9. Italy

Italy has a long history of spaceflight and is the third-biggest contributor to the European Space Agency after France and Germany, with strong industry capabilities in space transportation and earth observation and dynamic research communities. The European Space Agency Centre for Earth Observation (ESRIN) is located in Italy, as is the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) data centre. The Space Geodesy Centre “Giuseppe Colombo”, operated by the Italian Space Agency, is one of the most important geodetic observatories in the international network.

In 2022, Italy’s institutional space budget reached USD 1 391 million (not accounting for National Recovery Funds not managed by the Italian Space Agency). The budget has grown significantly since 2015, with a 5.8% yearly growth rate in real terms (Figure 9.1). This includes contributions to the European Space Agency (accounting for 51% of the budget) and Eumetsat (5%), with the rest dedicated to national activities and smaller international projects/programmes. Overall, the institutional space budget accounted for 0.069% of Italy’s gross domestic product in 2022. Space is increasingly appreciated at the government level, reflected by recent budget increases and the creation of an inter-ministerial management council in 2018, placing space at the centre of government policy. Another budget hike was expected in 2023, as part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan partly funded by the European Union.

The Italian space manufacturing industry has strong links to the defence and automotive industries and produces fully assembled space systems (e.g. launchers) as well as subsystems and instruments. In 2020, the Italian space industry generated revenues of about USD 2.3 billion (EUR 2 billion), employing some 7 000 full-time equivalents across main clusters in the centre of the country (in Lazio, Toscana, and Abruzzo).

Italy was among the top ten patent applicants in space-related technologies worldwide in the 2016-20 period, as shown in Figure 9.2, accounting for some 1.7% of applications. Private firms filed a majority of applications (77%). The share of private sector applicants increased between 2006-10 and 2016-20.

Based on data in the OECD Development Assistance Committee Creditor Reporting System database, Italy committed 5 million inflation-adjusted US dollars to space-related official development assistance over the 2002-21 period (Figure 9.3), with projects focused on environmental protection and disaster prevention and management. Italy also provides assistance indirectly, via European Union institutions, the European Space Agency and the World Bank.

In terms of scientific output and excellence (Table 9.2), OECD indicators for scientific production, international co-authorships and citations in space-related scientific journal categories (aerospace engineering; astronomy; atmospheric science; and space and planetary science), show that authors at Italian-affiliated institutions performed above OECD average in 2021, for all indicators and across all three journal categories, especially for atmospheric science.


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ASI (2021) Annual Report 2020, Italian Space Agency, https://www.asi.it/lagenzia/documenti-istituzionali/.

MISE (2018) Space Economy, Ministry of Economic Development, https://www.mise.gov.it/it/impresa/competitivita-e-nuove-imprese/space-economy.

OECD, STI Micro-data Lab: Intellectual Property Database, http://oe.cd/ipstats, June 2023.

OECD (2023), “Creditor Reporting System (CRS)", OECD.stat (database), https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=CRS1 (accessed on 24 April 2023).

Scopus Custom Data, Elsevier, Version 1.2023.

Union of Concerned Scientists (2023), UCS Satellite Database, 1 January 2023 version, data extracted 27 July 2023, https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/satellite-database.

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