of former political leaders and high-level scientists, which is elected by the General Assembly for three years.

Following is an interview with Serge Plattard who has headed the ESPI since September 2004:

bridges: Mr. Plattard, what experiences of your career best prepared you for your position as Secretary General of ESPI?

Plattard_Serge_captionSerge Plattard: "My career has been quite versatile and international. Starting as a nuclear physicist, I then moved to policy planning and programming, dealing with energy and space geopolicy, and then I served as science attaché and counsellor for Science and Technology in several French Embassies (New Delhi, Tokyo, and Washington) before joining CNES, the French Space Agency, as director of International Relations.I would say that my experience abroad and at CNES have been the most directly useful for my current duties.2. Looking back at the last one-and-a-half years, what have been the major challenges and the major achievements for this brand-new institute and for you personally?Essentially, the major challenge was to really start up the Institute. Which means: getting the initial funds to flow in, and finding an easily accessible location in Vienna with premises well-adapted for research work (top-level IT capacities) and a venue that would allow workshops and conferences in situ.Then, or rather in parallel, the human resources question had to be tackled: how to get good people to join an institution not yet well known - people ready to take the risk of dedicating themselves to space policy research, although some parts of it are already carried out elsewhere. In addition, since ESPI's resources are limited, we had to start the activation of a network of experts ready to be engaged in our first studies.The ongoing challenge is to broaden the human resources base mostly through secondments and to enlarge the ESPI membership through enlisting the support of companies, space agencies, and universities."

bridges: What is the annual budget of ESPI? From which sources does ESPI receive funding and how are these funds appropriated?

Serge Plattard: "In 2006, the expected budget for ESPI is slightly above €500,000. This does not take into account salaries of seconded staff from ESA, CNES, DLR and FFG/ALR. Therefore, the figure above accounts for the running costs of the Institute, hired staff, and project-related work.
Initially, ESPI was funded by ESA and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency/ Aeronautics and Space Agency (FFG/ALR), and since a few weeks we have also received support from EADS-SPACE.
Regarding the allocation of funds, particularly with respect to projects, the priorities are determined by ESPI's Steering Committee and refined through contractual arrangements."

bridges: On which activities and topics does ESPI currently focus? And how does your current focus tie into European space policy priorities?

Serge Plattard: "ESPI focused on European space governance in 2005, looking at a new paradigm. Proposals have been compiled in a report published in November 2005 (see http://www.espi.or.at ). Some preparatory work has also been done on the role of space tools for ensuring sustainability on Earth.
In 2005 ESPI was also awarded a contract by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) to prepare the Graz Conference on GMES. This conference will be held under the Austrian EU Presidency, on April 19-20, 2006.
In 2006 we will concentrate on two geostrategic topics:
1) the role played by some of the "EU 10" member states plus Ukraine in formulating a European space strategy; and
2) the importance of China as a fast-rising space-faring nation, vis-à-vis Europe and Russia.
ESPI will also work on the unavoidable use of space tools in guaranteeing a sustainable development of the planet, together with more technical work on the networks of competences in Europe.
Some attention will be also devoted to two other issues: defining what satcom services will look like 10 years from now, and contributing to collective space security awareness."

bridges: In your opinion, which areas should receive additional attention in European space policy?

Serge Plattard: "The area of space security should definitely be looked at more extensively. It is well known that, including all space sectors, Europe devotes six times less funding to space security than the US; this figure becomes 20 times less when integrating Department of Defense spending, considering solely the security and defense sectors.
Of course, the aim of Europe is not to equal the American effort. Nevertheless, if Europe wants to continue to play a significant role in world affairs and maintain or even gain influence overseas, it definitely will have to rethink its role in security and defense and, consequently, the role assigned to the space dimension in these areas.
Secondly, Europeans should be more of a presence in space science and exploration of the solar system. Indeed, the science programs of ESA together with some national support have proved to be excellent, e.g., Mars Express, XMM telescope, Cassini-Huygens or Venus Express, and Rosetta to come. As far as exploration goes, the Aurora program was adopted in December at the ESA Council held at the ministerial level.
Nevertheless, the Europeans should be more involved in the Moon exploration, the new Moon venture headed by the Americans, and integrate the role they should have in exploitation of lunar outposts.
Vis-à-vis applications, the two flagships, Galileo and GMES, supported by the EU as well, are now on their way to receiving a good deal of attention from the relevant stakeholders."

bridges: Are you currently satisfied with the level of public awareness of the importance of space research and its funding in Europe?

Serge Plattard: "As explained earlier, there is a large difference in public spending for space in Europe compared with the US, and even more so when it comes to research. The reason for that is rather simple.
In America, the driver for space utilization is institutional demand, in particular the defense component, therefore implying major allocations of funds for research. By contrast, to a large extent the driver in Europe comes from commercial applications - launchers and satellites hardware and services - subject to market trends and fluctuations, leaving significantly less room for guaranteed contracts and research work, and faced with increasing competition.
Unless space is perceived as a priority at the top political European level, or at least as a major strategic asset to be put forward, institutional space funding will stagnate at the current levels or, at best, enjoy a slow growth. Should this occur, a substantial amount of research and industrial activities could be jeopardized."

bridges: What is your opinion of Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)?

Serge Plattard: "GMES is an ongoing process that started with the Baveno initiative in May 1998 and deals essentially with the ways and means for Europe to have its own governance regarding environment and security worldwide. Europe should be able to know the environmental condition of the planet on a 24/7 basis in order to make decisions, if any, relying on its own information base.
GMES, together with Galileo, should become the two space flagships of the European Union in this decade and the next.
The difficulty today with this program, largely oversubscribed at the December 2005 ESA Council at the Ministerial level, is to find clear leadership and rules of governance, with each actor being properly set in its role. In particular, it is expected that the Commission should fulfil its role in achieving the overall success of GMES.
The second issue is to create the proper conditions in Europe and its regions for the initiation and sustainable development of a market for GMES. It is with this perspective that the Austrian Presidency of the EU has decided to convene a conference in Graz on April 19-20, 2006, proposing a possible roadmap for GMES and looking at the particular role of the European regions in forming a market for these GMES activities."

bridges: On your institution's Web site, you announce the creation of a center for information in space matters for researchers, decision makers, students, journalists, opinion leaders, and professionals. How far are you in your implementation plans?

Serge Plattard: "The implementation plans are going on, although I must confess that we are running behind schedule. Due to dealing with the start-up mode of the Institute last year, things are taking longer than anticipated. In 2006, we should be able to set up a European space policy reference center, consisting mainly of establishing a dedicated analogical and digital library connected to other European libraries. There is already the possibility of using our premises to carry out research work, bringing in one's computer to benefit from a wi-fi connection through our mirror server.
Today, we are also able to respond to particular requests originating from researchers, students, journalists or professionals, and space-interested citizens as well."

bridges: In your opinion, what are the consequences, if any, of the recent shift of the space dossier within the European Commission from "Science & Research" to "Industry & Enterprise"?

Serge Plattard: "It is always a delicate decision to designate a particular Commissioner (or Ministry in the case of national governments) to bear the responsibility for space. Indeed, the spectrum of space activities is quite broad, ranging from science to environment, going through navigation, Earth observation, telecommunication, and weather forecasting, just to name a few. Therefore, picking a particular Commissioner is difficult. Often space has been related to research (Commission, France, Germany. . .) but there is definitely an increasing tendency to look at applications benefiting the citizen, which explains why the "new" Commission has opted to shift responsibility from "Research" to "Enterprise and Industry." This is perfectly understandable.
Because of the horizontal nature of space activities and the sovereignty issues attached to them such as defense or autonomous access to space, I personally think that responsibility for space within the Commission should eventually be moved to an autonomous space office. This office should be attached to and report to the several EU Commissioners involved through space applications in their domain (e.g., Enterprise and Industry, Environment, Development and Humanitarian Aid, Agriculture, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs) and also to the EU secretary general/ high representative."

bridges: Could you share your thoughts on the future of Europe's international cooperation in space research?

Serge Plattard: "At the Space Council on November 28, 2005, geopolicy guidelines about Europe's international cooperation were discussed. European nations could have their own priorities as well, complementary as much as possible to EU policies.
Through ESA, Europe has taken its first steps in space exploration cooperation in contributing to the ISS. The space exploration venture is worth pursuing, as it will be a source of technological innovation and of scientific discoveries. On the Moon, as a start, addressing human exploration will necessitate robotics and life modules in which Europe should be present. But Europe will also be positioned in Mars exploration, in particular through advanced robotics in orbit and in situ.
Through its GMES program, where significant research still needs to be carried out, Europe will contribute to the success of GEOSS [Global Earth Observation System of Systems] and vice versa.
To me, exploration and environmental monitoring are the two areas on which Europe should focus its internal activities and international cooperation in space research for the next 10 to 20 years, in addition to the ongoing flagships represented by Galileo and GMES."{/access}

 

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