The venture loan of the European Investment Bank will help space data company to develop and launch nanosatellites, in an aim to create new jobs in space infrastructure and data analytics.
Photo: Spire’s satellite in RF testing chamber / Credits © Spire Global
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced a €20 million venture loan for Spire Global during the last Web Summit 2020. “It is the first direct financing for a startup in the European ‘New Space’”, the EU long-term lending institution said in a press release.
Spire Global, a US space data company and Earth solutions platform, builds, owns and manages around 100 commercial nanosatellites through a global ground station network.
The collected data provide information on global trade, weather, aviation, shipping and supply chain, illegal fishing, as well as on maritime intelligence to logistics analytics SMEs, large corporations and governments.
New applications and jobs
“The financing will back capital expenditure and research and development (R&D) activities to further develop Spire’s constellation of small satellites and high-quality maritime, aviation and weather space data and analytics,” the EIB added. “It will also back the development of new software applications for customers and create high-skilled jobs in Luxembourg and the EU”.
In Luxembourg, Spire operates a European campus as well as two branches, Spire Maritime and Spire Weather. “Spire is pleased to be working with EIB to drive product innovation and scalability in Europe,” Peter Platzer, CEO and founder of Spire said. “We applaud EIB’s decision to fill the growth financing gap between early stage and mature companies, which positionsEurope as a competitive location for technology startups and are particularly attractive for business scaling.”
With the venture loan, the EIB aims to strengthen support for European space startups and to cooperate with space agencies including the European Space Agency (ESA). The financing is backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).
The global space economy has been growing over the past years and is undergoing considerable changes. Many new private companies are now entering a market that have long been dominated by government-run entities. According to ESA, every euro invested in the space sector returns an average of €6 to the economy.
Too little explored
However, “the ‘New Space’ economy remains hardly explored by private entrepreneurs, but offers great potential for economic growth and job creation,” European Commissioner for the Economy Paolo Gentiloni said.
Besides its flagship programs like Copernicus and Galileo that provide Europe with autonomous space capabilities, the European Union is embracing the changes of the “New Space” sector with various funding vehicles.
Moreover, the Old Continent remains behind the US and China in terms of risk capital available to the space sector, which affects the growth stage of space ventures.To fill the gap, the EIB Group provides direct venture financing for later-stage, fast-growing companies, and through the European Investment Fund (EIF) it backs various venture funds to support European space startups at earlier development stages.
Founded in San Francisco in 2012, Spire Global has 225 employees and operates across six locations worldwide. In August 2014, the group opened its Singapore office and developed its network of ground stations, before gaining a foothold in Glasgow in February 2015, to mass produce satellites.
In December 2017, Spire was granted a $70 million Series C funding from the national Luxembourg Future Fund and Expon Capital. It went on to open its second European campus in Luxembourg two months later.
$7M contract with NASA
Spire took further ground in the Grand-Duchy with Spire Maritime (February 2019) and Spire Weather (September 2019), followed by the launch of Spire Aviation (October 2019) and another office in Washington DC (November 2019).
In 2020, the company signed a $7M contract with NASA to receive Spire radio occultation data, which will be available to agency scientists to use in Earth-observing missions. “It is a first milestone in terms of the many new ways the small-satellite industry is supporting pillars of infrastructure like NASA and making a contribution to weather prediction with emerging technology,” the company said. It employs over 50 people in the Grand-Duchy.