The SPACE ECONOMY strategic plan – National positioning framework, Version 1.0, 2016, defines the Space Economy as “the value chain that, starting from the research, development and manufacture of enabling space infrastructures, the so-called “Upstream”, goes up to the manufacture of “enabled” innovative products and services, the so-called “Downstream” (environmental monitoring and weather forecast services, etc.). The growth of the Downstream will be mainly due to the spread of a significant quantity and variety of added value services with a strong territorial connotation, predominantly developed and managed by small and medium-sized enterprises, with the employment of average and highly-skilled staff.

The national space sector may become one of the engines towards the new growth of the country, provided that a development design is built around the scientific and technical excellences to extend the impact and benefits to the whole industrial and production system, in a new key of sustainability.

The ASI, within the framework of its statutory mandate, provides its technical-operating contribution to the development of Space Economy programmes and activities that can be implemented also to investments outside the budget of the Agency.

Its purpose is to allow Italy to change the national space sector, that employs about 6.000 people in Italy and is an asset worth 1.6. billion euros in annual revenue.

The development of the national space sector is strongly influenced by the availability and allocation of public resources to support the national programmes, the European commitments and the competitiveness of the industry chain. The main intervention channels are:

  • Institutional research investments. The budget allocated by the ASI (through funding opportunity announcements (FOA) and other direct fundings, also by means of specific legislative actions) will be used to fund the national and international partnership programmes and the participation in the European Space Agency (ESA) projects;
  • Investments by the Ministry of Defence as regards Earth observation and communication capabilities, often within the framework of dual initiatives;
  • Other funds, such as the Development and Cohesion Fund (DCF) and the Regional Operational Programme (ROP), that involve central administrations such as the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE), the Ministry of Education and Research (MUR) and the Agency for Territorial Cohesion;
  • Gathering the needs expressed by the businesses in this sector, through their different associations, and by the businesses in other sectors, both small and medium-sized enterprises and large enterprises, as regards the development of new added value services based on satellite data;
  • Setting up a system for the traditional intervention channels of the national space policy and the regional resources and forces affected by the impact of the Space Economy on their territories, mainly by coordinating the space initiatives funded with the above mentioned funds.



Starting a start-up is the result of a few preparatory activities that involve three key elements: a technological-strategic analysis (such as a comparison with the state of the art), a market potential assessment (such as a business model), the fundraising and risk capital (seed, Venture Capital-VC, round 1, etc.).  Be it academic spin-offs, start-ups or technology take-ups, it’s essential to create a favourable ecosystem to start new businesses, through partnerships with public incubators, accelerators and universities/engineering schools that can promote relationships with subject from the world of public and private finance.

The European scenario is equally important, starting from the relationships with the ESA (Technology Transfer Programme), the BIC (Business Incubation Centres) network, and their necessary expansion to other subjects within the Italian territory, and so is the participation in widespread “challenges” and “hackaton” initiatives or the support to initiatives targeted at new business models (such as Galileo and Copernicus Masters).

Technology transfer activities should be regarded as cross-cutting to nearly all the ASI activities, including the support to the “space diplomacy” activities in its form of “space innovation diplomacy” if we consider the international relationships or support to foresight activities, the gathering of contributions from non-Space companies if we consider the field of technologies or the new relationships with the ESA if we consider the strategies.

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The European scenario is in considerable ferment as regards venture capital funding. United Kingdom is the first country that has very recently activated such type of investment fund for the space sector in the European Union, through the Seraphim Capital found, while also France and Germany are thinking about it.

The ASI specifically provides in its statute for the usability of such innovative funding and risk-capital participation tools, pursuant to art.16 of the legislative decree n.213 of 2009, although it was never activated, and considers that it is strategic also for Italy to promote the establishment of an independent fund for the space sector, capable of coupling the needs of the companies in this sector for a  consolidation accelerator (“seed” stage) and a development accelerator to the early stage (“round A” stage). It is thought that the initial investment for a national Venture Capital can be around 50-70 billion euros. The establishment of a Space Venture Capital (VC) Fund isn’t an initiative that the Agency can carry out independently, since such activity is delegated to financial bodies (Savings management companies – SGRs) which are duly authorized to operate by the Bank of Italy, under strict and rigid rules. Nevertheless, the ASI, as a reference entity within the aerospace sector, may promote the establishment of a fund by acting as a Corner Investor, with the task of making sure the fund is kick-started, aggregating other public contributions and, with such initial allocation, attracting also private capitals that are willing to participate in the project, based on the Fund’s own logics.

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