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The Norwegian space programme

The Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry has the overall responsibility for the Norwegian Space Programme, and in this issue of Norway Exports Research & Development, we interviewed Ministry State Secretary Øivind Slåke.

Ministry of Trade and Industry State Secretary Øyvind Slåke.

1. The Norwegian space programme lies under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, with the Ministry providing funding and support to the Norwegian Space Centre and other organizations. Can you say a few words about this ongoing cooperation and the positive spin-off effects related to employment, technological developments and other areas of activity here in Norway?

The space industry contributes to innovation, industrial skill, and, ultimately, increases the competitiveness of Norwegian industry. The space industry is characterized by high-tech, knowledge-intensive projects. Applications designed for use in space are subject to strict requirements regarding quality, resilience and performance. Just being qualified for ESA contracts is a competitive advantage for any company.

Interestingly, technological solutions developed for space may be transferable to other sectors. We have seen examples that experiences in space are relevant in the offshore industry, and vice versa. You can find similar links in other areas, such as medicine and communication. The point is that space programmes are conducted at the forefront of research and development, and serve as a drive for innovation and industrial development.

2. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has a wide range of responsibilities related to the Norwegian Space Programme, not least related to European Space Agency (ESA) programmes. How does this ESA cooperation positively affect Norwegian industrial activities?

ESA now constitutes by 19 members, and together we can keep pushing technological boundaries. Space programmes are not only increasing our knowledge about the solar system and our planet, they are also providing technology and infrastructure that you and I are increasingly taking for granted in our daily lives. However, space programmes are expensive and involve high risk. For Norway, international cooperation is absolutely vital if we are to fulfil our ambitions in space.

One of the driving forces of ESA cooperation are the industrial opportunities that it offers for each member state. The spin-offs from our participation in ESA are well documented. In fact, from every euro we invest in ESA programmes, Norwegian industry gains contracts worth 4.6 euros. This means that ESA cooperation is very important in terms of industrial policy.

3. Norway is currently in a dialogue with the European Union regarding the next phase of the Galileo satellite programme, a programme that will have far-reaching effects on the European continent and beyond, including navigation. Norway is known for its technical and professional excellence within navigation, and participation in the Galileo programme will present ”win-win” possibilities for both Norway and the EU. Can you say a few words about these possibilities?

Norway has played an active role in the European satellite navigation programmes, EGNOS and Galileo since the beginning, and we will continue to support the programmes. Galileo is now entering the implementation phase, and we take great interest in its success.

Galileo will be important for both private and public users in Norway. Precise information about time and position is vital in a range of sectors, such as civil security, transport and the safety of operations offshore. We believe Galileo will prove to be particularly important in the High North, were the new system will improve the quality of satellite navigation services compared to the current system. And you are quite right, we do have a lot to bring into this project in terms of competence and skill, so I am confident that a continuing participation provides a win-win situation for Norway and to the EU.

Industrially, it is important that Norwegian companies are given the opportunity to take part in the programme. Because of the size and scope of the Galileo project, it will probably affect the whole structure of the European space industry. As new partnerships are established in order to win contracts, we need to secure a place for competitive companies from Norway within the European space industry. We expect that Norwegian industry, having been involved in Galileo, will benefit with respect to similar deliveries to other programmes.

Secondly, the Galileo programme is breaking new ground in technological terms. Being a part of the programme secures early insight and information about systemic and technological features. This information will be vital, not only for building the system, but for the development of downstream products and services. Services related to satellite navigation represent a huge and growing market. Norwegian companies are well positioned to compete, especially in the market for professional applications.

4. The High North – the Barents Region – is going to be increasingly in focus during the decades to come. Space-related activities are of great importance in the High North, both to the infrastructure of the region as well as to the space effort itself. Can you say a few words about the Norwegian space effort in relation to the High North?

Space-related infrastructure is an essential management tool in the Government’s High North policy, but also an important component of infrastructure in a broad sense. Navigation at sea, environmental monitoring, and exercise of sovereignty are all key themes where satellites play a major role. In the Government’s High North Strategy, further development of space-related infrastructure is a stated target. This objective will be realized through participation in international programmes, but also through national programmes. One good example of the latter is the Norwegian project for a Satellite-based automatic ship identification system (AIS), which will be an important part of the integrated monitoring and notification system for the northern sea areas. When the system is fully operational, it will provide a better overview of maritime traffic in Norwegian territorial waters, and it will be a vital tool in the High North where harsh climates, long distances, and a vulnerable environment are creating new demands as far as monitoring is concerned. I have mentioned the forthcoming Galileo satellite navigation system. Galileo is designed to provide extremely good coverage in the High North. Together with GPS, this infrastructure will improve availability and accuracy, and it can help increase reliability and safety in the High North when it comes to safe navigation.