The European Union has not done enough to harness the full potential of its space programmes, according to a special report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA). While the satellite-based programmes Galileo and Copernicus in particular provide valuable services and data, more efforts are needed to capitalise on the significant investment made (around €18 billion so far) and to optimise the benefits they bring to citizens and the economy. The auditors call for a comprehensive strategy, more targeted actions and better use of the regulatory framework for efficiently supporting the uptake of services.
The EU currently has three space programmes, two of which account for the lion's share of investment: Copernicus, which provides data from earth observation satellites, and Galileo, a global satellite navigation and positioning system. Up to the end of 2020, the EU spent €18.3 billion on its space programmes. For the 2021-2027 period, it earmarked more than €14 billion. In its 2016 strategy, the European Commission endeavoured to maximise the economic and societal benefits provided by the European space programmes. However, it did not define which benefits were being sought. Nor did it set clear targets and timeframes explaining what should be achieved, and by when.
“Technologically, the EU has succeeded in becoming a global player in terms of space-based earth observation and navigation services. But the EU lacks a comprehensive approach for supporting the uptake of its space services to fully capitalise on the significant public investment made”, said Mihails Kozlovs, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “As most measures for 2021-2027 are still on the launch pad, we hope that our audit will mark the countdown to a new set of actions that can efficiently help the EU to reap the full benefits of these valuable assets.”