Interview with Jorge Potti, vice president of the Space Commission of the Spanish Association of Defense, Aeronautical and Space Technologies (TEDAE)
The turnover of the defense, security, aeronautical and space companies of TEDAE reached in 2018 the figure of 11,838 million euros, representing an increase of 5.9% compared to the previous year.
In 2018, the year in which for the first time the results of the Industrial Security sector are broken down independently, historical maximums were reached in turnover and employment, which grew by 1.1%.
Of the total invoiced last year, 44% corresponds to civil aeronautics, 32% to aeronautical defense, land and naval defense accounted for 15%, space activity 8% and Security, a sector with great projection of the future especially in cyber-security, 1%.
With regard to employment, of the 57,000 direct jobs of quality and high qualification, 19% correspond to women. A figure quite similar to that of women who graduate from STEM universities that feed our industries from professionals, which varies, according to the years, between 17 and 23%.
The export resulted in 66%, due to the increase in the internal market, and a slight decrease in R & D & I is contemplated – 9% – compared to the previous year as a result of the completion of some programs and not having new ones in March.
Something that reflects the development figures -D- linked to new products, and the research -I- to technologies, while that of innovation evolves in a more linear way because it is linked to processes.
– The space industry achieved record turnover figures last year, reaching a total of 867 million euros. How do you compare with previous exercises and what does this mean in a European key?
In fact, the turnover of Spanish companies in the space sector reached 867 million euros in 2018, which represents an increase of 2% compared to the previous year.
If we analyze the set of comparable Spanish companies with the European association Eurospace, we observe that in the whole of the European upstream space industry, in 2018 there is a contraction of sales (-3%), which allows the industry Spanish recover land and reach a share of 7.3% of European industry, which brings us closer to the objective of 8%.
– We are facing an industry that has registered the highest employment growth with respect to the volume of activity, what are the main characteristics that define Spanish talent?
Spanish companies seek to capture market share in activities with high technological content and high added value. That is why Spanish companies invest in capturing and developing talent as a differential and key element in the sustainability and development of our business proposals.
It is therefore not surprising that in 2018 the employment of Spanish space companies grew 5.4%, significantly above sales growth.
It is the reflection of an investment in human capital of the group of companies in the sector, convinced of the enormous development potential of our industry and that we face an expansive cycle.
– Do you think the industry takes measures to retain talent? And in turn, are we an exporting country of professionals in the European and international space industry?
Of course. Spanish companies strive and compete to capture and retain the best professionals. We are fortunate to have a set of universities in Spain that carry out great training and enjoy undoubted national and international prestige.
That is why the competition for capturing and retaining talent covers a European scope and that a significant number of Spanish graduates are captured by European companies, particularly from central and northern Europe.
Given the wage differential between the countries of northern and southern Europe, Spain is among the countries with export component, although these professionals often return to our country, which in my opinion has a globally enriching effect for Spain and Europe.
– Grosso mode, how would you say it is the structure of large and small companies, institutions and public administrations that make up the Spanish space sector?
The Spanish space industry as a whole is made up of fifty companies active in the upstream segment (launchers, satellites and ground segment) and operations. To these, a large group of auxiliary services companies that act as subcontractors of the previous ones should be added.
The TEDAE Space Commission encompasses the twenty main Spanish companies in the upstream and operations segment . Spain also has an important group of companies that operate in downstream (applications and services based on satellite technology).
This downstream segment encompasses a larger and more complex market to characterize.
Within the group of public administrations with interests and competences in the space sector, it is worth mentioning the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, the Center for Technological and Industrial Development (CDTI), the Higher Center for Scientific Research (CSIC) with its various centers and institutes, the Ministry of Defense, the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), the Ministry of Development, with the National Geographic Institute, and the Spanish Meteorological Agency.
– In Spain, where 95% of companies have fewer than 10 employees, do startups in the space sector have a place?
Of course yes. The space sector is experiencing a very stimulating moment when public investment is increasingly being added to private investment.
Public investment has been and will be decisive in the development of scientific programs and space and robotic exploration, as well as for large space infrastructure programs such as Galileo, Copernicus, or Eumetsat programs.
The international context and the strategic nature of the space sector, with the growing role it plays in the defense, security and welfare of citizens, will require intensifying public investment.
At the same time, the technological evolution of the sector allows increasingly business cases driven by private initiative, which is increasingly active in the sector.
– What aspects do you think should be reinforced in public-private collaboration in order to value this industry?
In Spain, all Public Administrations devote resources close to 500 million euros per year in service provision and development of space technologies and infrastructure, of which the main items correspond to the Spanish contribution to ESA, the main driver of the sector, space programs of the European Union and the Ministry of Defense.
Said investment, as well as its management and the public-private collaboration model that supports it, can only be classified as a great success as it has boosted the development of a thriving and very competitive Spanish space industry, which also has a great development potential
I believe that we must advance in the development of national space programs, within a national strategic plan, that allows the industry to make a leap in quality.
Likewise, it would be convenient to advance in the establishment of an organ within the State administration that, in a similar way to other countries, leads the corresponding national programs and plays a central role in the management and defense of industrial interests in space matters, which is developed in a complex, competitive and very demanding international environment, which includes a good number of international organizations and agencies.
– What projects are currently working in Spain in the race to Mars?
Spain has a significant participation in the Exomars program, an authentic ESA space exploration flagship.
Within the ESA space exploration program, there are currently a good number of programs in initial development phases, including missions to the Moon in cooperation with Russia, lunar space station and, as a future star program, the Mars Sample Return mission.
Given the magnitude of some of these programs, international cooperation will prove decisive for their viability. At the next ESA Ministerial Conference, budgets will be provided for these missions and Spain must ensure a relevant participation, at the level of our GDP.
– Why all the agents that make up the sector have wanted to join to hold a meeting as Space Congress in this 2019?
The space industry is very young. The space age, initiated with the launch of Sputnik, began 62 years ago, and it was only 50 years ago that man first set foot on the Moon.
Currently there are about 5,000 satellites orbiting the Earth, which provide a growing number of services to science, communications, resource management, environmental care, positioning, defense, security and much more.
It is estimated that about 10% of the economy of the European Union depends on satellite technology. In addition, the space sector is in a moment of transformation that will boost its development even more strongly.
– What reasons would you give industry professionals to be encouraged to attend the meeting?
We are convinced that the Congress will be a great success. We have a magnificent institutional support and confirmed the participation of powerful of an extraordinary size.
It will be an unprecedented meeting: for two days we will concentrate the directors of the main international space agencies, top representatives of the Spanish space industry, of Spanish space science, of the main users of space, of high representatives of our Public Administrations, as well as the European Union and ESA.
It is an appointment that all industry professionals should attend when they suppose a forum of debate of the highest level and an exceptional networking opportunity.
– Finally, what would you say are the short-term challenges to face in order to scale positions as a fourth country in the euro area space sector?
The extraordinary development that the sector will live in the next few years requires redoubling the investment effort by public administrations and the private sector.
The future of our industry will depend on it. Spain, as the fourth economic power of the euro zone should bring its level of investment to Italy, Germany and France, which currently multiply Spanish investment in space by 3, 5 and 6, respectively.
Otherwise the Spanish industry will not be able to play a relevant and leading role, which allows us to undertake international markets.
This year, at the end of November, we have a momentous date. The ESA Ministerial Conference is held on November 27 and 28 in Seville.
At that conference, ESA Member States will approve the Agency budgets for the coming years. As is known, ESA has two blocks of programs: the compulsory program, where all member states participate as a percentage of GDP; and optional programs, where each country is free to decide its participation percentage.
For the Spanish industry the optional programs are fundamental and include a wide range of telecommunications, Earth observation, navigation, launchers, space exploration, space surveillance, planetary defense and technological demonstrators programs.
It is essential that Spain make a contribution to optional programs at least at the level of GDP. The future of our industry depends on it.