In view of these difficult times when the Coronavirus ‘Covid-19’ is threatening lives and the economic future of many, the ACCESS.SPACE Alliance, which represents the small satellite sector and its stakeholders, expresses its worries and concerns on the effects of the current crisis for our members and the wider Space ecosystem.
Since Covid-19 has become a global pandemic, the NewSpace ecosystem, including some of our members, are facing the following challenges in their day-to-day operations:
- cash flow constrains, lack of resources to fund operations, difficulties in accessing finance, reduction of customer orders, revenue losses and/or lack of visibility about the consequences of the crisis, with a disproportionate impact for startups and SMEs, which are at risk of business interruption or even bankruptcy due to the new crisis;
- delays or difficulties in terms of workforce availability, supply chain disruptions, manufacturing, launches, with sometimes risks of financial penalties;
- delays in research, development and innovation (RD&I) projects and operational problems to join, participate or continue such projects; and
- delays or difficulties in terms of networking, contract acquisition and business development due to restrictions in terms of mobility, flight cancellations, travel restrictions and prohibitions of conferences and other events.
ACCESS.SPACE also notes that due to the current crisis global telecommunications networks have been facing unprecedented strain leading to data speed disruption and service level degradation at a time when connectivity is critical to keep the economy running, inform and educate the public and coordinate the battle against the virus. Although no major outages have occurred so far, the risk of such – whether by congestion or unavailability of workforce or spare parts – is growing as the pandemic spreads, calling for more disaster-resilient communication networks. Satellite-based communication networks by design are largely independent from terrestrial infrastructure and hence should play a greater role in disaster communication strategies supporting disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
ACCESS.SPACE applauds ongoing efforts to deal with the virus crisis and mitigate its substantial socio-economic impact. We recommend taking extraordinary measures to counteract the crisis and anticipate long term consequences. Public support for RD&I remains critical and may well be the only option for startups and SMEs during these difficult economic times. Among the measures that should be implemented with a sense of urgency are:
- tax measures such as deferred payment of corporate taxes, social security contributions and VAT, advancement of government payments, tax rebates and direct financial support;
- pan-European and national programmes to ensure that workers (including self-employed) are protected against income losses and to maintain the flow of liquidity to the economy, especially to make sure that the most affected companies have the necessary support and financial liquidity;
- immediately available ambitious budgets for RD&I by the space ecosystem, which can not only support the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also global efforts to monitor and mitigate the Covid-19 outbreak;
- administrative steps and workarounds to ease operational problems during RD&I programmes such as extending the deadlines to allow sufficient time to finalise high-quality proposals and allow substitute or delayed performance;
- governmental measures to support and accelerate the ongoing deployment of new ground-breaking satellite constellations and related ventures, allow them to raise capital, strengthen network resilience globally and support the ecosystem of suppliers and service providers that has developed around these emerging satellite constellations; and
- public support measures to allow startups and SMEs to operate their business “remotely/virtually” and to stimulate relevant innovations (e.g. awarding prizes to stimulate innovative ideas and new applications).
ACCESS.SPACE wishes to thank institutions, governments and agencies for their actions, and for in taking requests from our members for support into account. We are taking our share in the global efforts to deal with the current virus crisis. We suggest reflecting on its consequences and seeking to transform the crisis into an opportunity to promote more sustainable behaviors and lower ecological footprint. We remain at the disposal for any consultation related to the above and are happy to work with other stakeholders to help our members implementing appropriate measures.
 The more than 25 million startups and SMEs accounted for >99.8% of all enterprises in EU-28 in 2018 and for >66% of total employment in the non-financial business sector, EC Annual Report on European SMEs, 2018/2019.