Spire raises funding from European Investment Bank

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WASHINGTON — Spire Global has raised 20 million euros ($24 million) from the European Investment Bank (EIB), part of a growing effort by European agencies to support space startups.

The funding, announced Dec. 3 at the Web Summit conference, is a venture debt deal. Such arrangements are loans to companies that repay the debt with both interest and warrants for stock.

Spire plans to use the funding to continue development of a satellite constellation that provides weather and tracking data, as well as new software applications. The funding will go through Spire’s office in Luxembourg.

“We applaud EIB’s decision to fill the growth financing gap between early stage and mature companies, which positions Europe as a competitive location for technology start-ups and particularly attractive for business scaling,” Peter Platzer, chief executive of Spire, said in a statement about the financing

EIB described the financing as its first direct investment in a space startup, although it provided 15 million euros earlier this year to D-Orbit, an Italian startup developing a “last-mile delivery service” for smallsat rideshare payloads.

“For the first time ever, the EIB is directly supporting a highly innovative, disruptive start-up in the New Space sector,” said Teresa Czerwińska, vice president of EIB, in a statement. “It shows that the European Union can attract late-stage, fast-growing companies that develop new business models and commercialize new technologies in sectors that will define our future.”

The European Union has made new efforts to encourage investment in space startups, fearing European firms are falling behind those in the United States and other locations that have easy access to venture capital. In January, the European Commission announced it would provide 200 million euros for the European space industry, half of which would go towards European venture funds that invest in space companies.

European officials speaking at the European Space Week conference Dec. 8 reiterated their commitment to supporting startups. European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton discussed one initiative, called Cassini, that seeks to combine several EU funding sources to provide up to 1 billion euros for space startups. “Our objective is to define a true European approach to New Space,” he said.

“The future of the space economy in Europe is the New Space economy,” said Thomas Jarzombek, coordinator for aerospace policy for the German government. The two elements of that, he said, are competition and private funding. “Both are necessary, and especially with private money, it’s clear that we invest on the commercial side on projects that can be successful.”

He cited as an example of that the rise of small launch vehicle startups in Europe. “It’s necessary to have a free and level playing field to get access to government procurement and technology programs,” he said. “We have a landscape of new launcher companies that are challenging Ariane and Vega. Let’s see how it comes out. If they are better they will succeed. If they are not better, the old players will succeed.”