Marc Serres, pictured, is head of Luxembourg space affairs
Luxembourg is to create an investment fund for space sector operations, with a first closing planned before the end of the year, according to a government source.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ICT Spring & Space summit on Wednesday, Luxembourg space affairs chief Marc Serres told Delano that financing was one of the department’s five pillars since companies active in the space sector “need money to work.”
“We thought it would be good to have such an instrument in Luxembourg so we’ve a complete eco system where we can address all the needs of the companies going from skilled people through education, also support from researchers, university and such organisations R&D in a company, also capital finance,” Serres said.
The fund would be a public private initiative, with the state as anchor investor and private investors running it. If successful, the fund would likely attract further space companies to a country where the sector already generates around 1.8% of GDP. According to Serres, much of this comes from SES, the satellite operator which was created in 1985 on the initiative and with the support of the Luxembourg government.
5% of GDP goal
Economy minister Etienne Schneider has in the past floated his vision to bring that figure to 5%. “It’s still a big effort. If we want to more than double, we need to find maybe a new SES or several, smaller SESs”, Serres said.
Much has happened in the sector in a very short time. The Luxembourg national, who grew up and studied in Belgium, landed a job with Hitec in 2000 and five years later became the first person employed full-time within the research ministry working on space affairs.
Following the 2013 elections, his then team of two people was rehoused within the economy ministry and Serres was appointed director of space affairs. A short time later, the much hyped Space Resources initiative--creating a legal, regulatory and business environment around space mining--was announced. “I would say that was a boost for the sector in general. Now we’re 12 people,” he said.
Space as a broader sector of the economy began to take shape and scores of private sector-funded space sector companies have since established bases in Luxembourg, not all linked to the space resources initiative, but working in fields like earth observation. “There are still a few in the pipeline,” Serres said, remaining tightlipped on which firms would be next.
Education and space campus
In the short-term, Serres says his department’s priorities include the creation of the Luxembourg space agency, further details on which will follow later in the year, as well as various space educational cooperations to equip Luxembourg’s own population with the skills needed by companies in this sector. One, sees Luxembourg establish a European Space Education Resource Office network, providing educational tools for primary and secondary school children around the theme of education, to encourage young people to study stem subjects.
The department also recently surveyed research activities in space-related fields to form a strategy on what support the industry needs. An exchange with China on the subject resulted in the recent announcement of a cooperation with China’s national space science centre. “It’s an interesting thing because China has a lot of space activities. We will certainly learn from that,” the industry leader said.
In the long-term, his department would like to create a space campus, bringing together all actors in the sector. “Of course it’s not easy but at least we have very strong support on a political level,” Serres said, saying he was optimistic that his department’s work would continue at its current pace following October’s elections.