Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada West | NorthStar Earth & Space project: the Space Economy that unites Europe and Canada
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Simeone Riunione Italia Quebec 12febbraio2019

18 Feb NorthStar Earth & Space project: the Space Economy that unites Europe and Canada

The aerospace sector, the relative Italian and Canadian excellences and the strategic partnership between the two sides of the Atlantic were the focus of the last meeting of the Club Affaires Québec-Italy, the initiative promoted by the Delegation of Québec in Italy as a place of meeting between Italian companies and Quebéc companies, which was held on February 12, at the Rome headquarters of NCTM Law Firm.


After the welcome greetings of Paolo Quattrocchi, Partner of NCTM Law Firm and Director of the Centro Studi Italia Canada, there was the intervention of Marianna Simeone, Representative of the Government of Québec in Italy, she started the works dedicated to an innovative project involving Canada and Italy: the NorthStar Earth & Space global information services platform monitoring Earth and space. The project launched about a year ago, based in Montreal, immediately attracted strategic partnerships, including the European Space Alliance, which includes Leonardo and Thales Alenia Aerospace. Space Alliance has acquired a share of NorthStar Earth and Space, for the supply of 40 satellites for risk recognition from space and earth observation.

The meeting brought together Italian and Canadian aerospace experts, representatives of the Embassy of Canada in Italy, the organizations involved in the innovation support of the Lazio Region (Lazio Innova), and other important companies in the field of communications satellite and space exploration.

The special guest was the honorable Pierre Marc Johnson, former premier of Québec in 1985, and chief negotiator on behalf of the Canadian Province in the negotiations for the conclusion of CETA, Vice Chairman of the Board of NorthStar Earth & Space and a member of the company’s Steering Committee actively guiding management since NorthStar’s launch in 2015.


“We are very grateful to Mr. Johnson for having taken the time to illustrate this very exciting project. We are also convinced that Italian and Quebec companies operating in these very advanced areas – underlined Marianna Simeone – can build on their complementarities to strengthen their forces and together attain new heights”.




The honorable Pierre Marc Johnson, a lawyer and physician by training, author, lecturer, is also a former Premier of Québec (1985).

He is Counsel in Montreal to Lavery Attorneys, one of Québec’s most long standing business law firms.

In the past 20 years, Mr. Johnson has sat on more than 25 corporate senior and junior boards as well as advisory committees in Canada, the US and Europe. He presently sits on boards.

He previously served as negotiator and mediator in various United Nations conventions, on the environment and development.

His vast experience in politics, in public policy and in business together with his insight on issues that challenge societies on a global scale, make Mr. Johnson a trusted advisor of the Québec   Government, especially when it comes to issues regarding trade. Since 2009 Mr. Johnson has served has Chief negotiator of the Québec Government on the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations, and he is also the advisor of the Québec Government on trade issues, especially on the NAFTA renegotiations and the Trans Pacific Partnership.


Mr. Johnson is Vice Chairman of the Board of NorthStar Earth & Space and a member of the company’s Steering Committee actively guiding management since NorthStar’s launch in 2015.






The development of the world’s most advanced satellite infrastructure has attracted great interest in Europe and in particular in Italy where the Space Economy is extremely dynamic. In fact, the aerospace sector has a strategic role both in Canada, in Italy, and in Europe, and as clarified by the representative of Quebec in Italy Marianna Simeone, “the space sector represents a turning point in innovations and business models. The Government of Québec has invested in NorthStar (the same did the Goverment of Canada) because we want to be sure that Canada and particularly Québec remain at the forefront of advanced information technology. As the experts of the space industry remind us, the space, aerospace and information and communication technologies sectors are all closely related. This is the reason why Québec, more precisely Montreal – an important world hub for artificial intelligence, big Data and analytical information – is the perfect environment, the right ecosystem for an innovative and pioneering project as NorthStar Earth & Space”.


Unlike current systems, which only provide images, NorthStar will in fact be able to detect hyperspectral data and revolutionize environmental management system for the detection of pollution, improving the productivity of agriculture, monitoring the health of the world’s oceans and rivers, gas and oil pipelines to detect leaks and contaminations, launching alarms on forest fires. In addition, around and above the planet, the NorthStar sensors will be able to track the orbital debris to reduce the probability of collisions. NorthStar’s near-Earth space monitoring service will have the ability to identify, accurately track and predict the trajectories of more than 300,000 objects in Earth’s orbit, now classified as space debris.





The investment in  NorthStar is strategically in line with the objectives of the Space Alliance, the  strategic partnership between  Leonardo and Thales, the main industrial groups in the aerospace industry of Italy and France. This include two joint ventures: Telespazio (Leonardo 67%, Thales 33%) and Thales Alenia Space (Thales 67%, Leonardo 33%).

Lorenzo Lo Cascio, economic development and innovation policy expert of the Lazio Region, underlined during the meeting the Italian excellence in the sector, in the entire chain of activities that goes from the design of the satellites to the moment of the launch.  “We are one of the major player in Europe and globally. It is no coincidence that the Space Alliance is located in Italy and invests in such ambitious projects”, said Lo Cascio, illustrating the regional and national Italian plans to strengthen the aerospace sector of the country and decline this excellence in the direction of the economy of information.

“This was the basis of the policies that the Lazio Region has developed over the last 5 years, with policies supporting the innovative projects of some companies who wanted to be among the leading companies in this sector. It is a fairly standard type of intervention that is developed in almost all the regions that are helping their business to become more innovative. Among the examples of the companies that the Region has supported, the manager of the Lazio region cited Avio and Telespazio.

The consultant of the Lazio Region then illustrated the recent reform at the national level that involved the aerospace sector and plans for the development and the drive for innovation of Italian excellence.


“About 5 years ago the national government has formed a sort of informal study committee on the policies to be implemented in the aerospace industry. As the national budget is increasingly reduced, it is more difficult to maintain our industrial excellence only through the usual model based exclusively on institutional demand. So the idea is to work together: the Ministries that deal with Research, Economic Development, Environment, but also all the Ministries who may be users of this type of system. And obviously the regions have been invited to participate”.


The end result of this process was the total reform of the governance of the sector, whose responsibility has become a direct responsibility of the Prime Minister. The policies are now designed by an inter-ministerial committee consisting of 12 Ministries and The Conference of Regions. It has been promoted, at the regional level, the National Plan for the Aerospace Sector that goes directly in the same direction of NorthStar. “Basically, we are collecting funds at the regional, national and industrial level, for a program that has an estimated value of one billion euros”, said Lo Cascio.


The public-private partnership in the Space Alliance are strategically focused on three priority objectives, and all in the direction of the NorthStar project:


  1. The first objective is to bring Italy to have a complete national industry capacity for satellite communication: from design to launch. 
  2. In line with the NorthStar, in the field of Earth observation, the Italian commitment is no longer aimed at putting other satellites into orbit, but to exploit existing data and study new ways to analyze them successfully.  The idea is to develop a meso-level infrastructure in which to collect all satellite images and make them available to other developers.
  3. The third flow of actions concerns exploration, in this case not in the direction of the farthest space, but the space orbital services, which is exactly the other branch of the NorthStar project.

Finally, Lo Cascio illustrated the regional plans of the Lazio region, developed in collaboration with Esa and the Italian Space Agency and with startups able to disseminate the research coming from the two agencies and develop applications also in the field of hyperspectral data.



The initiative successfully promoted by the Representatives of Québec in Italy, the presence of the Italian big players at the event, the regional institutional representatives and the Embassy of Canada, the NorthStar project confirm the Italian and Canadian interest to maintain a position of leadership in the aerospace sector, but also to strengthen a partnership considered strategic by both parties, for a push towards aerospace innovation, in the direction of information services and Earth observation.

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