The N-VA wants a fair share for the Flemish space industry

15 May 2023

The N-VA visited several Flemish companies working in the space industry in recent months. MP Frieda Gijbels and Flemish MP Elke Sleurs led a delegation through the world of science, innovation and development. “Space travel really deserves our attention,” says MP Frieda Gijbels, who keeps track of science policy in the federal parliament. “It deals with much more than missions to the moon. For example, the space industry is committed to the development of cutting-edge technology, which can prove its usefulness in many more areas than only during space missions. Another way space travel helps us is by monitoring our globe from a long distance via satellites.”

Space travel offers the capability to measure our water resources management, develop spatial planning and observe climate changes and flood-prone areas. Farmers can even observe their crops from space. But we must also be able to rely on communication via satellites for security and defence purposes. And our Flemish industry is a world leader in terms of research, innovation and development for those high-tech applications.

Community distortion

Belgium has traditionally been heavily involved in space travel as the fifth largest contributor in Europe. “It is good that attention and budget go to such an important sector,” Gijbels points out. “However, there is a community distortion. The large chunks of the budget invariably flow to Wallonia, while the Flemish space industry also deserves its fair share of support. Agreements have been made about this in the past, yet the agreed 55% that should flow to Flanders is still far from being achieved. According to the latest figures, we are stuck at about 45%, which is far too little.”

Crucial for Flanders as a knowledge centre

“We can rightly be proud of this sector that develops all kinds of applications and technologies for space travel,” Flemish MP Elke Sleurs agrees. “The importance of that is crucial for Flanders as a centre of knowledge and its role as an innovator in the world.”

She says that the Flemish Impulse Programme contributes EUR 11 million annually to the space industry. “Fortunately, our space companies, often specialised in niche domains and innovation, receive solid support from Flanders Space. But that does not mean that the federal pie should not be distributed fairly.”

Inter-federal space agency

Frieda Gijbels wants to use a resolution to call for transparent and annual reporting on the distribution of funds, as well as the establishment of an inter-federal space agency. “Former state secretaries Elke Sleurs and Zuhal Demir tried to modernise and empower federal science policy and federal scientific institutions. That sensible, forward-looking policy is being completely reversed by current State Secretary Dermine (PS party), who is doing everything possible to tighten the PS party’s grip on science policy. For example, he refuses to make the federal scientific institutions independent, although this is explicitly included in the coalition agreement.”

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