Space & Society Project: Bridging the Missing Links

Space & Society Project: Bridging the Missing Links

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European Economic and Social Committee launched ‘Space & Society’ project to bring space technologies closer to the citizens. Six events are already lined up in the next three months. Find out how you can participate.

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Space systems and space-based technologies are a critical part of the daily life of all European citizens and businesses. But are the citizens aware of all the advantages which these technologies bring? Is this large market easily accessible to European SMEs? What has already been done at European level in this sector? These questions were the starting point for the Space & Society project, launched by the European Economic and Social Committee last September.

The European Economic and Social Committee is a consultative body of the European Union composed of 353 members from various economic and social interest groups in Europe. Its role is to ensure that European policies and legislation tie in better with economic, social and civic circumstances on the ground and to promote the development of a more participatory European Union. Its opinions are forwarded to the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the EU’s decision-making process.

The Committee has always devoted considerable attention to space policy, giving its opinion on different legislative initiatives in this field (recently, for instance, on the directive on the dissemination of Earth observation satellite data for commercial purposes). But the initial idea behind this project was to go further than the Committee’s usual task of issuing opinions and to find an innovative way to answer the above-mentioned questions.

The first step was to set up a steering group, find interested partners, prepare a project plan and discuss the main objectives to be achieved. Six Committee members from six different countries, including the project coordinator Mr. Lozia, were joined by several partners from the public and private sphere (European Commission, ESA, EARSC, EURISY and more recently Geospatial Media & Communications, NEREUS, ESPI, EUROGI and GSA). Two preparatory meetings took place before the presentation of the project at the 7th Annual Conference on European Space Policy which was held in Brussels in January 2015 and brought together more than 700 participants from the space sector.

The next steps are still to come! At the heart of the project are six events which will be organised between April and June 2015 in 6 European countries. The first event will take place in Brussels in April, and will focus on the depiction of space by young painters from an art school in Bucharest. In May, a conference will be organised in Kaunas, in Lithuania, on space policy in the Baltic region. Then in June, there will be three conferences held in Italy, in France and in The Netherlands on the following topics: current and future legislative initiatives, new job opportunities linked to the use of new space applications and SMEs involved in space with a focus on incubators. This series of events will culminate with a visit to Cologne, Germany, to discuss the promotion of space in schools and universities.

Each event and its specific objectives are tailored to the context of the host country and coordinated as appropriate with the national stakeholders. They represent an excellent opportunity to reach out beyond the space community and involve socio-economic stakeholders from various sectors at all levels. Information gathered at all these events will contribute to the final conference to be held at the EESC premises in Brussels on 29 June 2015. Policy-makers, representatives from civil society, students and other stakeholders from the space sector or abroad will be invited to give their point of view on different aspects of the European space policy.

What is the objective of the Space & Society project, as determined by the steering group and its partners? First of all, the group will issue final recommendations, based on all these events and on exchanges the Committee members had in their respective countries. The recommendations will be presented to the Commission, ESA and other key stakeholders in the European space sector. But the final, more ambitious objective is to set up a permanent platform which will bring together all interested stakeholders to meet the shared goal of bridging the missing links. There is a clear need to identify and remove barriers in order to increase the benefits of the internal market, to make space activities more attractive to young people, to support research and education in this field, to create new and better-quality jobs, to ensure investments are profitable, and to maintain and increase Europe’s pre-eminent role.

Project website: http://europa.eu/!Tr99BK