Our second day ended in a bustling rooftop bar in Lisbon, overlooking the city, the Castle of Sao Jorge on full display. Looking around at the group, there were happy faces all around, stomachs full of wonderful seafood – because that’s the thing to eat in Portugal!
Day 2 of the course started with a presentation from Manuel Heitor, the former Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal and a huge innovator and inspiration for space in Portugal. He talked to us about building a New Space economy in Europe, focussing on the need to understand “human agency” and the need to guarantee responsible, climate -aware systems in complex landscapes in a decentralized and AI-supported digital age.
A common theme of this week so far is looking at the potential of European space in the face of its slow and tedious processes. According to Heitor, European space is behind, but it has a great potential to move towards a net-zero approach.
Our afternoon was shook up with a passionate presentation by Nuno Sebastião from NeuraSpace who shared his entrepreneurial anecdotes and advice. Apart from calling some of my fellow participants to follow in his footsteps and quit ESA (I think he was only partly joking); he explained that the team you have is the single most important factor as most other things will change. His key point was that if you have this entrepreneurial feeling you should just go for it:
“If you have the will, just do it”.
Again, it was explained that properly identifying and understanding the problem you are trying to solve is more important than any idea or technology that you may start to develop. A key part of (space) entrepreneurship is to be open to constant and fluid change. Furthermore, throughout the presentations it became evident that using the new space philosophies is necessary: (1) fill the gaps of the national value chains; (2) reduce dependance of external value chains; and (3) create opportunities.
It was very nice to have presentations from companies in specific sectors here on Earth that utilize space for their every-day processes. We heard from CEiiA, a Centre of Engineering and Product Development that designs, implements and operates innovative products and systems. Their presentation focussed mainly on how space data and technology is being used for deep-sea tracking and monitoring. Then we heard from Sandra Pires, an agronomist from Hidrosoph, a company working in irrigation management, offering data and advice to their customer base. Sandra Pires explained how they conduct calculations on ideal irrigation and crop water requirements using Sentinel data.
A key takeaway for me was that according to Nuno Sebastião the space economy is “a modern day gold rush” – there is a lot of potential but it is not the easiest place to make money as a lot of infrastructure is still needed.
Stay tuned for more!