Italy betting on the space economy

Italy betting on the space economy

In 2005, the global value of the space economy was $ 176 billion. In 2020 it exceeded 447 billion and, according to analysts, growth could accelerate in the coming years, it is not even known how much. This statistic would be enough to testify to the intuition of Giovanni Bignami and Andrea Sommariva, who were able to predict the progressive centrality of the sector well before the concept of the new space economy even emerged. But remembering in a few lines "two giants", as they have been defined, would be an unfair undertaking. Better to preserve its legacy and, if possible, enhance it, as today, June 27, at its fourth annual event, he made it clear that he wanted to create the Space Economy Evolution Lab of Sda Bocconi, which was the last of many by Bignami and Sommariva joint projects.

Former president of the Italian Space Agency, the National Institute of Astrophysics and the first Italian to chair the Cospar, the Committee on Space Research, Bignami was one of the most eminent astrophysicists and academics in our country . His friend and companion, Sommariva was an economist (specializing in oil & gas) and, for years, a lecturer at Bocconi University in Milan, where he gave life to the shared vision: to prepare future leaders of the space sector, believed - with good reason, as the figures confirm today -, the fulcrum of the country's economic and strategic development. A vision to which the two, who died prematurely (Bignami in 2017 and Sommariva last year), had precisely given the name of "See Lab", Space Economy Evolution Lab.

A moment of the annual event of the See Bocconi Lab (photo: SDA Bocconi)

Far from rhetoric as an end in itself, the annual workshop event seemed the most appropriate way to tell how the glorious legacy will be developed by Simonetta Di Pippo, the first and only woman to direct the programs of Volo human resources of the European Space Agency (until 2011), for eight years at the head of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa) and, since March, new director of the See Lab. "The attention to changes in the world, as well as in the sector, and the ability to intercept them are evoked even in the name of the laboratory, 'Evolution' - he said inaugurating the morning of meetings, for her also the opportunity to show off, with a heterogeneous audience of prestigious guests, its own training line -. The important thing today is to understand how much the space economy is not only the essential pillar of future sustainability, but also the basis of our present. Of course, everyone's present, not just the experts ".

" Data and infrastructures deriving from space activity play, and will play more and more, a key role in improving the quality of life on Land. Just to give an example, think of the fundamental role of satellite technologies not only in communications, as well as the management of the effects of climate change ", Di Pippo's comment.

The event is no coincidence has been dedicated to the multidisciplinary nature of research, an approach - a direct result of Bignami and Sommariva - on which each speaker focused not only for thematic respect. "Space is one of the few growing sectors in which Italy has a solid ecosystem, with 7 thousand employees, over 200 companies distributed throughout the supply chain and a turnover of around two billion euros a year - underlined Vittorio Colao, Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition -. With the agreements signed a few weeks ago with the Italian Space Agency (for 880 million euros) and with the European one (for 1.3 billion), the implementation of the space programs provided for by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan has started. We have priorities: responding to public demand, facing the needs of a changing reality and through a sector that is itself in great evolution; stimulate or consolidate the ecosystem of startups and new businesses, as well as large companies. Collaboration will be crucial, although not above all between companies in the sector and those outside the sector. In ten years, as demonstrated by the project of the new satellite constellation for Earth Observation, Iris, the most important of its kind in Europe, we will have to improve public governance, private initiative and international collaborations, not only in Europe " .

The Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition, Vittorio Colao, during his speech (photo: Sda Bocconi)

Why, speaking of multidisciplinarity, apart from technical-scientific skills, the reference to the diplomatic value of space - and therefore to the emerging sectors of space law, but also of management - came directly from former premier Mario Monti, now president of the Milanese university. “Referring to an extraordinary dimension of space, I want to safeguard an optimistic vision - he said, even recalling the imaginary journeys of Jules Verne - even in the midst of a difficult crisis such as the war in Ukraine, space remains available as an opportunity for multilateral collaboration. From a geopolitical point of view, it is a game-changer. And it is no coincidence that its leaders must necessarily approach the description that Henry Kissinger has always made of it: women and men capable of long-term visions, not slaves to social immediacy ".

In this sense, and certainly also thanks to his background as an astro-diplomat, Di Pippo and his collaborators (the lecturer Clelia Iacomino and the researcher Mattia Pianorsi) seemed to want to give the concept of "multidisciplinarity" the broadest meaning: this was demonstrated by the different origins of the many guests invited to represent industrial giants and leading companies in the sector, as well as academies and institutions, from the president of ASI, Giorgio Saccoccia, to Luigi Pasquali (CEO of Telespazio and manager of Leonardo's space activities), from Massimo Comparini (CEO of Thales Alenia Space) to Giulio Ranzo (CEO of Avio, remotely due to the imminent launch of his new Vega C). From Luca Rossettini (of the rampant D-Orbit) to Kevin O'Connel, the CEO of Space Economy Raising, to Danielle Wood, of MIT, or to Patrizia Caraveo, astrophysicist, research manager at INAF, Fermi 2021 award and, as she recalled, widow Bignami. From the United States to Dubai passing through Italy, the morning of work involved institutions, entrepreneurial and academic realities, with the aim of highlighting the importance of research "for the future of space, supporting the business and strategies of the space industries , non-sector industries and public institutions ".

Mario Monti, president of Bocconi University, speaks at the annual See Lab event (Photo: Sda Bocconi)

It is a convergence of fields of investigation and approaches not surprisingly already at the basis of the research signed by the See Lab, such as the one dedicated to the development of satellite technologies, a study conducted with the Cnr (Economic Theory Applied to Space Debris Scenarios) to estimate the risk of collision between active satellites and space debris in low earth orbit and evaluate whether a free market context can stimulate solutions capable of responding to the challenge of space debris, or whether public support is needed . More recently, the laboratory has focused on the exploration and exploitation of extra-atmospheric resources, as well as the sustainability of the lunar commercial market, which will depend on the demand for Moon-based products and services, distributed on the Moon and, to a lesser extent. , on Earth (such as, for example, the production of propellant from lunar ice to refuel rockets). On the subject, the See Lab Bocconi, as part of the Moonlight Initiative of the European Space Agency, has produced a preliminary assessment of the possible future commercial cases, taking into account the potential demand from both the natural satellite and the Earth.

Because, as recalled by both Andrea Maci√≤, director of the Center for Astro, Particle and Planetary Physics, of the New York University in Abu Dhabi, and Professor Paolo Gaudenzi, of Sapienza University, it will be increasingly appropriate to think of space as an investment technological, scientific and, therefore, social on our planet. “Today we offer our students a new paradigm - explained Gaudenzi -. We ask them to tell us why to go into space, and it is the why, the reason, the need of the public or the applicant, that makes the difference in the projects. We are having surprising results ”.

Simonetta Di Pippo, for eight years at the head of Unoosa, today directs Bocconi's Space Economy Evolution Lab (photo: Sda Bocconi)

For this reason the ambitions of the See Lab can only impose continuity and progressive diffusion: “Gradually it will be necessary to establish what is meant by the space economy and what its parameters are, especially if it is to be analyzed outside its borders, which is the most interesting aspect. For this reason, we will devote ourselves to international cooperation in the coming years, with the aim of growing the community of non-space companies involved in the sector. After all, the real key to measuring the economy of space is its contribution to society. I hope we will have the opportunity to talk about it next September 16 in our first “Titan Brain Trust” with Pamela Melroy, former astronaut and now deputy administrator of NASA, who we are waiting for at Bocconi. Our aim will be to arrive at the International Astronautical Congress in Milan, 2024, as a point of reference and therefore to experience the IAC not as a goal, but as the beginning of a new era, with events that continuously involve the city's institutions. , year after year. We feel the duty to be the best space Italy that we can ”. Bignami and Sommariva would agree.

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