The UK is expected to raise its subscription to the European Space Agency.
The British delegation in Seville, Spain, was instructed to raise British government support for the agency, as the UK aims to remain a market leader in a post-Brexit environment.
Over the last two days, ESA’s member states negotiate the agency’s three-year budget. According to the BBC, the UK is set to increase its €355m (£305m) annual subscription by “more than 15%”.
The ESA’s most significant contributors are France and Germany.
Britain is one of the technology leaders in the European aerospace industry and weakening its links to European value chains would cost millions in Research & Development and thousands of well-paid jobs in the satellite industry. The UK’s withdrawal from the Galileo program means Britain will have to go it alone in creating a global positioning system.
Headquartered in Paris, the ESA is not an EU institution, although there was a plan to integrate the ESA into the EU by 2014. Brexit could complicate this process. Founded in 1975, the ESA is an intergovernmental organisation in which Switzerland, for example, is a full member and Canada is an associate member. Special cooperation agreements have also been signed with Ukraine and Israel.
The ESA asked for more support from its 22 member states on Wednesday, as the space industry is becoming increasingly more competitive. ESA’s Director-General Jan Wörner wanted a 10% increase in the budget over the next three years. The organisation’s current budget is €5.72bn, that is, about a third of NASA.
Both NASA and the ESA are now facing private-sector competition by emerging global players such as China, India, and Elon Musk‘s Space X. This means space-related initiatives are becoming increasingly cheaper, widening the field for competition.