The space industry is the industry of the future. Space activities bring together and combine different areas of industry, science and research to achieve the maximum possible parameters in all areas of our knowledge. Space activities are the engine of innovation and provide the comprehensive skills of our companies, institutions and universities in the development and production segments. The complexity of product assignments supports the development of fields such as electronics, computer technology, optics, artificial intelligence, cyber security and all other areas of the economy and society.

In addition to traditional areas of space and space transport, space technologies can, for example, address environmental monitoring, alert us to natural disasters, contribute to intelligent transport and ensure general security and modern defense. Space activities have a relatively long tradition in the Czech Republic. Before the Velvet Revolution, the sector primarily involved cooperation with and supplying the former Soviet Union, whereas after the revolution, new companies began to take shape on the ruins of previously state-own institutions that had been dissolved following the collapse of the communist regime. Especially in the past 20 years, we have seen tremendous progress, which is best evidenced by the growing number of such new companies. In 2002, roughly four companies were engaged in space activities, whereas in 2022 there are 100 companies and institutions that are active in space-related areas in the Czech Republic. This development was clearly positively influenced by the coordination of all space activities, which the government has entrusted to the Ministry of Transport since 2011. Details about Czech companies and space activities can be found at https://www.czechspaceportal.cz

The space industry has high value-added and can bring great benefits to our country in terms of security, self-sufficiency and sustainability, while also providing and advantage in global markets. This is the basis of the third six-year National Space Plan (2020-2025) approved by the government for the development of the capacities and capabilities of industry and academia in the field of space activities. The aim of this plan is to ensure competitiveness and maximise the return on public investment in space activities and related areas.

In order to accelerate the development of national space activities and especially industry, it is necessary to take full advantage of our 14-year membership in the European Space Agency (ESA) and the fact that the European Satellite Navigation Agency (GSA) has been based in Prague since 2012. In 2021, it was transformed into the EU Space Programme Agency (EUSPA).

The location of the GSA/EUSPA headquarters in Prague is an important signal for foreign investors in the space industry and other areas. That is why international companies dealing with satellite navigation (e.g. OHB, manufacturer of Galileo satellites) and the production of carriers (ATC, manufacturer of components for the Ariane 5 and 6 launch vehicles) are setting up operations here. However, the portfolio of such companies is usually much broader, so their arrival is beneficial for other related industries.

ESA and international cooperation programmes give our companies and institutions access to the latest technologies and the opportunity to gain experience in international cooperation for subsequent business use. The development of the Czech Republic’s contribution to ESA is reflected in the growth of space activities in the country. About 90% of the contribution to optional ESA programmes is returned to the Czech Republic in the form of industrial contracts.

In addition to explicit support for industry and science, support for education and business development, including support for startups, is very important to us.

With the support of ESA, the educational company ESERO operates in the Czech Republic with the purpose of preparing plans and materials for teaching about space in schools. Find more information here.

As far as business issues are concerned, an ESA Business Incubation Centre has been operating in Prague since 2016. This incubator, which was expanded to include a site in Brno in 2019, has carried out more than 35 successful incubations and offers incubated companies, among other things, access to a network of technology startups in twenty ESA member countries. Find more information here.

The transfer of space technologies developed for various ESA projects to other industries is carried out in the Czech Republic by the ESA Technology Transfer Broker. This national organisation, which works closely with the ESA ESTEC Technology Centre, offers various technologies to Czech companies and thus helps them to apply the latest technologies to various industrial areas. Find more information here

Space activities will significantly contribute to the Czech Republic’s long-term goal and vision of having a knowledge-based economy, which is one of the key areas that, thanks to its broad application across various industries and sectors, can counteract all of the negative trends that pose a threat to the competitiveness of our industry, particularly the risk that the products produced here will not have sufficiently high value-added. 

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Source: Eurostat, 2021

Karel Dobeš
Government Commissioner for Cooperation with EUSPA
Vice-chairman of the Board of Directors Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Crafts of the Czech Republic
Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Self-Employed Persons of the Czech Republic