Our Space Café “33 minutes with Dr Gilles Rabin – French-German Space: Of course, I still love you” took place on Tuesday, 28th March. Gilles is a distinguished economist and space advisor, currently serving at the French Embassy in Berlin. With an impressive career spanning over two decades, he has held key positions in urban planning, economic development, and innovation. His journey began at Bipe Conseil, followed by leadership roles in various urban communities including Nancy, Essone, Greater Lyon, and Nice Metropolis. Gilles’s expertise has been pivotal in advising ministers on decentralisation, SMEs, startups, and research. His tenure as Director of Innovation, Applications, and Science at CNES has further solidified his standing in the space sector.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty –a treaty of friendship signed in 1963 between France and West Germany. Giles has recently hosted meetings with space sector representatives in both the French embassy in Berlin and the German embassy in Paris. He says for him the treaty is “a symbol of the capacity to be bold, to have a great ambition”. Giles points out that we need to have the capacity to think about the common future.
Key milestones of Franco-German collaboration in space
We move on to consider the key milestones of Franco-German collaboration in space. Giles reflects on Ariane, Galileo, and Copernicus – “it’s fantastic, it’s the best data system in the world”- alongside new products such as Gauss, with artificial intelligence. He goes on to say that Ariane and Galileo, are European projects, particularly when it comes to Galileo. When it comes to Copernicus- where Germany and France are the biggest contributors to the program – it is still in a European context. “So you are not differentiating between a German or French Corporation. He observes that the majority of partnerships go through ESA. Their collaboration is rarely seen outside of this context. He wants us to think “what can be big, ambitious for Europe for France and Germany in the future.”
Current state of Franco-German relationship within space sector
One problem is misunderstanding
Gilles believes that we need competition in Europe to pick the best company and to be competitive not only on a German or French level – but on a world level. “Not France, not Germany, not Italy: Europe” – and wants to have a competitive industry in Europe.
Both France and Germany believe in the vast potential that space exploration and development have to offer. He says the problem is space dominance. When talking about the Apollo program he says that the goal was not just to land on the Moon, but to develop global industry, shipping sector, the digital sector etc.
One way to build a more competitive European space industry is through the development of start-ups. When discussing how French and German governments can enhance their support for these enterprises Giles talks about how they are developing accelerator space funding. “In my opinion, start-ups need three things. First: funding. Second: technology. Third: contract”. Giles says that we need to develop these three points consistently at the beginning.
What can be big, ambitious for Europe, for France and Germany in the future.
Looking forward to the future Giles is ambitious. “My dream is to be in Kourou in 10 years, and to see a launch for a European astronaut to go to the Moon. It would be fantastic not only for me, but for all the space industry”.
To listen to the Space Café WebTalk’s insights, you can watch the full program here: