Europe is in danger of losing many of the 140,000 jobs expected to be created by Galileo -- the EU satellite radio navigation system due for launch in 2008 -- to emerging economies such as China and India, an executive of the project said on Monday.
Rainer Grohe, executive director of the Galileo joint undertaking, the public body negotiating with a consortium of eight technology groups to deploy the system, said it could attract 2.5 billion users by 2020 -- creating even more jobs.
But, he said, China, which is contributing 200 million euros (US$255.5 million) to the 3.6 billion euros project, and India, which is negotiating to join, are already planning to take the lead in developing the receivers and associated software required for the pinpoint accuracy promised by Galileo.
Component costs, benefiting from receiver miniaturization, are falling at up to 30 percent a year, with receivers now costing less than 150 euros.
"We are stressing that European industry should start now to develop ideas for applications or the receivers will be built in China and the software developed in India," Grohe said. "Our forecasts suggest there could be 140,000 new jobs in Europe, but there's no guarantee."
In Britain, companies clustered around the University of Surrey in Guildford and a small east Midlands business, Nottingham Scientific Ltd (NSL), are among pioneers of the new navigation system that is a civilian rival to -- but compatible with -- the US Global Positioning System developed by the Pentagon. NSL won a government grant last week to develop receivers.
The development phase of Galileo, which ends later this year, has seen costs overrun by 400 million euros on top of the 1.1 billion euros originally earmarked. But Grohe dismissed reports that the consortium negotiating the terms of the 20-year Galileo concession, worth some 1 billion euros a year, would have to reduce from 30 the number of satellites planned for launch between now and 2008.
"I don't expect costs to explode," he said.
The joint undertaking, set up by the European commission and the European Space Agency (ESA), is due to complete its work by the end of this year. In January, the ESA signed a 1 billion euros contract with the consortium, Galileo Industries, to build four satellites and a network of ground stations, which are due to be deployed by the end of next year.
The current market for global navigation satellite systems is worth 30 billion euros, including 7 billion euros for services such as in-car navigation. But Grohe said this would rise to 276 billion euros by 2020, when applications would be worth 98 billion euros.
Galileo, approved by the EU's 25 governments in December 2004 -- with a precursor, EGNOS, already operating for monitoring ships, running electronic road tolls and protecting animals in transit -- will be controlled by a public-private partnership from next year.