12. France

France has the largest space budget in Europe and is, with Germany, one of the top contributors to the European Space Agency (ESA). It is home to the Guiana Spaceport, with excellent conditions for launch to the geostationary orbit. The French space agency CNES, under the joint supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Defence, is responsible for formulating and executing space policies. France also hosts the headquarters of the European Space Agency (ESA) and several centres and services for the European navigation programme Galileo.

Recent policy activities aim to strengthen technology development and innovation in downstream activities. The cross-ministerial government Future Investment Plan (PIA), established in 2010, is providing additional funding for the development of next-generation satellites and downstream products and services.

Downstream services and product development and commercialisation were further supported by the 2016 creation of four ‘boosters’, or accelerators, near existing regional non-space clusters (maritime, transport, energy, agriculture, environment). These boosters have so far created more than 35 promising projects that have been selected for further funding and support. Following this initial success, another three boosters were designated in 2018, including a cluster in French Guiana, addressing themes such as natural hazards and resources management, future mobility, agriculture and tourism (French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, 2018[1])

France is also in the process of formulating a new military space strategy, focussing on reinforcing surveillance and offensive capabilities as well as the resilience of individual satellites and systems. In an effort to guide long-term policy decisions, CNES has launched the Space’ibles project, a multidisciplinary foresight exercise uniting both space and non-space actors.

In 2017, the French institutional budget estimates for space activities totalled some EUR 2.4 billion (USD 2.7 billion), a 26% increase in real terms since 2008. Of this, 61% funded the French multilateral programme, while 36% was dedicated to ESA and 3% to EUMETSAT. Almost half of the commitments funded the launcher programme (46%), followed by earth observation (14%), defence (11%) and science (10%).

Government research institutes and laboratories play an important role in R&D and innovation activities, with dedicated organisations such as CNES, the National Aerospace Research Centre (ONERA) and CNRS, the National Centre for Scientific Research. A lot of research is conducted at universities and in the highly-regarded aerospace and mechanical engineering schools.

The French space industry has activities in all segments of the space sector. Both upstream and downstream sectors are strongly export-oriented. It is estimated that French manufacturers accounted for some 75% of European space manufacturing exports in 2017 (French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, 2019[2]).

There are systems integrators in both satellite and launcher production, including Airbus and Thales Alenia Space, and a multitude of companies producing subsystems and equipment. Airbus is part of the OneWeb Manufacturing consortium and in 2017, it opened a facility near Toulouse to produce prototypes for the satellites in the planned mega-constellation for satellite broadband. The bulk of the satellites will be produced in Florida. Important industry segments include launch services (Ariane Group), launcher and satellite manufacturing (in particular earth observation satellites). In 2017, space manufacturing activities in France generated some EUR 7.9 billion (USD 8.9 billion) in unconsolidated revenues, with military space orders accounting for 27% of the total. It employed 15 000 persons, mainly in the Southwest and Ile de France regions. (GIFAS, 2018[3]).

Satellite operations and earth observation are some of the most significant downstream activities, with a growing number of start-ups providing value-added services for sectors such as maritime, energy, agriculture and finance. Satellite operator Eutelsat reported revenues of EUR 1.4 billion (USD 1.5 billion) in 2017-18, with some 560 persons employed in France (Eutelsat, 2018[4]).

France ranks among the leading countries worldwide in space scientific production in the OECD space literature dataset, with a stable share in global space publications since 2000. France’s share in space-related patent applications has doubled between 2002-05 and 2012-15. Space-related official development assistance projects in the period 2000-16 focussed on environmental management and fisheries, with Viet Nam and Indonesia as top recipient countries.

Figure 12.1. France – Fast facts
Figure 12.1. France – Fast facts
Figure 12.2. Space budget trends and main programmes
In constant EUR and USD, 2008-17 and in EUR (current), 2017
Figure 12.2. Space budget trends and main programmes

1. The institutional space budget includes contributions to the national/multilateral programme, EUMETSAT and the European Space Agency.

Source: OECD analysis based on institutional sources.

Figure 12.3. Scientific production in space literature, per country
Share of total space publications, 2000, 2008 and 2016
Figure 12.3. Scientific production in space literature, per country

Source: OECD analysis based on Scopus Custom Data, Elsevier, July 2018.

Figure 12.4. Top applicants in space-related patents
IP5 patent families, by priority date and applicant’s location, using fractional counts, 2002-05 and 2012-15
Figure 12.4. Top applicants in space-related patents

Note: Patent families are compiled using information on patent families within the Five IP offices (IP5). Figures are based on incomplete data from year 2014.

Source: OECD STI Micro-data Lab: Intellectual Property Database, http://oe.cd/ipstats, March 2018.

Figure 12.5. French space-related official development assistance commitments
Share of total French space-related commitments, 2000-16
Figure 12.5. French space-related official development assistance commitments

Source: Analysis based on OECD DAC database (2018).


[4] Eutelsat (2018), Eutelsat communications fourth quarter and full year 2017-18 results, webpage, 1 August, https://www.eutelsat.com/en/news.html#/pressreleases/eutelsat-communications-fourth-quarter-and-full-year-2017-18-results-2611196 (accessed on 15 February 2018).

[2] French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (2019), “Stratégie et recherche spatiale”, webpage, http://www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/cid138038/la-france-au-coeur-de-l-aventure-spatiale.html (accessed on 10 May 2019).

[1] French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (2018), “Labellisation de trois nouveaux Boosters dans le cadre du COSPACE”, in Press releases, 15 June, http://www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/cid131791/labellisation-de-trois-nouveaux-boosters-dans-le-cadre-du-cospace.html (accessed on 13 May 2019).

[3] GIFAS (2018), Rapport annuel 2017/2018, Groupement des Industries Francaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales, Paris, https://www.gifas.asso.fr/node/212157 (accessed on 10 May 2019).

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