An article by Sven Przywarra
The global space sector is going through profound changes. Ventures with innovative concepts are entering the market, backed by venture capital and often with a focus on the generation of data or vertical integration. A popular term for this development is NewSpace which was accelerated among other things by progress in miniaturisation, standardisation and activities from well-known billionaires and NASA.
What is the status of the German NewSpace Sector?
Where are companies which follow such an approach? The short answer is: The German NewSpace Sector is small and still in its infancy. You can count the few companies which are “NewSpace PurePlayers” on the fingers of one hand with “Components & Hardware” and “Earth Observation” as the two biggest groups. Within the first category protagonists are still following mostly relatively conservative business models but are more and more offering their products and services “off-the shelf” and to a fixed price, Berlin Space Technologies is a notable exception and an interesting example. OHB and Airbus are still trying to figure out how to incorporate the start-up idea into their companies. Within “Earth Observation” most of the companies analyse public satellite image libraries. Interestingly one of the most important acquisitions of the US American company Planet was a German-based company founded as RapidEye which now is the German branch of the NewSpace giant. (Thus, we see them as a part of the German NewSpace Ecosystem.)
Other smaller groups within the sector are “Navigation & Communication” which faces big international competition (e.g. OneWeb) and “Science & Ex-Orbit” with PTScientists as an endeavour backed by sponsors.
What is the reason for this situation?
Germany, with its excellent network of Universities and research institutes, has a perfect base for successful high-tech companies in this field but a lack in culture of starting up and difficulties in finding funding for such ambitious and risky business hinder the development of a strong sector.
There are signs and efforts for a change of the status quo. Numerous VC firms expressed their interest in investing in NewSpace companies, some of them made deals abroad. OHB as well as Airbus founded their own venture arms but notably investments in German Space StartUps are not known to us. It seems like the institutional site also wants to stimulate movements in this sector: StartUp Nights at the Federal Ministry for Economic Effairs and Energy and competitions for early stage projects on a national (InnoSpaceMasters) and European level (Copernicus Masters / Gallileo Masters) show small successes.
From our understanding at NewSpaceVision the lack in culture must be tackled at an even earlier stage: People must be educated about the grown opportunities and applications of space technology in the upstream (hardware) and downstream (software) market and individuals from different industries and backgrounds need to be connected and brought together over this topic to catalyse a free discussion and finally develop new use cases and businesses. With our events and the conference, we are trying to pursue that goal.
Actions need to be taken now to avoid the space market (after the internet) to be dominated by American companies only. For the benefit of a well flourishing market the last frontier should also be tackled by more NewSpaceVisionaries from Europe and Germany.
[This article was prepared and written by me in my personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are my own. I would be happy to receive your feedback! Feel free to contact me via direct message or via e-mail.]