The main topic of the virtual EU Space Conference 2021 held on 10 November 2021 was the Secure Connectivity initiative by the European Commissioner for Internal Market in charge of defence industry and space, Thierry Breton. The initiative addresses the need for space based secure and resilient global connectivity, which is only increasing with the growth of digitalisation of the economy and society and the growing geopolitical cyber threats.
The Secure Connectivity initiative is the third pillar of the EU Space programme, alongside Copernicus and Galileo. The initiative is important for businesses, public authorities and the general public, as it aims to better protect them against cyber- and hybrid threats, and to harness the technological potential of the digital and space industries in the European Union and its member states. At the same time it represents an important business opportunity for small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs). This is of particular interest to Slovenia, as SMEs have been made a priority of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The initiative aims to ensure reliable, cost‑effective, ultra‑secure connectivity at the EU‑level for governmental and commercial communications, critical infrastructures, crisis management, maritime and airspace surveillance, also covering Africa and the Arctic, as well as widespread high‑speed broadband across the EU for a fully functioning single market.
In his introductory remarks, Slovenian Minister Zdravko Počivalšek highlighted the need for a harmonised approach among the EU member states in the area of secure connectivity. The minister also particularly emphasised that Slovenia considers the European Space Agency as an important partner. "The EU member states must reach an agreement on the sustainable funding of the programme," concluded Minister Počivalšek.
In his introductory remarks, the European Commissioner for Internal Market in charge of defence industry and space, Thierry Breton, said: "Europe must not be left behind. This is why space and the Secure Connectivity initiative will be a priority of the European Commission in 2022."
The panel discussion aimed at presenting the current state of play of the Secure Connectivity initiative and the potential business opportunities. Further participants in the discussion include Guillaume de la Brose , representative of the European Commission's Directorate‑General for Defence Industry and Space , Elodie Viau, the Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at the European Space Agency, Olivier Lemaitre, Eurospace Secretary‑General, Aarti Holla‑Maini, Secretary‑General of the EMEA satellite operators Association (ESOA), and Juan Tomas Hernani, CEO of SATLANTIS and President of the Young European Enterprises Syndicate Space (YEESS). The participants highlighted that in order to increase the competitiveness of the European space sector, it will be necessary to increase investments, strengthen cooperation between key players and lay down relevant rules. The goal should be providing people with quality and secure services.
In his closing remarks, MEP Niklas Nienass expressed his satisfaction that EU policy is changing and prioritising space. "Space investments, both public and private, need to be stepped up both at EU level and in the EU member states. Space represents an important business opportunity for SMEs, which is also an area the European Union is focusing on," said MEP Nienass. The funds for the Secure Connectivity initiative, expected to amount to around EUR 6 billion, will come from the European Union budget and from EU member states through national recovery plans and budgets, and from the private sector in the form of a public‑private partnership.
The legislative proposal on building an EU space‑based global secure communication system will be among the key new initiatives of the European Commission for 2022.
The event was organised under the auspices of the Slovenian Presidency by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology in cooperation with the European Commission.