Luxembourg launches €100m fund to back space technology start-ups
LUXEMBOURG (September 12): Luxembourg, one of the world’s smallest but wealthiest nations, is to launch itself into orbit with the creation of a €100m fund to invest in space technology start-ups.
The creation of the fund, which will be in partnership with a number of international companies, will be announced on Wednesday alongside the official launch of the grand duchy’s space agency.
Figure 1: Luxembourg launches €100m fund to back space technology start-ups.
Etienne Schneider, the deputy prime minister, told the Financial Times that unlike America’s Nasa, the new Luxembourg Space Agency would not carry out launches but its focus would be on “developing business activities in space”.
The agency will also manage all national space programmes and the country’s relationship with the European Space Agency.
Luxembourg has a longstanding space industry and played a significant role in the development of satellite communications a generation ago. It set up SES, one of the world’s largest satellite operators.
We want to develop into a space nation
Etienne Schneider, deputy prime minister
Last August, the country became the first European country that officially allows space resources to be “appropriated” by commercial groups based in the country.
Until then only the US, during Barack Obama’s presidency, had passed regulation focused on space.
In 2015, he guaranteed US citizens rights to own and profit from resources extracted from asteroids and other “celestial bodies”.
Luxembourg’s move last year, said Mr Schneider, had established a legal framework for companies to exploit and own minerals in space and was a “game-changing point” for the country.
“We want to develop into a space nation,” he said. Luxembourg, he added, was keen to co-operate with other countries. The EU should “not leave this market to the Americans”, added Mr Schneider.
More than 150 companies and space research institutes have knocked on his door in recent months about moving to Luxembourg. The country has already struck agreements with about 20 companies, many of them start-ups, said Mr Schneider.
The duchy has struck several agreements with companies to conduct prospecting missions for water and minerals in outer space in recent years.
In March 2016, it awarded US group Planetary Resources a grant of €25m through Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement, its state-owned bank, says Crunchbase, a site that tracks start-up investments.
The aim of the investment is to help the company launch its first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020.
The venture fund will target start-ups that are developing technologies focused on space including navigation. Luxembourg will take a 30-40 per cent stake in the fund, with the balance coming from a number of international companies.
“We are creating a microcosm of this activity in Luxembourg,” Mr Schneider said.[Source: “Luxembourg launches €100m fund to back space technology start-ups” published by Financial Times]
Photo Credits: Financial Times