by Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Space FEST conference in Bucharest

  • 11 Jun. 2023 -
  • |
  • Mis à jour le: 13 Jun. 2023 10:45

(As delivered)

Good morning, it's always a pleasure to come back albeit virtually to my alma mater, the University Politehnica from Bucharest, the university that for me in my younger years, and it's still with me here at NATO as I run the innovation at our great Alliance, congratulations for the organizers. 

That's a very great initiative. 
And I'm happy that Christina, [inaudible], and the US Ambassador to Bucharest, are also participating to this opening session. 

We do live in a very dangerous, interconnected and fast-paced world, where threats to our security come from near and from far, in the real world and the digital one. They come from many directions on land, sea, in the air, in cyberspace, and increasingly from space. 

So NATO is adapting, and always changing to an environment that is evolving. 
And we have in our DNA, the perpetual adaptation to be ready for any situation, be it positive, or sometimes more dangerous, our 31 Allies and soon 32 when Sweden will be joining, work hand in hand to keep our 1 billion people safe anywhere, in Bucharest, in Canada, in the Baltic countries and all over the great transatlantic family of nations that we represent. 
We do this including in space. 
Because space is becoming more crowded, more promising, also more dangerous, and indeed more unpredictable. 

Space technology is progressing very, very fast. Hundreds of new satellites are launched every year. And the global space economy is worth hundreds of billions of euros. 
And I encourage countries like Romania and Allies that don't have the same capacity, like the bigger Allies to invest also in the space economy because this is something that will bear benefits and bring dividends, to our economy, to our security and to our wellbeing. 

We also know that competition in space is fierce, and is becoming fiercer every day. 
This has implications for our economy, but also for our security. 

We see what happens in the war in Ukraine. 
On the one hand, commercial space actors like Starlink, and others support Ukraine greatly by providing timely intelligence and facilities and communications on the ground. 
On the other hand, we have witnessed how disruptive counter space assets can be, within an hour of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, the ViaSat satellite was forced offline, affecting communications for Ukraine's police, military, intelligence services and for the economy. 

Space assets are not only essential for our way of life, ensuring everything from mobile phones to banking services to weather forecasts. 
They are also essential for our military operations to navigate, track forces, gather intelligence, and detect missile launchers. 
And precisely because they are so essential, they're also vulnerable. 
Potential adversaries are investing technologies that could restrict our access and freedom to operate in space, or degrade our space capabilities with all the consequences that that will have on our security and our economy. 
Just two years ago, Russia blew up one of its own satellites, unleashing a giant cloud of space debris in the process. 

So we must make our space assets more resilient. 
Many of you in the private sector build, operate and maintain our satellites and space assets. 

We at NATO can help protect them. 
We are working to make satellites tougher to approach and also less susceptible to lasers and jamming. 
Individual Allies are setting up National Space commands. 
And NATO has established a dedicated space centre, an Allied command in Ramstein. 
We also have as NATO Allies, we are still the home of the largest space technology ecosystem in the world. 
But we are being challenged. 
Our competitors are investing heavily in advanced space technologies, to maintain our lead and keep space safe, we have to accelerate innovation and sharpen our technological edge. 
And this is not a job for NATO alone. 

It is something we must do together. 
Security also in space is a shared responsibility. 
And that is why NATO is cooperating ever more closely with the drivers of innovation in the private sector, think tanks, academics, and yes, university students. 

You all have a part to play to preserve peace and protect our values and space is becoming an integral part of our struggle. 
You may not think of NATO as a big player in the global innovation ecosystem where space belongs to. But as chair of the NATO Innovation Board, which coordinates innovation efforts within the entire organisation, I can tell you how much effort we're putting into this. 

Innovation is very much at the heart of what NATO does. 
In fact, NATO is at the forefront of innovation, especially in the defence and security sector, we have the formidable advantage of bringing together nations across Europe and North America, we have an abundance of the finest scientific researchers, amazing creative startups, and world class academic institutions. 

And the Politehnica University is a great example of that. 
And we have something that our competitors do not have, free and open societies where talent can thrive. 
And people can be as creative and as free as they want. 
So we clearly have the resources to set a space of technological developments, not merely to keep up. 
What NATO needs to do is tap into that rich seam of innovation in big and smaller nations alike. 
To help us do that last year, we launched a new initiative called the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, DIANA. 
And the idea behind DIANA, is to bring together the very best innovators we have on both sides of the Atlantic to help solve critical defence and security challenges. 

Romania hosts two DIANA test centers, including one the International Center of Excellence in artificial intelligence, the very Politehnica University. 
So basically, if you have an idea that you could enhance our defense and security, we can give you the opportunity to test it in more than 100 test centers and accelerators across the greater Alliance that NATO represents. 
And it has potential, your idea, your startup, we can help you to make it commercially viable. 

I challenge all of you to put your brains together and come up with groundbreaking innovations to make our world safer and better. 
Because the future is in your hands. 
Think big. 
The sky is not the limit, space is. 

And from my home country of Romania, I encourage all of you, all of us to make much better room for the engineering and technological talent that we have in the country. 
And the same thing goes for other countries in all parts of Europe, invest in this very promising part of the economy. 
The economic model of the future has space included into this. 
Other countries, smaller countries like the United Arab Emirates, they have their, you know, moonshot initiatives. 
I think that Romania has the potential. 
And I think that Dumitru Prunariu and the specialised agencies, the Romanian government, universities, like Politehnica, entrepreneurs, I think, would have a room for more innovation and more success, and all the spillover effect over a new economic model that Romania deserves, and it's so much. 

So keep it up. 
I'm sorry, I was not able to be with you in person. 
But I'm always in my heart and my spirit together with my alma mater Universitatea Politehnica Bucharest. 
Good luck and keep me posted.