The strategic and political goals associated with space activities since the inception of space exploration are today more and more intertwined with the need of generating economic and social returns. The world is changing at a faster than anticipated rate and today the globalisation of space is a reality with 58 countries having invested more than $10 million in space programmes in 2013. 10 years ago that number was 20 fewer. Such dynamism demonstrates how space technologies and applications are seen by governments as a valuable investment to support their national social, economic, strategic, and technological development.
The combined effects of the economic crisis and of the intensification of global markets competition, in particular from emerging economies, require European governments to carefully scrutinize and evaluate public investments with respect to the generated value-for-money. Modern public administrations have to be accountable and transparent vis-à-vis tax payers, providing visibility over investments rationales. In this context, innovation and efficacy of public-funded space research are called upon to sustain growth and competitiveness in Europe as well as to support employment and entrepreneurial capacities.
ESA has been measuring the impact of its activities and programmes since the mid-nineties. But it was only at beginning of 2014 that a dedicated function has been created in ESA to coordinate and harmonise the socio-economic impact assessment capabilities existing Agency-wide.
The office is at the crossroad of different avenues. Through the Socio-Economic Studies Steering Group we assist Programme Directorates in the ex-post and/or ex-ante assessment of ad-hoc ESA programmes.
Our assistance includes sharing with our colleagues the best practices elaborated within the OECD and thanks to the experience of our Member States, favouring the adoption of standardised methodologies to get consistent impact measures across the Agency.
Upon request, we also manage dedicated studies and assessment of specific study cases both in the upstream manufacturer sector, and in the downstream service and application industry, in support of programme proposals which will be submitted for decisions at the upcoming Council at Ministerial level.
With a different perspective, the Office is also in direct contact with and at the service of MS Delegations and ensuring the secretariat of the ESA Space Economy Committee. This committee meeting,usually twice per year, advises and assist the Executive in the identification of MS priorities in terms of areas to be assessed and measured with hard figures and facts in support of their national resources allocation processes. Moreover, the Office is also the official ESA point of contact for other national and international institutions in charge of measuring the space economy (e.g the OECD Space Forum), as well as with Industry association, thus contributing to the development of a sense of community of experts in this domain at European level.
This information are collected and presented in the Report about the Space Economy published in support of the Council at Ministerial level. The report highlights and details the multiplier effects contextualising these elements in today’s socio-economic policy context.
ESA needs to increase the trust of Member States in the effectiveness of the Agency to secure return on investment through ex-post impact studies, but also through ex-ante assessments of the projected socio-economic (and environmental) value of proposals submitted to the Ministers for decision.
The ultimate goal is to progressively includes these tools in the Executive’s decisional and managerial processes. Strengthening this capability in the future will be an enabler to pilot and steer European industry and scientific R&D activities to respond to societal needs and to maximize their value and impact on society.