Interview

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Interview of Eric Morel de Westgaver, ESA Director of Industry, Procurement and Legal Affairs (D/IPL)

The Directorate of Industry, Procurement, and Legal affairs is responsible for elaborating and implementing the industrial policy of the Agency, representing the Director General in all relations with industry; it also elaborates and implements the Agency’s procurement rules and policies, and manages procurements for all activities of the Agency.

How your Directorate is taking care about the political strategy on the one hand and major industrial interests on the other. How is this duality integrated?

Special attention has always been paid by the Agency and by Member States, to the dialogue with European Space industry. The ESA dialogue with industry has been reinforced late 2012, since the last Council at Ministerial level decided to create a “High Level Forum” (HLF) that gathers together representatives of Member States and of the whole value chain of space industry to foster a dialogue on competitiveness and growth in Europe and provide recommendations to the Director General. It institutionalizes the dialogue, and in a number of cases trigger specific industry-ESA expert working groups whose exchanges allow to develop further in details issues and options.

The key question of the balance between industrial interests and political strategy is achieved when the Executive, e.g. wrt procurement and industrial policy evolutions, presents concrete proposals to Member States delegations through ESA Council and/or its subordinate bodies.

How is this balanced with the views of Member States and what does it mean in practice (ie what tools/instruments do you use to develop an industrial policy?

The working out of industrial policy evolution and set up is always a complex process, which has to consider the different views of Member States and of the different programme directorates, and ensure that proposals will be manageable, efficient while reflecting the objectives of the different stakeholders. Obviously, every ESA national Delegation has structured dialogues in place with national industry, in particular to prepare space national policies and Delegation positions w.r.t. ESA delegate bodies.

The large diversity of stakes necessitates step-by-step approaches, where issues are presented and discussed, options are sketched and Member States positions gathered, before policies are taking final shape. Sometimes different Council subordinate bodies have to be consulted before new policies are endorsed by Council. On these issues, I have been always looking for strong consensus, well ahead of pure majority votes; it is inevitably time and effort consuming but when adopted the policy is on solid grounds and presents chances for stability of rules over time, an essential element for industry.

Inevitably, evolutions with high political importance deserve decisions by Ministers, for example to mandate the Director General to put in place the means necessary to implement broad policy decisions.

Traditionally ESA responsibility is for the space manufacturing industry whilst many of the benefits lie downstream; how can ESA do more to help the downstream sector develop being this important to underpin and sustain investments made in the manufacturing segment?

The development of the downstream sector is, and always been, an important concern for ESA: the economy is there, as well as the direct benefit for the citizens. It is a domain where ESA is not alone to shape the success conditions. ESA already has put in place specific programmes like the VAC, within the Earth Observation Envelope Programme, or the Integrated Application Programme in ARTES, for this. ESA certainly helped through the development of knowledge, technologies. ESA already promoted the use of space technology and data. ESA demonstrated services and provide efficient access to data. To do more in this respect, and it is necessary, I am personally convinced that ESA needs a renewed mandate from Ministers.

EARSC has recently published a position paper on ESA downstream sector development, how do you respond to this and where do you see the priorities on the 5 major recommendations:
◦ stimulate the full exploitation of space data and the development of innovative applications, with industry-led initiatives
◦ create financial conditions for new initiatives to thrive and prosper
◦ provide specific support to the transition of proven demonstration concepts into commercial operations
◦ support access of European industry to the global market
◦ create a clear institutional market for EO services industry sector in Europe.

I would like to thank EARSC for it. It allowed to identify the most important elements that policy makers have to consider to develop the EO downstream sector. Being precise in the different domains of action, it allows Member States to reflect further on what could/should be performed by ESA, by the Commission, or through other national mechanisms. It is obviously useful for ESA programme directorates to reflect on what ESA can further develop and propose through work plans to programme boards.

To move forward, the EARSC position paper was included in a document which described the status of Executive plan of action wrt past HLF, together with the outcomes of the June HLF, which was discussed in the frame of ESA Industrial Policy Committee, end of June.

Our intention is to propose a resolution to Council, in view of the preparation of the end of the year Ministerial Conference, to further develop ESA programmes and activities in support to the development of the European downstream sector. Such a resolution would set a clear mandate to ESA, and would trigger a number of actions to define how best ESA could support the sector.

Part of the resolution addresses the need to continue the dialogue with industry and associations like EARSC, successfully engaged with the High Level Forum, in view to promote the utilisation of European operational space infrastructures, to reflect on how to reach sustainable commercial business, and to optimise the ESA procurement process and industrial policy measures in this domain. This dialogue should significantly help in developing the right actions, in defining optimized instruments. In itself the way it could be further organized is an important question.

Do you think it should be necessary to identify instruments that allow organising co-operation between ESA and the EO industry sector in a more effective way?

I think that ESA and industry associations can start reflections on the instruments which would foster further cooperation between ESA and the EO industry sector. A new mandate from the ESA Member States would in this respect provides a concrete impetus.

What specific measures EARSC members could be taking to help ESA develop a stronger platform in Europe for the downstream sector?

To help ESA develop a stronger platform in Europe for the downstream sector, probably the most urgent for EARSC members is to communicate to their respective ESA national delegation on their situation, and on the reasons why ESA involvement in the development of the sector appear beneficial to them, and for which specific objectives. The demands for space investments are multiple, opportunities exist in different space sectors, and in a context of competition for the national resources channeled through ESA, evidences need to be provided at a moment decisions makers may consider that the downstream sector development is already secured by the Commission or national programme plan of investments. This industry-national delegation dialogue is a necessity, and would prepare, the adoption of the resolution at the end of the year, and the implementation phase in case a renewed mandate would be granted.

We see a large number of private initiatives for developing and launching EO satellite constellations suddenly being launched from the US using private finance; why do you feel that this is possible in the US and not in Europe? In your opinion, what can Europe do to create the conditions for similar initiatives here?

The large number of private initiatives for developing and launching EO satellite constellations that you mention is a very interesting trend. It demonstrates, if needed, that there are real business perspectives, and threats. Inevitably this will have to stimulate the European industry reflections, and also trigger new analyses on the side of European institutions.

We can easily recognise that the business environment and the strengths and weaknesses of the EO industry in Europe and US … are very different! In addition, the attention paid to space by the governments, the media, the citizens are also very different on both sides of the Atlantic. Europe has to create its own framework conditions to develop its markets and industries. In this respect, the sectorial policies of the EU are an essential leverage.

It is an exciting and complex challenge, that European industry and space public sector, should vigorously take up. On the institutional side, a larger attention paid on how to leverage the economic potential of space scientific developments, coupled with increased reactivity and pro-activity, are pre-requisites; this should steer a number of evolutions, including for ESA.

We are reaching the end of the interview and here is an opportunity for you to share with us your vision on the future development of the EO geo-information service sector.

In my view, European EO service industry is ascending and is also very competent. However, the worldwide competitive environment is tough.

EARSC position paper has already identified a number of concrete domain of interventions, for which ESA can certainly contribute, with an increased “partner role” with many other stakeholders. This is certainly not the easier thing to do, but the DNA of the Agency has already features which can support successfully such a transformation.

In general terms, Europe has a strong scientific base, but has difficulties in transforming this knowledge into very successful business. Now that commercial applications develop in EO services, the key question is whether Europe will leverage its scientific knowledge, early demonstration initiatives, business inception phases, into growing, sustainable businesses. Considering the size of the European public investments in EO research and space infrastructure developments, and the coming long term operation perspectives of Copernicus, Europe is facing a turning point, and cannot fail.

What is your vision for the EU EO services industry, and/or what steps do you think ESA and /or the EU can take to ensure that the industry develops and maintains its leading position in a global market?

Many European stakeholders will have to cooperate; the Commission, involving all Directorates in charge of sectorial policies, ESA, and national space Agencies, have to exploit their respective roles and competencies, to develop the framework conditions which will give the best chance for this industry to grow and find a strong positioning on the worldwide markets. It is an urgent and essential matter.

Short Biography
Eric Morel de Westgaver took up duty as Director of Industry, Procurement and Legal Affairs (D/IPL) on 1 November 2013.
Eric Morel de Westgaver graduated in Economics from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He joined ESA in 1987 as Industrial Policy Officer in the Directorate of Administration. In 2001, he became Head of the Industrial Policy and Cost Analysis Department in the Directorate of Industrial Matters and Technology Programmes.
Before his current appointment, he had been Director of Procurement, Financial Operations and Legal Affairs (D/PFL) since April 2011 and before that, Head of the Procurement Department since October 2004 in the Directorate of Resources Management and Industrial Matters. In addition to this responsibility he was nominated Associate Director for Industrial Matters by the Director General in February 2010. In this capacity he conducted to completion the Procurement Reform in its regulatory and policy aspects to be in line with international best practices and to better control project costs and planning.