The 5th contributor to the financing of the European Space Agency (ESA), Belgium, will have an interfederal space agency, the creation of which was approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday 25 November 2016. This new structure, which will involve the Regions must enable Belgium to face up to international competition in major space projects.
In Belgium, the Council of Ministers approved the proposal for a reform of the space sector made by the Secretary of State for Science Policy, Elke Sleurs. A decision that will give birth to the Belgian Interfederal Space Agency (ISAB), which will be operational in the summer of 2017. According to Elke Sleurs, this creation should allow Belgium to manage its space investments in a more flexible way, better manage its staff and better distribute the financial benefits between the different Regions.
Why such a restructuring?
Belgium is today the 5th contributor to the financing of the European Space Agency (ESA) behind Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom with an annual budget of 190 million euros. Only since the Lisbon Treaty, the space sector “ operates on a “highest bidder” basis, which often means that large EU industrial contracts ultimately benefit the main players “says the Secretary of State on her website. » If we do not move, Belgium risks losing space contracts « .
The space sector in Belgium involves around sixty companies, employs some 2,000 people and generates an annual turnover of 350 million euros. The creation of this ISAB should lead to the abolition of BELSPO, the Public Science Policy Programming Service (the equivalent of the CNRS in France) which defines and implements research programs and networks and manages Belgium’s participation in the European and international research organisations.
This decision by the Council of Ministers has aroused some apprehension in Wallonia, which fears losing part of the industrial benefits of European projects due to community distribution. In fact, the aeronautics and space industry sector has nearly three times more jobs in Wallonia than in Flanders.