EIB vice president Kris Peeters (left) with Willy Borsus, Vice President of Wallonia, during a signing ceremony Dec. 18. Credit: European Investment Bank

TAMPA, Fla. — The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to explore the funding and advisory support needed to transform Belgium’s southern region Wallonia into a space powerhouse.

EIB signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Belgian government officials Dec. 18 to develop Wallonia’s space industry, marking the first time Europe’s lending arm has entered such a deal with a region in the European Union.

Their agreement specifically focuses on ways to support local government efforts to grow Earth observation and reusable launch vehicles activities over the next two years at Skywin, Wallonia’s aerospace cluster, including co-financing opportunities.

The deal comes after the Walloon government recently approved financing for several projects to bolster its space industry, which it says will be important for helping the region recover from the pandemic. These projects include work to develop double-sided solar panels designed for Earth observation microsatellites, and intelligent actuation systems for reusable launch vehicles.

Wallonia’s space industry has tripled turnover to around 350 million euros ($384 million) over the last two decades — and Skywin now counts nearly 50 companies, research centers, and academies from the sector as members.

Willy Borsus, Wallonia Vice President, said the EIB MoU represents the next step in the structural development of the region’s space sector.

“Growing the space economy requires significant investment, and space projects need adequate funding to develop in Europe,” Borsus said in a statement, adding: “Our goal is to continue [fueling Wallonia’s space sector growth] and to become a space sector leader in Europe.”

EIB earmarked around 2.3 billion euros for projects in Belgium in 2022, supporting sectors ranging from digital connectivity to health and education. 

The investment bank has been seeking opportunities to support the space industry more broadly to boost Europe’s competitiveness on the global stage.

The MoU comes shortly after European Union leaders endorsed a common strategy for the defense of space assets for the first time, releasing a document that pushes for more awareness of space threats and capabilities needed to respond to them.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...