Increased collaboration between Belgium and China in the field of satellite technology can put both nations "at the forefront" of delivering vital information globally, according to State Secretary of Science Policy Elke Sleurs.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and China National Space Administration (CNSA) in the field of space sciences, technologies and applications was signed in Beijing on Tuesday.
In the pipeline is the Earth Observation program, which aims to design and build a joint Belgian-Chinese satellite mission "with the full potential to put both nations at the forefront in delivering exclusive agricultural and environmental information worldwide," said Sleurs in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
The two countries have enjoyed a history of co-operation in the areas of science and technology, which is set to increase in the future, according to Sleurs.
"Building on the scientific co-operation between Belgian and Chinese scientists of the past years, especially in the field of the application of earth observation data for environmental monitoring, the idea grew to also involve technological and industrial partners in the co-operation," Sleurs said.
For over 20 years, federal science policy of Belgium has supported the promotion of research projects between Belgian and Chinese universities, said Sleurs, as well as funding joint research projects with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.
"I hope that more initiatives will follow," said Sleurs, "so that both nations can demonstrate their unique competencies to Europe and the international world."
More recently, specific focus has been given to projects dealing with remote sensing technologies, and the development of applications to monitor the state of the environment and agricultural land use, Sleurs said.
Science and technology is a key industry in Belgium. In 2014, the aeronautics and space industry in the country grew by 6 percent, while the federal government aims to devote 3 percent of its GDP to research and development.
"Belgium has set an objective of increasing the economic efforts of space research by enhancing SME participation in the space industry via technological and scientific support programs," says Sleurs.
Belgium's overall activities in the space sector represent an annual turnover of about 350 million euros (392 million U.S dollars), representing almost 2,000 high-quality jobs, she said.