Europe Investing in Galileo User Equipment to Prime Market

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PARIS—The government agency overseeing Europe’s satellite navigation system on Sept. 9 announced 100 million euros ($110 million) in new funds to promote development of chipsets and receivers.

The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA) said the funds, to be distributed between 2015 and 2020, would help stimulate the market reception for Europe’s Galileo network, now in development.

The announcement by the Prague-based GSA came on the heels of a report by a 29-company association of Galileo suppliers called Galileo Services that urged European governments to invest now to assure that European manufacturers not overwhelmed by U.S. and Chinese competitors in the satellite navigation ground-equipment market.

European governments need to walk a fine line as they attempt to stimulate European industry while staying within the guidelines of a U.S.-European agreement wherein each side promises not to erect barriers to the other’s markets for satellite navigation equipment. Galileo Services said the terms of the bilateral agreement do not constitue a roadblock to European government market-development efforts on behalf of Galileo.

GSA said that under the new research and development program, called “Fundamental Elements,” funds would be distributed in the form of grants and outright procurements.

Grants providing up to 70 percent of a contract’s total value will be the preferred mechanism. In return for financing a portion of the work, the winning contractors will have ownership of any intellectual property rights that accrue, “under the condition that the developed product is aimed at commercialization,” GSA said in a statement.

Grants will be awarded both for Galileo-specific work and for Europe’s Egnos system, which uses terminals on satellites in geostationary orbit over the equator to validate the accuracy of today’s U.S. GPS satellite signals. Egnos will perform the same function for Galileo when that system – like GPS, a constellation of satellites in medium-Earth orbit – is in service at the end of the decade.

GSA publishes separate grant planning each year for Galileo and Egnos.

Outright procurement of research, with GSA paying 100 percent of the cost, will be reserved for technology that in GSA’s judgment should not be owned by a single company but available for others to better grow the market.

“For the first time, EU regulation provides a financing tool for the market uptake of European GNSS chipsets and receivers,” GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides said in a statement. “The GSA will be instrumental in ensuring that the new Fundamental Elements program contributes to the successful integration of Galileo and Egnos.”

GSA said Fundamental Elements would complement the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research program, which is a broad technology-support effort that has been criticized by industry as insufficiently focused on near-term commercial technologies – which is the primary ambition of Fundamental Elements.