ICCST conference


On June 5 and 6, 2014, in Riga, Ķīpsala hall, the first international conference in Latvia about the economic development in space technology - „International Conference on Collaboration in Space Technologies” or ICCST was held. The subtitle of the conference was „Building Key partnerships with Baltic, Nordic and African Counterparts”.

ICCST conference was organised by Latvian Space technology cluster (establishment Ventspils High Technology Park) financed by European Regional Fund, choosing „Space Science and Technology Group, Oy” subsidiary „STSG-Poland” as an outsourcer (Space science and technology company registered in Finland, strategy of which is to organise significant space technology capacity of Central Europe and Nordic, to promote space field services), and with a big support from Fotonika-LV (research institute association in Latvia, which is working to promote photonics and quantum sciences and technology).

The conference was started by Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, the President of Leadership Alliance - Club de Madrid and former president of Republic of Latvia, Ina Druviete, Minister of Education and Science of Latvia, Abdul Hakim Elwaer, African Union Commission's Director for Human Resources, Sciences and Technology Department, as well as Marek Banazskiewitzch, the Director of STSG.

The idea and the goal of the conference was to introduce the Latvian, Baltic, Northern Europe and Eastern European companies and research institutions, which are operating in fields, which are directly or indirectly related to space technologies. The organisers of the conference consciously chose African Region as cooperation partners for several reasons - it is predicted, that African region in the next few years will have one of the largest growth in the world (up to 6% of GDP), as well as this region has a similar administratively coordinating mechanism as Europe - African Union (AU). So it gives the opportunity to much wider cooperation, planning it with every or at least the interested 54 member states of AU, as well as attracting the projected financing of European Union for development of the African Region. African and European Union's are cooperating for more than a decade, country leaders regularly are meeting in the EU-Africa Summit, to discuss the fields for future cooperation. EU has also developed separate, development promoting fund "Pan-African Programme", with the help of which the states of AU gain finances, to promote the financial stability of their member states.

In 2007 EU- Africa Summit, several fields were determined, where the cooperation should be promoted, with the goal to support the economical development of Africa, and with it lessen he region's dependence on financial support from other countries and organisations. One of these fields was the field of space technology. Unfortunately in the results of 2014 Summit space technologies where not found. However, the ICCST conference verified that AU is interested and is looking for ways to develop the economy of their member states, using the application of space technology.

Until now, the AU member states have created their own national space programmes and financed them from the funds available to each country. So there are big differences between rich and not so rich countries of AU, measuring their achievements in the space field. For example, during the past decade, Nigeria has developed and launched several earth satellites, while other countries are not even dreaming of such investments. But one thing is clear - the territory of the African continent as well as the benefits, and challenges, that can be found with it are so broad, that space technology support for the development of this region is possibly the only economically justified investment in long term.

So the AU looks at Latvia, Baltic and Eastern European countries, where the infrastructure has been developed for more than half a century, and the costs of services are comparatively much more acceptable. During the time of the USSR, to promote the development and growth of military, in the territories of Eastern Europe infrastructure and education system was developed, which could provide a very wide range of activities - starting from development of launchers and Earth satellites to conception of an idea, capturing and processing of satellite signals, as well as development of various innovative materials, their use and application, which competed with the achievements of the USA and other superpowers in the space field.

Now, after the collapse of the USSR, in every one of the countries, that have regained their independence, facilities and technologies are still there, and they can be used by institutes and companies, continuing to support their knowledge and creating unique fields of knowledge. Unfortunately this process is possible only with an adequate financial support, which, as we know is lacking.

There are several ways to attract finances for the development of the field - state financing, international projects (EU financing as a part of framework programmes), attracting private investment capital funds as well as orders from various space field manufacturers. The fullest source of finances in Europe is the European Space Agency, which, since 1975, unites the efforts of all of the European countries to seek out the cosmos and the benefits it can give, and use them in the everyday lives of people of Earth. Unfortunately, the European Space Agency is a sort of closed "club" only for the ones agency considers "best". Only the whole country can become an participant of the agency, the potential of which is specially audited, to evaluate the contribution to ESA of the member state in question.

This kind of regional organisation has its advantages - it is financed form the budget of the member states, using the investment to cover the administrative costs as well as to create larger savings, which are used to introduce world class projects promoting the development of knowledge of the whole mankind. However, the functioning model of such organisation is not often successful in countries, in which political institutions have no understanding about the value of such model for economic growth. In the case of Latvia, ignoring the fact that ESA itself has concluded that Latvia has the potential and the capacity, funding, for which Latvian government and the ESA could both agree on cannot be found. And because of the lack of understanding or unwillingness, there are several reasons are brought up, some more justified, some less, for which the growth of whole industry, from which there is much to gain, is impaired.

Bearing this situation in mind, Latvian Space Technology and Service Cluster believes, that Latvia cannot wait, when the political decision makers of the country will find some new insights, and although there is work being done on the development, Cluster has set a task to find other sources of finance, which are not related to just the European Space Agency.

That is why the focus of this conference is turned to the African Union, which is not looking for countries and companies that fall in a certain category (i.e. not evaluating if the country is a member state of ESA or not), but are looking what the industry has to offer. Representatives from the AU Commission were invited, namely form the Commissioner's Bureau on Human Resources, Sciences and Technology field. The participation of these representatives in the conference, showed very certain interest in cooperation with Latvia, Baltic and Eastern Europe. This interest has not been left without a continuation - currently the text of a cooperation declaration is being prepared, which after coordination with the Latvian Space Technology and Service Cluster and other cooperating organisations, Commission of the African Union will be submitted to the Bureau of the European Union Development Commissioner, which is responsible for the cooperation and economic sustainability of EU and AU.

Declaration will be an affirmation that outside political agreements in the corridors of the EU there is a base for cooperation, which AU considers important and necessary for the development of its economy. The call of this declaration will be to find, and separate the financing, which would be used for promotion of cooperation in the field of space technology between Eastern Europe and Africa, developing exchange of experience, purchasing of products and services, as well as support of education, in that way promoting the development of African specialists and specialised companies. At the same time, it should be said, that Latvia, as well as many new European countries, which still qualify as countries that are in need of the financial support form EU by the standards of the European Union. But promoting fields with a very high added value, it can be projected, that the economy of the European countries will develop much faster. So, not only African Union, but also the governments of Latvia and other countries involved should be interested to develop this in to a successful solution.

 More about the conference on the web site www.iccst.eu 

Photos and video from this even can be viewed here


ICCST conference and exposition was organised by Latvian Space Technology Cluster (founded by Ventspils High Technology Park) in collaboration with Space Science and Technology Group, Oy as well as Fotonika-LV (Research Institute Association in Latvia which facilitates the development of photonics and quantum science). Conference was financially supported by AS RD ALFA Microelectronics Department and Imprimatur Capital Fund Management.



Information was prepared for the projects "Space Technologies and Services Cluster Development 2012-2015" activity No.2.3. "The involvement of Latvian partners in the international private sector supply chains" framework. Project No. KAP-, Agreement No. L-KAP-12-0006.

Information was prepared by:
Cluster specialist
Maija Cēbere
Maija [dot] Cebere [at] vatp [dot] lv