The Basque Country aspires to be the future headquarters of the Spanish Space Agency, a kind of Spanish NASA that will start up in 2023. The Basque Government wants to take advantage of the weight that the aerospace sector has in the Basque and Spanish industry and consolidate its development in the future, and has seen in the presentation of the candidacy for this headquarters an opportunity to boost this industry. The candidacy, which was presented this Wednesday by the Minister of Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment, Arantxa Tapia, after the Governing Council, comes just a few days after the Basque Executive announced the entry into ITP Aero with 6%, within of the shareholding configuration process after the purchase of the Basque company by the American fund Bain Capital. The Zamudio-based company is one of the flagships in the aerospace sector throughout Spain.
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Arantxa Tapia highlighted the “firm commitment” of the Basque Government to the aerospace sector. In this sense, he has recalled the entry into ITP Aero or the agreement with Airbus signed in July to work together in areas such as sustainability and digitization. But he has also pointed out that the Basque Country has important scientific-technological capacities and infrastructures of the highest level through the Basque Network of Science, Technology and Innovation (RVCTI), especially in the centers that make up the Basque Research Technology Alliance (BRTA). In this regard, he recalled that “more than 70 satellites and space vehicles carry Basque technology and this number increases every year, so the Basque space sector is of great importance”. The translation in figures places the business volume of the incipient or embryonic Basque space industry, the figure mentioned in itself is not very high, but if it is compared with the 18.4 million of ten years ago, it means that “the Basque space sector has tripled its value and has doubled the number of companies that dedicate all or part of their activity to the space sector”. “We are 7% of the turnover of this sector in the State”, said Tapia.
Despite the good position of the Basque Country, the Basque candidacy will have to compete with at least eight others, if those that have been announced in as many other Spanish places as Navarra, Seville, Hospitalet, Gran Canarias, Elche, San Javier in Murcia, Jerez, Teruel or Tres Cantos, in Madrid. The number can grow or decrease until the 7th, when the official nomination period ends. If Euskadi is chosen, the agency would be installed in one of the three technological parks, still to be decided, since the candidacy is going to be presented with several options.
As Minister Tapia has detailed, the Space Agency will work in coordination with the European Space Agency (ESA) and will be in charge of coordinating different national organizations and unifying international collaboration. It is expected that its activity will begin in 2023 -so the chosen location will be known before the end of the year- and that it will have an initial budget of close to 500 million euros in space programs. Among its purposes will be to promote and develop research, technological developments and innovation in the field of space, security and defense, and operations in the outer space. It will also develop satellite applications for the development of departmental skills, as well as the use of data provided by satellites, it will analyze the technological and economic impact of the industry associated with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of satellite systems and will promote the space industry.
The Agency will be in coordination with the European Space Agency and with the space policies and programs that are developed within the scope of the European Union and will deal with the competitive and efficient allocation of public resources and the monitoring of the actions financed and their impact.
Euskadi begins to have more and more international echo in aerospace initiatives. Perseverance, the robot that is analyzing the surface of Mars, carries technology from the Basque company AVS. In May, Urdaneta, the first complete Basque satellite, was launched into space by the company Satlantis, located in Leioa, which will capture high resolution images for agricultural and environmental planning and of civil protection. In addition, among the projects presented to qualify for Next Generation funds is the installation in at the Foronda airport, on the outskirts of Vitoria, a unique spaceport in the European Union for the launch of satellites and the development of an orbital vehicle (OTV). The project is led by a consortium of companies including the firm from Elgoibar AVS -supplier of the Rover that NASA sent to the recent mission to Mars- and in which Scientifica, also from Gipuzkoa, CTA from Alava, the subsidiary British AVS Ura Thrusters and, above all, the American VIrgin Orbit.
Associated companies in Hegan with a turnover of 1,867 million
The Basque aerospace sector is represented by Hegan, the Euskadi Aeronautics and Space Cluster Association. This Association is made up of 68 members, positioned practically throughout the aerospace value chain. Among the Partners are 4 Tier1, 48 industrial companies, 6 technology centers, 5 universities and 5 allied-clusters. Currently, Hegan members have a total of 169 facilities around the world, with 83 centers in the Basque Country, 56 in the rest of Spain and 30 locations abroad (Germany, Brazil, China, the United States, India, Malta, Mexico , Poland, Portugal, UK and Romania). In 2021, the Associates generated an aggregate turnover of 1,867 million euros in all their plants around the world, compared to 1,874 in 2020. The sector employs more than 14,000 people in all its plants around the world.
In terms of investment in R&D&i, it reached 117 million euros in 2021 (of which, more than 75% correspond to self-financing) and exports stood at 1,371 million euros, which represents 73.4 % of total sales.
In addition to Hegan, Ineustar, the Spanish Science Industry Association based in the Basque Country, also has space-related activities. The Space Sciences that study and try to solve the very different problems that the absence of atmosphere or exotic atmospheres represent for life as we know it and the equipment that is developed. For this reason, Ineustar, which deals with the market for large telescopes, radio antennas, instrumentation and equipment for satellites, and similar applications, also represents part of the Basque companies with capabilities in this segment.