What we want
There is virtually no issue which unites politicians on all levels from the Länder to the federal government of Germany and the EU-Commission to the same extent as the commitment to protection and promotion of SMEs. As the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy expresses it: “Midsized companies are the success factor of Germany´s economy. They are indispensable for growth, jobs and innovation in Germany … SMEs (are) the backbone of German economy when it comes to space almost the entire downstream terrestric business areas are considered to be the playing field of SMEs:
“Building up a competitive industry in downstream growth markets is of special importance … Here, large new fields of activity are developing which are particularly suited to SMEs with their high innovation potential“.
Finally, at a European level, the respective priorities are also defined within precise quantitative corridors: approx. 46 percent of SME participation in public projects was achieved in the EU by 2011, including 29 percent of direct orders. The EU has set the final target at 58 percent.
As one of the large organizations engaged in public hightech-procurement, ESA lags far behind any such target lines. However, ESA does not lack commitment to SMEs as the backbone of business and confessions that a participation of below ten percent by German SMEs and an increase from 2.5 to only 6.5 percent SME participation in general within almost ten years is clearly not enough. Also, there is no lack of administrative imagination when it comes to introducing support instruments, especially the permanently improved “C1-C4-Clauses” deserve a special mentioning.
However, national governments as well as the EU-Commission do not merely expect administrative guidelines, but quite simply results. Results, by the way, which could, according to a Europe-wide study, help ESA itself to make signiﬁcant leaps in the areas of innovation and efficiency.
This kind of progress would certainly not just correspond to the interests of member states, but also to all LSIs whose necessary leading role in deﬁning and realizing projects and programs depend to a considerable extent on established ESA-mechanisms such as georeturn. In addition, LSIs benefit largely from the integration of independent SMEs into their project teams. The validity of this thesis is proven on a daily basis in all system-relevant technology branches in Germany where efﬁciency and innovation are the only principles of survival in commercial world markets. And ﬁnally, it would help Europe and ESA in the search for our own European ways to open the doors to ”new space“.
Regardless of which approach will ultimately be implemented – without SMEs ”new space” is simply not going to happen.